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Illusion season opener at Bembridge Sailing Club

by Mike Samuelson 8 Oct 09:02 BST 6-7 October 2018

Predictably a bit of a slow start on Saturday morning for the first session of the Bembridge Illusion 2018/19 Winter programme, particularly as it was quite an early start. That said, it was great to see so many boats being rigged, even if in the end some were only launching to complete their buoyancy check!

With the N/NE'erly breeze forecast to increase and the sea conditions outside the harbour starting to look distinctly unpleasant, it was a 'no brainer' to keep the nine Illusions wanting to race inside the harbour. The first race got away smoothly and it was no surprise to see Mark Downer in No 124 quickly out in front. As an experiment, the buoy configuration at the windward mark was slightly different to the norm. The first mark was set about 3 boat lengths downwind of what was traditionally the windward mark; the aim of this is to reduce the 'chaos' at the windward mark by bringing the port layline away from the rounding mark. To all accounts it worked well, although Mark did comment that "it made things less exciting"!

Start of the first race:

On the first round John Raymond in No 151, Jo Downer in No 164 and Jonathan Nainby-Luxmoore in No 158 were leading the chasing pack, however John dropped back on the second and third rounds. Fifth was Rosie Gosling trying out No 15 (Xander Shaw's boat) and sixth was Andrew Eddy who had a problem unfurling his genoa fully in No 27; seventh was Serena Gosling who had to stop and undo some knitting on the third round in No 122; eighth was Robin Rotherwick in No 22 and Beans Eddy retired.

After a short pause to sort a few things out and the breeze increasing, the second race got away smoothly; Mark was soon in front with John, Jonathan & Jo leading the rest of the fleet. Mark extended his lead on the next two rounds with Jo taking over second place despite having lost her spinnaker halyard at the end of the first race. Serena was also well up but then had a brain storm on the final rounding of the leeward gate and had to go back and have another go.

With the tide starting to fall and buoyancy checks beckoning, it was decided to not have a third race. Good timing particularly as it started to rain!

Sunday was "Try an Illusion Day, a new initiative masterminded by Olly Laughton-Scott. And what an brilliant morning it turned out to be. The sun was shining, there was a pleasant F3 NNE breeze and there were lots of new faces keen to have a go in an Illusion.

After a briefing by the Class Captain, Mark Downer, sixteen Illusions headed down the harbour to almost an identical area to the day before. After two practice starts, there were then two, one round races to give everyone the opportunity to get used to the boats and the standard course. To keep things simple, it had been agreed that spinnakers would be left ashore, so whilst it certainly made life easier, it did reduce some of the challenge to sailing an Illusion!

The next race was a two rounder; not the best of starts after the breeze backed twenty degrees with thirty seconds to go, however it soon veered back again so the beat to the windward marks was fine. Rosie Gosling in No 130 lead the way and despite pressure from Simon Cooper in No 164 and John Redding in No 80 she managed to hang on and crossed the finish line in front. Robert Tidbury in No 122 was fourth.

Start of the final race:

The next, and final, race was a three rounder. A much better start than the previous race, albeit Amanda Huber in No 101 was well over the line so had to come back. Simon Cooper was first round the windward marks and then built an unassailable lead ahead of Richard Coleman in No 12, Rosie in No 120 and Sam Christie in No 149. As always with the Illusions its not all about being in the top three; there was some very close racing further down the fleet.

Based on the last two races the top 5 were:

1. Simon Cooper
2. Rosie Gosling
3. Richard Coleman
4. John Ridding
5. Robert Tidbury

A great day's sailing thanks to all the hard work by the organiser, Olly. It was certainly encouraging to hear so many say "loved it, we will definitely be back".

Flickr album photos by Serena Gosling and Mike Samuelson at

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