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Team and Match Racing for Illusion class at Bembridge Sailing Club

by Mike Samuelson 6 Feb 08:20 GMT 4-5 February 2023
Bembridge Illusion team racing © Mike Samuelson

When the annual team racing weekend was cancelled in early January, the decision was made to try to organise a combined team and match racing weekend in early February when the normal two day match racing was programmed. A tall order to compress four days racing into two, made even harder because of the early tides, but the view was that it was going to be better to give it a go rather than cancelling.

In the event, a mixed outcome - we just managed to get the team racing completed on Saturday albeit with a single race final for the top two teams and third & fourth place race. Sunday started off looking very promising but in the end the wind kept coming and going with 45 degree shifts and then died off completely half way through the fifth flight and with the tide dropping quickly, it was decided to abandon further racing. However at least the sun was shining!

Amazingly the 08:30 briefing for team racing on Saturday morning started pretty much on time but the plan for a 09:30 first start was a bit ambitious as the tide seemed to take an age to come in. The initial format was very similar to previous year's with a round robin between the 8 teams of two boats. Although it would have been nicer had the sun shone, conditions were almost perfect with a 6 knot South Westerly breeze that fortunately held pretty steady throughout the morning.

There was the occasional hole in the middle of the harbour but most teams were able to keep their boats moving and the racing in general was much closer than the last few years with many of the races being decided in the final 25m.

The first shock of the day was the hot shot team representing BHYC, Raymond Simonds & Graham Sunderland being beaten in their first match by Owen Pay & David Russell-Jones; hoever it was their only defeat and they finished with six wins. Top seeded Mark & Jo Downer sailing for BSC had a close match against Owen & David but did cross the line just ahead.

Mark & Jo looked set to also finish with six wins, however they were not only beaten by Raymond & Graham in the penultimate flight but then suffered an unexpected defeat by the BSC 2 team of Alastair Speare-Cole & Olly Laughton-Scott in the final flight.

With the tide dropping rapidly, the decision was made to run just single sudden death races for the top two teams (BHYC & BSC 1) and the third & fourth place teams (CCC & ASA). Although both were close, BHYC (Raymond & Graham) took the first two places to win the trophy, and ASA (David Peerless & Andy Snell) just beat CCC (Owen & David) to take third place.

Sunday's forecast (F4 NNE'erly) looked hopeful but sadly it failed to materialise, nevertheless, as boats were launching (after quite a 'challenging' briefing!) the NNEasterly F3 breeze and cloudless sky still looked promising. The first two matches in the first flight got away successfully but then one of the umpire RIBs unfortunately caught up the pin buoy as they were passing it and dragged it off station and so the start sequence had to be stopped while it was sorted. Given the complexity of the 25 minute start sequence with hoots almost every minute, re-starting is certainly not easy, however it was successfully achieved and the Race Officer breathed a sigh of relief.

No real surprise in the winners of the first flight matches but in the second flight Mark Downer had a brainstorm and rounded the wrong leeward mark which Owen Pay took full advantage of and finished well ahead. In the black group, Mike Issaias had a great race and beat Julia Bailey by quite a margin.

After a further delay while the course was reset after the breeze had backed NNWesterly, the third flight saw David Russell-Jones, who had already notched up 2 wins, take the scalp of Raymond Simonds. With the breeze dropping (as was the tide), the decision was made to change the course to a single windward mark and back to the finish line in the hopes that we might get at least a couple more flights in.

This initially worked pretty well and saw some very close finishes, however after the first three matches in the fifth flight the wind vanished and the decision was made to abandon further racing. A real shame, but that's sailing! The fleet therefore headed back to the Club in a 5 knot breeze that predictably reappeared! That said, it did not hold for long so all agreed that we had made the right decision!

Although there was no provision in the Sailing Instructions for deciding a winner if the full seven flights and a final were not completed, it was agreed that there would be a count back of the results of the first four flights to see if a winner could be identified. Well done to Justin Biddle who was the only one to win all four of his matches. As there were a number who had three wins - Mark Downer, David R-J, Tiger Tellright & David Peerless, a second and third was too difficult to work out.

As always with team and matching racing, we could not have done without a lot of support. Our thanks in particular to Tricia Neri who kindly came along as the Chief Umpire, and her supporting umpires and assistant umpires, Penny Carter, Jeremy Spencer-Cooper, Robert Lidbury. Will Lowe, Philip Bown, Tony Burton, John Birchenough & Charles Evans.

Next weekend we have the Valentine Trophy.

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