A nice gentle breeze, gusts of 15 knots, the wind direction varying by as much as 150 degrees and the breeze dropping away to nil with rain & stinging hail sort of describes Saturday’s conditions for the Bailey Bowl at Bembridge! Twelve Illusions headed out of the harbour as the Southerly breeze started to kick in. The first race got off to a slightly suspect start however no one was called OCS when the whistle was eventually blown. With the windward marks just off Silver Beach, first round was Mark Downer with Julia Bailey, George Downer & Raymond Simonds in hot pursuit. All rounded the right hand of the leeward gate however Raymond took himself out of the reckoning when he got his spinnaker caught under the boat and he had to retire. In the hopes of getting four races in in case the weather on Sunday was too bad for racing, the race was finished after just two rounds with Mark still in front, Julia was second with George not far behind in third.
The start of the second race was a bit chaotic and the photographic evidence suggests that a General Recall might have been fairer, however in the event only two boats were called as being definitely OCS; Guy Mattinson came back however Jo Downer did not and subsequently retired after checking as she passed the Committee Boat on her way to the leeward mark. Front runners as they completed two rounds were Julia, Mark, Raymond & George, however due to a mix up between the Race Officers as to whether it was two or three rounds, Julia who had seen the S Flag flying for a short time, thought that she had finished so relaxed and sailed off the wind for a bit until she realised what had happened. This allowed Mark to overtake her and finish in front, however she was granted redress and Mark was dropped to second place.
Although for a time it looked as if the worst of the rain would miss Bembridge, a wind shift of nearly 150 degrees from S to NNW and some very black clouds made it clear that this was not to be. However Illusion sailors are a hardy bunch so once the course had been reset, the third race, which included Bruce Huber got underway. The beat to the windward marks was fine but then half way down the run, it started to rain and the wind backed to the SW which made nonsense of the course and it was decided to shorten it after only one round. As the leaders, Bruce, Mark & Jo were about to finish the heavens opened and it hailed with a vengeance for at least a minute. Once everyone had finished and with the breeze dropping it was wisely decided to call it a day; definitely the right decision as getting back into the harbour required a lot of paddling.
The overnight storm came through as predicted and in fact by Sunday lunchtime conditions had calmed down so much that it was more a matter of keeping fingers crossed that the Westerly F1 or 2 breeze would hold up. Although conditions outside did not look too bad, there was quite a swell still running from the overnight winds, so the course was set up inside the harbour for the eleven Illusions (Raymond Simonds had to pull out because he needed to sort out some storm damage at his home in Seaview and Mike Toogood was committed elsewhere). The first race started on time in a light Westerly breeze and the fleet quickly split as they tried to find the best side of the course for both the wind & the tide. Bruce was first round the windward mark closely pursued by Jo Downer, with Julia and Mark neck and neck. At the leeward gate, Bruce & Jo were still close, however on the next beat Bruce pulled out well ahead and Jo slipped back a bit. On the second run Mark & Andy Christie were the chasing pair with Julia not far behind. At the finish Bruce just managed to hold off a late charge from Mark and Andy remained ahead of Julia. Mid-fleet there was also lots of close racing with young Alex Downer beating his mother by a couple of inches.
With the light breeze veering to the North West just before the start of the second race, it was decided to let it start and then rejig the course after the first not very satisfactory beat. Mark was first to the windward mark with Bruce and Philip Bown not far behind. Despite the leg to the leeward gate becoming a broad reach as the breeze continued to veer northwards, racing was tight, and there were a number of place changes mid-fleet. With the course reconfigured in time for the second round, the beat was obviously less of a procession, however with the breeze dropping and veering even more northerly, it was decided to finish the race when they crossed the line after two rounds particularly as the front three were still Mark, Bruce & Philip. Jo and Andy were next to finish and were so close that they were scored as 4th equal; lower down the fleet racing was still very competitive with Guy Mattinson finishing an inch or so ahead of Philip Russell.
With yet another rejig of the course required for the final race and the breeze dropping, it was decided to call it a day and forgo the final race. This left Mark as the winner of the Bailey Bowl, with Julia as runner up and Bruce in third place.
No racing next weekend; however the following one (3rd & 4th December) is all set up for the annual Inter Club Team Racing Championships.
Start of Race 1 Saturday
Start of Race 2 Saturday
Start of Race 4 Sunday