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Bembridge Illusion Christmas Cracker 2019

by Mike Samuelson 16 Dec 2019 00:15 PST 14-15 December 2019

Sadly not as many entries this year for the Christmas Cracker - mind you with it forecasting a severe gale for Saturday, it was perhaps understandable! In the event, the decision on whether to go ahead with Saturday's racing was pretty touch and go.

Conditions about half an hour before the scheduled start time of 11:30 were certainly not suitable even for the hardy Illusion with the Westerly F5/F6 breeze and an incoming Spring tide kicking up a very unpleasant chop from midway down the harbour eastwards towards Bembridge Point. However there were 10 keen sailors so it was decided to postpone for half an hour to see if it improved when the tide slackened off. Still undecided, the Class Commodore, Bruce Huber, launched to see how he got on.

Having ruled out racing off St Helens Duver as although it was flat water, it was very gusty, he ventured up to the area to the east of Fisherman's Pontoon where it looked sailable. Although the decision was then made to go ahead, it was without the two least experienced helms (John Birchenough & Matt Solan) neither of whom had automatic bilge pumps in their boats. They helped on the Committee boat instead - as did the Class Admiral, Robin Ebsworth.

The first race got away to a clean start at 12:44 with even the experts finding the 25 knot gusts in the last 20 seconds of the sequence difficult to handle.

Saturday - Start of Race 1

With Bruce Huber trapped on port tack and finding himself down the order after eventually being able to round the windward mark, Mark Downer started the run to the leeward gate well ahead of Bill Daniels, Ed Peel and his wife Jo. Wisely as they were at maximum hull speed with just a goose winged genoa, no one tried flying a spinnaker. With Mark extending his lead as the race progressed, and having concluded that further racing was going to be possible, the ROs decided to finish at the end of the second round. After some close racing Jo came in second with Bill just crossing the line ahead of Ed.

The wind strength for the start of the second race was slightly less than the first, and all eight boats made it look relatively easy.

Saturday - Start of Race 2

Mike Toogood was the first to begin the run to the leeward gate just ahead of Mark with Jo, Bill and Bruce close behind. However three quarters of the way back up to the windward mark, his pump stopped working properly and he sensibly decided to retire and head back to the Illusion quay. This left Mark as the race leader some way ahead of Jo, Bruce, Bill and Ed. On the third round Jo and Bruce were almost match racing and traded places a couple of times, but at the finish Jo crossed the line in second mere inches ahead of Bruce.

The third race saw another excellent start with no one far off the line. No easy task in 20 knots and looking into the sun.

Saturday - Start of Race 3

With Mark taking a penalty at the windward mark, Bruce led the down wind charge to the leeward gate with Ed, Jo and Mark, who decided to try his spinnaker, hard on his heels. On the second run Mark nearly overcooked it and only his vast experience kept him from filling up as his bow submarined! Bill also had his work cut out to remain afloat at one stage. At the end of the third round, Bruce finished well ahead of Jo and Ed who crossed the line inches apart with Mark having to make do with a fourth.

Two hours before the scheduled start time on Sunday, conditions were looking pretty unpleasant and racing looked unlikely, however as the morning wore on, the breeze dropped slightly and the water in the harbour had smoothed off a bit. Indeed by the time the seven boats came to start the first race of the day, all agreed that the decision to go ahead had definitely been the right one. With the Downer's not racing and after a clean start Ed Peel was the first to reach the windward mark, followed by Mike Toogood, Bruce Huber and Bill Daniels.

Sunday - Start of Race 4

As the race progressed, Mike dropped down the order having left his spinnaker ashore. Bruce meanwhile was hot on Ed's heels and by the start of the third and final round he had taken over as the leader with Bill following in his footsteps to come in second.

After a postponement to allow Mike to sail back to the Illusion park to collect his spinnaker, the second race of the day got away smoothly.

Sunday - Start of Race 5

Bruce's green spinnaker lead the way down the first run with Bill and Ed battling it out for second, however as they began the second round, Bill had a senior moment and nearly missed coming back back through the line on the beat. As the race progressed and the breeze got up to over 20 knots, it was certainly impressive to see Bruce, Ed and Bill flying their spinnakers on the runs. Unfortunately Mike had a problem with his spinnaker so retired. Bruce was well ahead of Ed at the finish with the gap to Bill in third even larger.

It was another good start for the final race of the day; unfortunately during the sequence Bill's steering failed (apparently he is minus a complete rudder) so he was towed back in.

Sunday - Start of Race 6

In the first round there was little to separate Bruce and Ed, likewise Mike and Robin in third and fourth. However, with Bruce over running his spinnaker and having to revert to goose winging his genoa, the way looked open for Ed to move into the lead. But it was not to be and Bruce held on and towards the end of the final run even showed that he had managed to re-rig his spinnaker on the move. This gave him his third win of the day and secured him as the overall winner of this year's Christmas Cracker. Ed was second and Bill was third.

No racing next weekend; there is a race to BHYC (start c11:30) on Boxing Day and there are four days of racing up to the New Year (28th & 29th December - Icebreaker; and 30th & 31st December - normal racing).

Additional photos at

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1Bruce Huber1017311117
2Ed Peel16144322213
3Bill Daniels6835633S20
4Robin Ebsworth1244454420
5John Birchenough13055566526
6Mark Downer164114SSS28
7Jo Downer166222SSS28
8Mike Issaias15286775631
9Mike Toogood1425RS4R334
10David Russell‑Jones155675SSS40

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