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Bembridge Illusion Bill's Barrel 2023

by Mike Samuelson 20 Feb 06:38 GMT 18-19 February 2023

The Notice of Race for the annual Bill's Barrell sponsored by Bill Daniels with support from Goddards Brewery, with its tongue in cheek mischievousness, is always awaited with baited breath and this year's version was no exception!

The on water racing was as competitive as ever on Saturday in the strong SW'erly breezes. There was of course the added interest of the extra 4th race each day where the Race Committee have the option to set additional marks, marks to starboard or leeward courses etc. to make it a memorable weekend. The prizes, for all competitors who make it from the dinghy park as far as the prize-giving in the Clubhouse, supported by Goddards Brewery and Bill are also unusual but very welcome!

Seventeen boats eventually made the start area on Saturday morning; although a few sailed with a full rig, most played safe and beat up just under their genoas through the rougher water at the Bembridge end of the harbour. With four races to try to fit in, it was decided to use Flag U as the preparatory signal from the outset.

Start of Race 1

After a clean start in F6 gusty conditions, it was not very surprising to see Mark Downer's grey camouflaged Illusion rounding the Windward buoys ahead of the rest of the fleet. Playing safe (or more likely actually making the point that running goose winged in strong winds is just as fast as with the spinnaker) most - including Mark - kept their spinnakers safely onboard. By the second round, Mark had established a big lead ahead of Julia Bailey and Tiger Tellwright with Rory Morrison, Jonathan N-L and Mike Toogood not far behind. On the final round Tiger got ahead of Julia as did Rory and Jonathan.

The start of the 2nd race was pretty amazing given the gusty conditions with Mark timing it to perfection!

Start of Race 2

Although leading from the moment the hooter sounded and it never looking as if he was going to be overtaken, Mark's lead was kept to a reasonable distance by Monty Irwin with Rosie Gosling not far behind. Whilst it does not show up in the result spreadsheet, there were at least four sets of very close finishers, so all in all, a great race.

The start of the third race saw Mark pushing for the perfect start; a risky tactic given that it was a Flag U start! He was again first to round the windward marks ahead of Julia.

Start of Race 3

Although a few brave souls decided to flying their spinnakers, including David Russell-Jones and Mike Toogood who were vying for third, Mark was sufficiently far ahead to keep things simple and goose wing the runs. Again like the previous race, there were a number of very close finishes.

Although going for a fourth race was always going to be risky as the tide was dropping very quickly, it was decided to go for twice round the windward marks and a running finish close to BSC. The start was not quite as good as the previous one but everyone got away safely.

Start of Race 4

The first round went smoothly with Mark ahead of Mike T, Julia, David R-J, Justin Biddle and Tiger close behind. However things started to go awry when the Committee Boat (Sea Breeze) tried to re-position for the finish and went aground in the middle of the harbour! Despite best efforts to get clear, she remained hard aground so the race was finished as boats passed her stern. Although not quite what had been planned, it nevertheless provide some amusement to the fleet (and watchers on the shore!). Left on anchor overnight, she was afloat again on Sunday morning ready for the day's racing.

With twenty five entries for Sunday's four races and a gentle F2-3 NW'erly breeze, it was decided to set the course up outside the harbour for a change. After a short postponement to allow everyone to reach the start area, the first race, again under Flag U got away smoothly, albeit there were a couple of boats at the Committee Boat end who were probably OCS but as there was a delay in the hooter/Class Flag removal they were given the benefit of doubt.

Start of Race 5

Mark was soon back in his usual position in front of the fleet but with Bruce Huber in the day's line up, he could not afford to drop his concentration. John Raymond was in third until he had a senior moment passing the pin and mistakingly rounded it thinking it was the leeward gate! It was good to see Oliver Morgan going well and picking up third ahead of Mike T.

After a course re-set because the light breeze had veered more Northerly, the start of the second race of the day was quite eventful and saw the Black Flag make an appearance.

Start of Race 6 - General Recall

Re-Start of Race 6

With the breeze continuing to come and go and the tide starting to drop, it was decided to make it a two round race. In the event a good decision, particularly from Mike T's point of view as he was ahead of Bruce through the leeward gate; however Bruce found the best way back to the finish line and made up the deficit to finish in a tie with Mike. Rory was third just ahead of Mark.

The penultimate race of the day started in 6.5 knots, again under Flag U. As the video clip shows, no one transgressed into the penalty area, albeit you can see Mark ducking out at the pin end of the line just as the hooter sounded.

Start of Race 7

Bruce lead the way with Mark, Owen Pay, Jonathan N-L close behind. Another two round race which Bruce dominated; Mark was second and Rosie Gosling caught up from mid-fleet to come in third.

The course for the final race of the day was to round the windward and spreader buoys and then head into the harbour to finish at the beginning of the One-Design Pool. John Birchenough and Olly Laughton-Scott were both penalised under Flag U rules for by being very obviously OCS; the remainder made slow but steady progress up the course to the turning marks.

Start of Race 8

Mike T initially lead the way but then headed back down the course for a bit until his error was pointed out! As he still came third, the Imperial Committee, iaw Special Rule 9, refused his claim for redress! As is so often the case when racing into the harbour, tactics played a big part in success. Bruce dodged the tide close to St Helens Groyne and Mark did the same on the Bembridge side. A very close and fun finish!!

Two very different days racing, but all agreed two very enjoyable ones. Not that it would have made much difference, but with all eight races to count, Mark finished first on 13 points; Mike T was 2nd on 37 points and Tiger Tellwright was third with 41 points.

Next weekend (25th & 26th February) its the Stratton Memorial Trophy with 13;30 & 14:30 starts.

Additional photos at

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
1Mark Downer1641111142213
2Mike Toogood1426843418337
3Tiger Tellwright382652756841
4Rory Morrison12031065935950
5Julia Bailey157572410913454
6Rosie Gosling1301131081173760
7Monty Irwin14782811614121172
8Jonathan N‑Luxmoore15845119151271275
9Justin Biddle/Bill Daniels/689129681715682
10Mike Issaias1521011741811111991
11Robin Ebsworth121212121217891395
12Andy Christie149121412125201620111
13Bruce Huber101SSSS2111117
14David Russell‑Jones1557437SSSS133
15Tim Lyle16315161514R162016140
16John Birchenough3714131313192417D141
17Oliver Morgan169SSSS361410145
18James Row221615R1420211813145
19Owen Pay160SSSS121345146
20Matt Solan1061391410SSSS158
21Guy Lawrence86SSSS21181015176
22Kipper BrookeRed1717RS23222418177
23Olly Laughton‑Scott80SSSS131021D184
24Jamie Scrimgeour172SSSS22162016186
25Tom Christie66SSSS16232317191
26John Raymond151SSSS141919R192
27Will Lowe150SSSSR252521211

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