Braving the freezing Solent
With a horrendous weather forecast of severe winter storms, snow and rain for the weekend of the Illusion National Championship, 26 sailors still braved the elements and made it to the start line.
Luckily the ‘tropical’ Isle of Wight missed most of the weather, although it did rain about 1” creating exceptionally high water in Bembridge Harbour. Between the clouds however occasionally rays of sunshine could be seen which was nice considering water temperature is around 3C and air around 5degC.
Saturday's racing got off at 0900 - a struggle for a few. The wind was southwest, force 3-5 backing later to the south. Race office Mike Samuelson had set a very long line and course to avoid big pile ups at the start and top mark, however it was still crowded and there was plenty of pushing on the line which was to be expected given such a line-up of top Solent sailors.
Unfortunately in race one Rudy Jurg and Graham Bailey got off to a bad start by both being over the line. Graham Sunderland, who again showed off one of his latest newly designed sails, took the gun for first place followed by Justin Biddle and Mark Downer.
Race 2 quickly started and this time it was Julia Bailey who was OCS. Once again Graham Sunderland quickly took the lead which he would not give away. It did not seem to matter which way you went up the beat, both right and left paid, although big gains and losses were made if out of phase with the numerous shifts caused by clouds quickly passing overhead. Graham Bailey has mastered the skill of spotting shifts and followed the leader close on his heels to take second. In third was Mark Downer who with exceptional boat speed seems to race through the fleet no matter where started.
In race 3 it was again Graham Sunderland who took the gun, followed by Graham Bailey, but this time it was a delighted Raymond Simmonds who took third place.
As the weather forecast for Sunday was very bad with 60mph winds forecasted the race officer wisely decided to run a fourth race so that we would get a series in should conditions on Sunday not allow racing. This time the start was clean and Rudy Jurg made it to the weather mark first by holding the fleet out to the left, but lost it on the run. Philip Bown had his own tactics and breeze and powered to a second place with Graham Bailey just in front of him.
With a one-design fleet such as the Illusions, it’s the middle of the fleet were you can see some interesting interruptions of the three boat length rule and port starboard, however in general the fleet was well behaved with people taking their turns when they infringed other sailors
In the evening there was a Illusion Class Dinner which was attended by almost all sailors and Class Captain Justin Biddle made a speech to thank the sailors, club and race officers for their efforts to make this event such a success.
On Sunday morning a few people looked worse for wear from the night before and there was a little apprehension on the dock side because of the weather forecast. However it turned out to be a lovely day with WNWerly winds ranging F4-5 - a little damp at times but when sailing you do not notice these things.
As four races had already been sailed on Saturday only two more had to be sailed on Sunday to qualify as a full championship. Mark Downer thrives in these strong conditions probably helped by his 6'8" stature and exceptional arm length to spread out the spinnaker on downwind legs. He won the first race of the day with a commanding lead. Graham Bailey came second and Graham Sunderland 3rd. Barnaby Edwards had a good day and finished 4th - much to his own surprise - but he sailed cleanly and was in phase with the wind. Down it came to the last race to determine the top 3 places although plenty of battles were fought further down the rankings.
Mark Downer and Rudy Jurg shot off again on the pin end, however the race officer had spotted them over the line - probably not helped by being almost the only coloured boats in a white hulled fleet. They went off home early and this left the battle for a top place between Graham Sunderland and Graham Bailey. After a very close race lead most of the way again by Barnaby Edwards. In the end it was Graham Sunderland who took the coveted half model of an Illusion home as the overall winner of the 2010 Illusion National Championship. 2nd Graham Bailey and 3rd Mark Downer.
The four ladies who raced this weekend have their own cup and it was Julia Bailey who took this prize home. As the class has a wide age range of sailors a price was awarded for first over 65 to Philip Bown, 1st over 75 to Phillip Woodword. A prize for Most Improved was awarded to Rudy Jurg despite being twice OCS. David Palmer took home the 1st visitors prize.
Next event is the Spring plate 13/14th March.