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

by Mike Samuelson 1 May 20:48 BST 30 April - 1 May 2022

Traditionally numbers racing on the last weekend in the Illusion Winter Series are a bit thin, however this year after such amazing numbers for all the other Regattas, it was a bit disappointing that only seven boats raced on Saturday. But perhaps it was only to be expected given that there so many other tempting activities including the first day of the new Redwing season.

The forecast was for lots of sunshine and a light and variable breeze; and this was exactly what the seven enthusiastic helms found when they came to start rigging and launching. Having decided to remain in the harbour as large numbers of visiting boats where expected, course setting was quite challenging with wind shifts of over 90 degrees at times.

However, after a half an hour postponement the first race got away to a clean (even if not very good) start. Progress to the windward marks was slow as boats tried to find the best pressure. Monty Irwin's black spinnaker was the first hoisted on the run to the leeward gate; Philip Russell's yellow one was next with Owen Pay in third but without a spinnaker after he found himself unable to furl his genoa. Although Monty extended his lead on the second round, the rest of the fleet were quite close with Philip holding onto second and Owen third.

The second start was considerably closer with Philip approaching from the on course side and stuffing two boats at the pin end.

Having sorted his furler out between races, Owen was well ahead at the end of the first round and it was good to see Matt Sollan initially second; however as the race unfolded Matt had to be content with a fourth after John Birchenough went the right way and found himself lifted into second. After a major course re-shuffle as the breeze had veered more southerly, Monty won the third race ahead Owen and Mike.

Mind you it was extremely close with Anna Row ahead just before the single leeward mark that had to be rounded to port, however sadly for her it was not to be and she finished fourth. The fourth and final race of the day saw Owen called OCS, albeit it did not take him long to do a re-gain as he was close to the pin.

Indeed, he was soon in the lead and held it to the finish at the windward mark after two and a half rounds. Philip was second and Matt was third. With no discards allowed, the top three overall were therefore Owen (7 points), Monty (11 points), and Philip (16 points).

Sunday's forecast of sunny periods and slightly more breeze sort of came true; well, no sunshine and spots of rain with a variable F2! Sadly, particularly as Philip Woodford who presented the trophy died earlier this year, numbers for the Woodford Long Distance race dropped to just 4 - John Birchenough, Guy Lawrence, Mike Issaias and Anna Row. However, all were keen to have a final race of the season so it was decided to set a race to the tide gauge north of St Helens Fort, and a race back.

After a running start, all four headed out of the harbour under spinnakers. Leaving Pepe to starboard they settled down to a long run to the finish line; they all remained close and frankly any of them could have won the first leg. Indeed at one stage or another each of them looked to be leading. In the event, Mike pulled ahead in the final hundred yards and finished ten seconds ahead of John, with Guy just piping Anna close behind.

The return back to the harbour started off as a beat and finished as a run! Initially it looked as if Anna's tactic of being the windward boat was going to pay off, but sadly for her it was not to be and she found herself well behind the others, finishing fourth.

Having tacked earlier than the other two, Mike found himself with a safe lead as they entered the harbour and finished off the main pontoon fifteen seconds ahead of John with Guy close behind. This obviously meant that Mike won the Woodford Long Distance Trophy, John was second and Guy was third.

Look forward to seeing everyone again in early October for the start of the 2022-2023 Illusion Winter series!

Additional photos: flic.kr/s/aHBqjzMTcp

St George's Day Trophy Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4Pts
1Owen Pay80o31217
2Monty Irwin147151411
3Philip Russell153266216
4Mike Issaias152433717
5Matt Solan106645318
6John Birchenough37727521
7Anna Row80a574622

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