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Bembridge Illusion Stratton Trophy 2024

by Mike Samuelson 14 Jan 13:32 PST 13-14 January 2024

After the recent strong winds and heavy rain (plus a few snow flurries earlier in the week) it was nice to find Saturday's forecast (overcast with a F2-F3 NNW) pretty close the actual conditions the thirteen Illusion helms found on Saturday morning.

Despite the extra time it took them to reach the start area off Silver Beach, the decision to race outside the harbour was undoubtedly the right one and provided lots of opportunity for reasonably long beats and a testing leeward gate. Although half an hour late, the first start got away cleanly, albeit a few at the pin end decided to double back to be on the safe side.

Start of Race 1 Saturday

It was not long before the fleet split tacks with the right hand side looking to be the best. Raymond Simonds was first to round the windward and spreader marks with Mark Downer and Monty Irwin tucked in close behind. However by the time they reached the leeward gate, Mark had taken the lead. There was little to separate them as the race continued into a third round; indeed Raymond was back in the lead at the windward mark, only to miss the spreader as he tried to get his spinnaker ready for the final run. By the time he had corrected, Mark had moved into the lead and he could not find a way back. Monty Irwin was third half a boat length ahead of Tiger Tellwright.

The start of Race 2 saw Tiger having to come back after being called OCS. Following some confusion close to the line involving Oliver Morgan, Mike Issaias and Hugh Doherty, Oliver retired and headed back into the harbour nursing bruised head!

Start of Race 2 Saturday

After a near perfect start Raymond was first round the windward marks and as the race progressed pulled out a substantial lead ahead of Mark. Although he had to work hard to overtake Alastair Speare-Cole and Jo Downer, third place went to Tiger.

Had it been a nice warm day, the start of the third race would have seen a General Recall, however as everyone, including the Race Officers, was beginning to feel the cold and no one was unfairly advantaged, it was decided to stay quiet and let the race continue.

Start of Race 3 Saturday

Raymond again was first round the windward marks, closely pursued by Tiger with Mark and Mike Issaias (to his surprise) a bit behind having managed to avoid a collision involving Monty Irwin and Owen Pay as they were positioning themselves to round the windward mark. Unfortunately Owen's bow caught Monty on the side of his face which initially bled quite profusely. Monty wisely headed back to the harbour with Owen and Hugh Doherty (who had sorted his boat out after retiring in the second race but missed the start by a minute or so) accompanying to keep an eye on him. In the meantime, Tiger and Raymond had a very close race for the top two places with the former managing to keep the latter in his wake and finish a couple of boat lengths ahead. Although somewhat further behind, Mike I was third and Mark was fourth.

There was a bit less wind on Sunday morning and with the strong spring tide potentially making it difficult for the Illusions to sail out of the harbour, it was decided to set an in-harbour course. Although the tide was holding the Committee Boat at the wrong angle and a few helms had struggled with working out the best place to be on the line, the first start was surprisingly good!

Start of Race 1 (4) on Sunday

Owen was first round the windward mark and spreader with Raymond close behind; these two then played cat and mouse for the rest of the two round race and after a number of place changes, Owen crossed the line comfortably ahead. After a promising first half, Oliver, recovered from his bang on the head the previous day, finished back in seventh place. Mark and Jo were third and fourth. As always, competition throughout the fleet was evident with Robin Ebsworth in his now very clean Illusion and Mike T tieing for tenth place.

With the breeze backing and dropping off to 4 knots, the second race of the day saw another clean start with Mark, Jo, Oliver and Mike T rounding the windward marks well ahead of the rest of the fleet.

Start of Race 2 (5) on Sunday

As he came back down towards the leeward gate, Mike I announced that he was retiring as he had rescued an injured seagull that he had found at the top end of the course which he wanted to take to the vets. Rather than scoring a RTD and a DNS for the final race, his support to animal welfare was rewarded with average points! In the meantime, Mark finished well ahead of Jo who was nearly caught by Raymond in the last tack to the line. Mike T was fourth with Oliver and Owen finishing inches apart in fifth and sixth.

Final run during Race 2 (5) on Sunday

The breeze increased slightly (to 7 knots) as the start sequence for the final race got under way. Raymond again timed it to perfection and after only a couple of tacks was always going to round the top marks ahead of the rest of the fleet. Oliver was second to round ahead of Mark, Jo and Owen.

Start of Race 3 (6) on Sunday

As the two round race developed it was very clear that no one was going to catch Raymond who had motored into an unchallengeable lead. Mark and Oliver traded places a couple of times, however, the latter held his nerve to come in second a boat length ahead. Jo was fourth.

A challenging couple of days which saw Raymond winning the Stratton Trophy (an amazing silver Neff - which remains in the Club and a picture of the first 'race' for the Trophy that took place in 2012). Mark was second and Jo was third.

Overall Results:

PosHelmSail NoR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1Raymond Simonds1652112317
2Mark Downer16412431310
3Jo Downer16666542421
4Alastair Speare‑Cole13554657626
5Owen Pay16088R15527
6Mike Issaias152119366630
7Mike Toogood142757104730
8Tiger Tellwright22432RRR39
9Oliver Morgan1699RS76239
10Will Lowe15012119881046
11Robin Ebsworth1213108109946
12Monty Irwin14737RRRR55
13Andy Christie149RRR910857
14Hugh Doherty12410RRRRR70

No racing next weekend but the one after (27th & 28th January) we have another two day Team Racing Championships. Seven and a half teams signed up so far so one more sailor required!

Although Illusion racing has yet to go 'viral' on YouTube, the start of the final race for the Icebreaker on Saturday 30th December has been viewed 1,365 times!

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