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Bembridge Illusion Match Racing Championship 2019

by Mike Samuelson 11 Feb 06:25 GMT 9-10 February 2019

The big question throughout most of last week was whether the strong winds were going to abate enough over the weekend to allow this year's Illusion Match Racing to be run. No easy decision, particularly as not only are there no spare weekends in the rest of the winter programme that would allow the event to be re-scheduled, but trying to reorganise the considerable on-water support required for the event to be run is just not practical.

The result was that it was decided to leave everything as planned and delay the go, no-go decision, for Saturday anyway, until the very last moment. So the mid-morning briefing went ahead as planned and the plug was only pulled at 12:30 when it became clear that the wind strength was still too strong for sensible & safe racing to go ahead. Plan B then kicked in with the Chief Umpire, Steve Proctor, leading a really useful workshop on the basic match racing rules and tactics.

Sunday started off pretty benign but as the morning progressed the wind speed started to pick up. However the decision was made to try to get as much of the previous day's round robin completed along with a final & and a plate final. Although there were a few concerns as the breeze increased to 19-20 knots under the clouds, it was definitely the right decision and although it was cold, conditions were certainly sailable - indeed really quite enjoyable when the sun came out!

The format was as normal with the 16 competitors seeded and split into two leagues. The top seeds in the red league were Mark Downer and Colin Simonds and Bruce Huber and Raymond Simonds in the black league. Although there were no upsets in the first of the seven flights, Mike Toogood's jib got ripped at the start of match 3 after he was hit by David Peerless entering at the blue side in match 4. Had there been time his race against Hugh Doherty would have been re-run but in the event it was unnecessary. The second Flight saw Owen Pay retiring in his match against David having taken in rather a lot of water. Rupert Holmes almost beat Jo Downer in one of the closest matches of the day but just missed out in the final dash for the line.

Jo v Rupert (finish)

In the third flight Philip and Colin were never far apart and although it could have gone either way, Philip held his nerve and finished in front. In the black league Rupert nearly upset the seedings in what turned out to be a very close match against Raymond. In the fourth flight Rupert gave Bruce a slight fright but as in his previous match, close was just not close enough. Visitor Simon Childs enjoyed his race against Mike Issaias to take his first win of the day. Although he finished ahead of Mike Toogood, Colin Simonds was penalised in the fifth flight when he failed to take a penalty before crossing the line; however in the event it did not effect the results as Colin had to head back to the Illusion Quay with a problem with his boom. Jo and Raymond had a very close tussle which Jo won by a couple of boat lengths. In what turned out to be the sixth and final flight, Mike Toogood nearly caught Mark and Hugh at last claimed a scalp (Philip) and Simon beat Rupert.

With the time ticking away and the tide dropping fast, the decision was made to bin the final flight and press on with the finals between to top helm in each league (Mark & Bruce) and a plate final for the runners up (Jo & Philip) in each league. In the first race of the final Bruce won the pre-start and held Mark off for the first half of the course, however by the time they reached the second windward mark, Mark had got ahead and held his lead to the finish line.

Mark v Bruce Race 1 pre-start

In the second race, Mark started slightly ahead but as it turned out there was little in it until the final beat when Mark was able to extend his lead and take the Championship with two straight wins.

Mark v Bruce Race 2 pre-start

Mark v Bruce Race 2 start & Jo v Philip Race 2 pre-start

In the meantime, Jo took the first of the races for the plate, only to have Philip get his own back by taking the second. However as the began the sequence for the deciding race, both went aground in the middle of the harbour and they sensibly decided to call it a tie! Very brotherly and sisterly!

Fifty two starts in pretty challenging conditions reflects yet again the quality and sportsmanship of the Illusion Class. As always a huge thank you to everyone involved in making the event so successful. It would not be possible with the amazing support of the race officers, umpires and assistant umpires.

The next Regatta is the weekend of 23rd & 24th February - the Stratton Memorial Trophy.

More photos on flickr here.

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