A bitterly cold North/North Easterly Force 4 to 5 breeze with sleet never far away greeted the nine intrepid Illusionists looking for some Valentine cheer on Saturday morning. After a short postponement to allow the last couple of boats to launch to reach the start area just in front of the Houseboats, the first start saw Mark Downer at the pin end and last year’s winner of the Valentine Trophy, Julia Bailey mid-line on port. Mark was first round the windward mark by a considerable margin with Julia second, Jo Downer third and Robin Ebsworth fourth. As the race unfolded Julia managed to reduce the deficit on each round however was never quite close enough to put Mark under pressure. Robin did well and overhauled Jo to take third, and Xander Shaw made a late charge and also managed to just finish ahead of her in fourth.. Lower down the fleet Mike Toogood & Guy Mattinson had a good tussle with Mike just finishing ahead after Guy had a problem with his spinnaker.
Given that it was so cold and gusting 18 knots, the second start was pretty impressive. Mark started again at the pin end and was again first to round the windward mark; second was Guy with Julia in hot pursuit. As the race progressed, Julia managed to get herself into second place and Xander into third, however on the final beat, Guy just pipped Xander on the line after selecting what was obviously the better leeward gate mark to round.
The start to the final race of the day was again an excellent example of how good the Illusion fleet is; Mark was always in the lead so made it a clean sweep; although Julia was never far behind and was at times pointing higher, she just could not match Mark’s boat speed on the beats. Xander and Guy continued where they had left off but this time Xander did enough to secure third place. Meanwhile Jo & Robin were nip and tuck throughout with Jo finishing just ahead.
Sunday was fractionally warmer, but with the breeze still a Force 4 to 5 North Easterly it was still pretty chilly out on the water. Having driven all the way down from London for the second morning running, Mike Toogood was obviously a bit disappointed find himself trapped on the wrong side of the line at the start of the first race, however he did manage to correct himself and finish mid-field. Jo Downer meanwhile certainly gave her husband Mark a good run for his money and although he powered through towards the end of the race, it was by no means a one boat race; Xander Shaw & James Axtell were always close to each other and finished third & fourth. After a poor start (for her anyway) Julia Bailey was fifth. It was good to see David Peerless well up the fleet after the first couple of legs; its just a pity that his spinnaker keeps getting stuck as he lowers it coming up to the leeward gate which then puts him down the fleet.
The start of the second race was nearly a General Recall, however with seconds to go, the line cleared a bit and the three offending boats at the pin end (Xander, Guy & James) could be identified. All went back and were soon back in the fray. Mark was again first round the windward mark with Julia in hot pursuit; indeed she overtook him on at least two occasions, only to be thwarted on the final couple of legs. Robin Ebsworth meanwhile showed everyone that a well held out genoa was just as quick as a spinnaker on the short downwind legs, and finished a very well deserved third. Jo was fourth and Xander just pipped Guy to come in fifth.
With the wintry breeze still gusting19 knots and thankfully no one wanting to push their luck, the final race got away cleanly. Not that it made it a lot of difference, Mark & Julia swapped their starting positions with Mark at the Committee Boat end and Julia at the pin end. Mark was yet again first round the windward mark with Julia close behind – positions that remained unchanged to the finish. Although they were never going to catch the two leaders, Guy, Xander & Jo had a very close race with Guy scoring a very good third ahead of the other two. Mike, Robin & James similarly were always close together and crossed the line with seconds of each other.
Congratulations to Mark Downer who won the Valentine Trophy with six wins; second with five seconds was Julia Bailey and third was Xander Shaw.
No racing next weekend as the tides are wrong. The next Regatta is the 25th & 26th February which will be for the Icebreaker Trophy that was postponed, because of the weather, from just before the New Year.
Start of Race 2 on Saturday – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKo8IWcrIH0
Start of Race 3 on Saturday – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70peFUX2Q9s
Start of Race 4 on Sunday – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHMULmJLvrk
Start of Race 5 on Sunday – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TCy_eKnCeA