A record turnout of 26 boats came to Bembridge Sailing club to sail in the Illusion National Championship in light but sunny conditions. The race committee was tested in setting a square course outside the Bembridge Harbour of Silver Beach in the very shifty conditions and racing was like game of snakes and ladders.
Whilst most of the Solent was flat calm a light breeze set in and race one got underway with Jo Downer taking the lead. She held it for most of the race with on Julia Bailey passing her close to the finishing line.
In Race 2 Raymond Simonds had a flying start and was never challenged to finish first. Behind him though the shifting conditions saw a lot of place changes right up to the finish line when Rudy Jurg just managed to squeeze in 2nd place in front of Graham Bailey and Philip Bown.
In the last race of the day the fading wind and shifts meant that a stroke of luck was needed although it always seem to the best sailors have the most luck. Halfway down the final run the wind turned it into a beat. Raymond Simonds however again took the gun.
On Sunday the fleet was blessed with sunshine again and in comparison to last year when balaclavas and gloves were needed, sun tan lotion and hats came out this time! It took a while to set the course as the committee boat managed to hook a mooring chain around its prop but it allowed the breeze to fill in whilst this was being sorted. Race one was inside the harbour in a fickle breeze. With so many boats on the line in a confined space it was difficult to get clear air. Last year's National Champion Mark Downer, who struggled to find form yesterday, shot away from the pin end, crossed tacks a few times with Raymond Simonds but he would eventually take the winners gun. Raymond Simonds in 2nd and Rudy Jurg in 3rd.
On request of the sailors the race officer moved the course outside the harbour of Silver Beach for the last 2 races for more ‘stable' conditions. With a slight bias at the pin end all the top sailors appeared to be here. Some local knowledge of the winds, tides and keeping your head out of the boat to spot the wind helped and it was again Raymond Simonds who could not go wrong. However Julia Bailey was up there too with husband Graham Bailey and a few others. Whilst most were sailing angles for best speed Julia went ‘straight down' the middle on the run overtaking a number of boats and taking 2nd place.
By now the Championship was won by Raymond Simonds but it was still all to play for 2nd and 3rd place and no doubt many others behind that also wanted to improve on their overall position. It was the Baileys who both made a brilliant start build up a very convincing lead. Married they might be but they do not give each other an inch on the water and Graham beat wife Julia just on the finish line. Rupert Holmes trimmed his boat for speed and height in the last race and came in 3rd.
2012 National Illusion Champions is Raymond Simonds, a well deserved 2nd for Julia Bailey and in 3rd Graham Bailey. Making sure that a few more people go home with a prize most improved was awarded to Bill Daniels, best visitor to Steve Warren Smith, over 65 to Bembridge Sailing Club Commodore Philip Bown and to prove that age should not stop you sailing over 80's prize went to Illusion Class Admiral Philip Woodford who also finished a very credible 13th overall.
Next event is 10/11 March for the Vernon Stratton Memorial Cup which will consist of 2 races and a ‘sail past' around Bembridge Harbour on the 10th March. So far over 47 (!) boats have entered. A record turnout will prove a spectacle for sailors and the viewing public around the harbour alike. First start is around 1240.