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Illusion Nationals at Bembridge struck by the 'Mini Beast from the East'

by Mike Samuelson 18 Mar 18:36 GMT 17-18 March 2018

We were warned that the "mini-beast from the east" would arrive on Saturday around the start time of 10:00 for the first race of this season's National Championship and they were not wrong! That said, conditions (a bitterly cold ENE 5-6 breeze) were judged just sailable in the harbour and it was great to see 23 boats safely make their way to the start area. However, after an exciting race which saw one boat dismasted and three boats sink, it was wisely agreed to abandon further racing for the day. After the overnight snow and with no let up in the strong bitterly cold ENE breeze, racing on Sunday was postponed until Good Friday.

After a short postponement, the start of the first (and as it transpired only) race got away with young Alex Downer the only boat OCS but as he was close to the pin, it did not take him long to get back into the race. Less fortunate was Oly Laughton-Scott whose genoa halyard parted and left him mastless and needing a tow back to the Illusion Quay. In the meantime, most of the fleet decided to stay on starboard after the start and headed for the slightly more protected St Helens shore on the first beat. Given the conditions and his form this season, it was not too surprising to see Mark Downer's pink spinnaker the first to appear after rounding the spreader mark with Bruce Huber's green spinnaker in hot pursuit. Although a few of the chasing fleet tried flying their spinnakers most wisely just goose winged their genoas on the run to the leeward gate.

Mark extended his lead on the second round, however Bruce caught up a bit on the third beat but to no avail as he took one too many waves over the bow on the third run and filled up. In the meantime Graham Bailey who was in third place as he completed the second round stopped racing to very gentlemanly standby his wife Julia whose boat had filled just after passing the Committee boat on the way to the leeward gate. This meant that at the finish after three rounds, Steve Warren-Smith was second to cross the line, with Jack Groggan third and Raymond Simonds fourth. The third boat to sink was one of our visitors from Essex who filled up after rounding the leeward gate for the second time and was rescued by the Harbour taxi who spotted his dilemma close to the floating pontoons.

With the two safety boats at full stretch and no sign of conditions improving the decision was taken to abandon further racing for the day. Mid-afternoon, the three boats that had sunk were safely recovered.

Conditions on Sunday morning were such that the decision to remain ashore was an easy one to make, particularly as the majority of the entrants, including our visitors from the mainland, confirmed that they would be available if the second day of the Championship's was postponed to Good Friday, and the traditional Easter Egg Trophy either condensed into Easter Saturday or raced over Easter Saturday & Easter Sunday.

Finally, our thanks to our visitors from Hyde Sails for so generously donating a set of sails which were drawn for at the end of Saturday evening's excellent Class Dinner at Bembridge Sailing Club. The lucky recipients were Bruce Huber (chose a main), George Downer (who chose a genoa) and Alex Downer who got the spinnaker.

Results after Day 1:

HelmSail NoR1Pts
Mark Downer12411
Graham Bailey13222*
Steve Warren‑Smith14633
Jack Grogan8644
Jo Downer16655
Philip Russell15366
George Downer16377
Alastair Speare‑Cole13588
Raymond Simonds16599
Nigel Grogan671010
Alex Downer1231111
Hugh Doherty1241212
Bruce Huber101N24
Robin Ebsworth12R24
Serena Gosling122R24
Martin Banbury2N24
Julia Bailey157N24
Sam Prime73R24
Bill Daniels68R24
Richard Ambler156R24
Mike Toogood142R24
Mike Issaias152R24
Oly Laughton‑Scott80N24
* redress for standing by sinking boat

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