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Bembridge Illusion Christmas Cracker 2020

by Mike Samuelson 21 Dec 2020 06:45 GMT 19-20 December 2020

Last year there were 10 entries for the Christmas Cracker, this year there were 19 racing on Saturday and 18 on Sunday, which, given current circumstances, again shows the strength and resilience of the fleet. Mind you, an Illusion is the ideal boat to self isolate when afloat!

On Saturday, the SSW'erly F5 gusting F6 breeze allowed a reasonably long course and with Class Captain Mark, who had loaned his boat to his son Alex, doing the mark laying, there were no complaints!

A clean start for the first race, with the majority remaining on starboard until they started calling for water on Selwyn Pontoon.

Start of Race 1 Saturday

Colin Simonds was the early leader with Julia Bailey and Mike Toogood not far behind, however on the second round Julia overtook and worked up an unbeatable lead by the time they finished after 3 rounds. Jo Downer also had a good race and just pipped Colin to take second place by inches. Mike was fourth. There was some very close racing lower down the fleet with Robin Ebsworth & Serena Gosling tieing for eleventh and the last four boats finishing within seconds of each other.

With seconds to go to the start of the second race, Colin and Julia just made it back to the correct side of the line and although there was one boat over, they could not be identified so the X Flag was not displayed. However with the breeze gusting 20 knots there was quite a bit of confusion at the pin end of the line and Mike Toogood ended up with his lifejacket inflating when the toggle got caught on the buoy! Playing safe but not spotting there was no X Flag, Julia circled back only to find herself last and after problems with her rig, she decided to retire.

Start of Race 2 Saturday

Alex Downer was first round the windward marks with Andy Christie and Justin Biddle a few boat lengths behind. Alex kept his lead for the rest of the race and by the finish after three rounds, Justin secured second. Meanwhile Monty Irwin had an excellent race and took third ahead of Philip Russell with Jo inches ahead of Andy. Hugh Doherty tied with Caroline Simonds for ninth and John Birchenough and Robin for fourteenth place.

The start of the third and final race of the day was the best one despite it gusting 22 knots just before the hooter sounded. Mid line saw a bit of mayhem when Caroline Simonds found herself doing an involuntary tack and took out at least two other boats!

Start of Race 3 Saturday

Alex was the early leader with his mother, Julia and Justin hot on his heels, however on the second round they had overtaken him. Julia and Justin both unfortunately took rogue waves over the bow and partially filled up so retired, leaving mother and son to battle it out. It was nip & tuck as they rounded the leeward gate for the third time together. Alex went left and Jo went right; previously going round the right hand buoy had been better, but on this occasion Alex picked up a shift and made it back to the finish line in one tack to win by less than half a boat length. Colin was third and David Peerless was fourth. Olly Laughton-Scott and Mike Issaias tied in tenth.

Sunday's weather was considerably less breezy (F3 SW'erly) and although it began to rain as the final race neared completion, the challenge with the first race due to start at 2pm, was whether it was going to be possible to get three good races before it got dark!

The first race got away cleanly albeit the leader from the day before, Alex Downer, looked as if he was going to be over but ducked back to the right side of the line with seconds to go.

Start of Race 4 Sunday

Colin Simonds rounded the windward marks well ahead of Justin Biddle, Serena Gosling, his wife Caroline and Alex. Colin extended his lead in the second round with Justin just holding onto second despite not flying his spinnaker on the second rum. Jo was third and Caroline was fourth.

Alex just overcooked it at the start of the second race, although circling round the pin did not take him long.

Start of Race 5 on Sunday

Justin led the way for the first round, but was overtaken by Colin on the second beat and had to be content with second with Jo in third. Mike Toogood picked up fourth and Alex just beat David Peerless by a whisker. Philip Russell and Serena tied for 8th place.

With daylight dimming and black clouds on the near horizon building up, the third and final race saw the U Flag used as the preparatory signal in an attempt to ensure that they got away first time. And it worked!

Start of Race 6 on Sunday

Alex, Justin, Mike and Colin led the fleet for the first round but during the second beat Colin took over as the boat to beat. Justin took up the challenge and headed into the third, slightly shortened round just ahead. This left Mike and Colin to battle it out for second and third. Although Colin had to make do with third it was good enough to secure the overall trophy, 3 points ahead of Jo with Alex in third on 17 points.

The next programmed Regatta is one of the oldest Illusion trophies of the season - the Icebreaker - over the weekend of 2nd & 3rd January. In view of the possibility of further lockdowns in the new year, the possibility of hold a couple of days of fleet racing in late December is under consideration.

Additional photos at

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1Colin Simonds138311311311
2Jo Downer16625233414
3Alex Downer16451155817
4Justin Biddle125R2R22128
6David Peerless140774106630
7Philip Russell15394568S32
8Monty Irwin14763711101036
9Serena Gosling12211131388545
10Caroline Simonds3814912471446
11Andy Christie1498697171747
12Olly Laughton‑Scott8016810911947
13Hugh Doherty124109813161353
14Mike Issaias15215121017151163
15Robin Ebsworth1211141615121264
16John Birchenough3713141516181573
17Oliver Morgan186SSS1414777
18Owen Pay1R1614R131680
19Julia Bailey1571RRSSS85
20Oliver Joy144R17RSSS101

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