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Bembridge Illusion St George's Day Trophy & Woodford Long Distance Race

by Mike Samuelson 30 Apr 07:12 BST 28-29 April 2018
Bembridge Illusion St George's Day Trophy © Mike Samuelson

St George's Day Trophy (Saturday 28th April)

Fifteen Illusions for the penultimate day of 2017-2018 season was pretty amazing and just goes to show how strong the fleet is at Bembridge. Saturday's racing was for the St George's Day Trophy, a picture presented by Vernon Stratton in 2002. A slightly different format to the norm in that there are four races with no discard.

With a light NW/N breeze forecast there were no objections when it was announced that the course would be just outside the harbour off Silver Beach. A problem with one of the two launching cranes delayed the start of the first race by about twenty five minutes.

After an excellent start by the majority of the fleet, Class Captain Mark Downer was the first to round the windward mark with his brother-in-law Philip Russell, Bruce Huber and his son Alex not far behind. Mark extended his lead on the second round and Bruce overtook Philip. There was some close racing in the chasing fleet and unluckily for young Alex, he found himself having to make do with an eighth place.

The start of the second race saw Philip just over cooking it and having difficulty extricating himself from the middle of the line to return to the pre-start side before he could join the fray.

Bruce meanwhile found the quickest route to the windward mark and rounded well ahead of George Downer, Mark and Mike Toogood. On the second round, Bruce extended his lead and Mark & Mike both managed to overtake George, albeit mere inches separated Mike & George at the finish. Other close finishes lower down the fleet included David Peerless crossing the line two inches ahead of Mike Issaias.

With the light breeze veering a good twenty degrees to the North during the pre-start of the third race, the AP was displayed and the course was re-set. Unfortunately it then decided to back a bit in the final minute which resulted in a General Recall as there were just too many boats OCS at the pin end for it to be a fair start.

The re-start, under Flag Uniform, went smoothly albeit the breeze backed even more in the final minute. Rather than delay still further, the Race Officers sensibly let the sequence continue even though it did mean that it was possible to make the windward mark in one tack. Somewhat to his surprise the fleet was led young Alex Downer with Bruce and father Mark in hot pursuit.

However he kept his nerve and still had a good lead when he rounded the re-positioned windward mark for the second time. Bruce reduced his lead on the run to the leeward gate but Alex held on to take first place inches ahead. Mid-fleet, saw some very close finishes with 5th to 11th all crossing the line within about 5 seconds of each other.

The start of the fourth and final race, was spot on for most of the fleet - even more impressive given that the preparatory was Flag U again.

With the fleet splitting tacks, it was good to see Alastair Speare-Cole round the windward mark first ahead of Bruce, Mark, Jo Downer and Richard Ambler. Despite their best efforts to reel him in, Alastair managed to hold on and gain a well deserved win.

An excellent morning's racing; congratulations to Brice Huber who took home (not for the first time!) the Trophy; Mark was second and George was consistent enough to take third one point ahead of his brother Alex.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4Pts
1Bruce Huber10121227
2Mark Downer164124310
3George Downer1636431023
4Alex Downer123891624
5David Russell‑Jones155487928
6Richard Ambler1561366429
7Alastair Speare‑Cole13512125130
8Mike Toogood1425391330
9David Peerless1401178531
10Mike Issaias1529513835
11Jo Downer16671110735
12Philip Russell153314141243
12John Raymond1511010121143
14Simon Irwin1471515111556
15Olly Laughton‑Scott801413151456

Woodford Long Distance Race (Sunday 29th April)

For many years now, the final race of the season has been the Woodford Long Distance race. Although not as many entries as the previous day, it was nevertheless great to have eight boats rigged and ready to go. Because it is so weather dependent the course is always decided on the day and with a brisk NE'erly forecast, the decision to remain in the harbour was an easy one for the race officers to make. With no Bembridge One-Designers wanting to get cold and wet, the Illusion flags were quickly transferred to Sea Breeze and having agreed that there would be three races, the course was set up with an initial windward mark off Bembridge Point, the BHYC turning mark (H) as a wing and a leeward mark in front of the Houseboats.

Although not one of the closer starts of the season, most headed towards the St Helens shore to get out of the tide. Bruce Huber was first round the windward mark and never looked like being overtaken. There was little separating Bill Daniels, Robin Ebsworth, Mike Toogood and David Peerless on the broad reach to the BHYC turning mark. For the second round, a wing mark was laid just off Fisherman's Pontoon. Although a bit of a procession, it was still necessary to concentrate and the reaching legs provided some interesting spinnaker work. By the finish, David had overtaken Robin to take third.

Using the same course, the start of the second race was certainly closer and it was again Bruce's green Illusion that led the fleet around the two round course.

There was not a lot separating the next three, David, Robin and Bill who enjoyed some close racing. However, as the two Mike's (Issaias & Toogood) found to their cost, cutting the corner of Attrill's Point and running aground was always going to end in tears!

The option of poking their noses outside the harbour for the final race was too good an opportunity to miss, so although it was decided Pepe was a step too far, an additional windward mark was laid about 100 metres outside the entrance. It did not take Bruce long to establish himself in the lead as they tacked out of the harbour into the not-inconsiderable wind over tide chop. Bill was second and David was third as all eight showed just what amazing boats the Illusions are. Although they kept their places, mid-fleet there was a bit of place changing on the run to the leeward mark and then the final beat to the finish at the original windward mark.

Congratulations to Bruce who can now hang the Woodford Long Distance Trophy (a half model the J Class Rainbow) on his trophy wall; Bill and David were second and third on equal points and Robin was fourth. Another good day's racing and an excellent way to finish the 2017-2018 Illusion season.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3Pts
1Bruce Huber1011113
2Bill Daniels682428
3David Peerless1403238
4Robin Ebsworth1243613
5Mike Toogood14257416
6Hugh Doherty12465516
7Simon Irwin14776821
8Mike Issaias15287722

The 2018-2019 Illusion season starts in early October and we much look forward to seeing the fleet back in Bembridge again.

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