COWES Week winning sailor Mark Downer mastered tricky conditions to win the battle for the Trafalgar Trophy at Bembridge over the weekend. 

With the Isle of Wight — and Bembridge in particular — under flood warnings, the second weekend of the Illusion 2023-24 season was not looking too promising. 

However, six scoring races were completed — four of them on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, there were fewer starters off Silver Beach, compared to a fortnight earlier, with a steady 10-16 knots breeze allowed a long beat to be set.

Bruce Huber led the 13-boat fleet away, but was soon passed by Downer, who maintained his lead — extending it all the way to the finish. 

Tiger Tellwright, in a 'Loaner' boat discovered to his horror that too much tension on the back-stay can overstress the boat, which resulted in his deck parting from the hull.

He was subsequently towed to the harbour before he sank!

Race 2 was a carbon copy of the first, as Downer duelled with Huber, before he pulled away to take another bullet over a minute clear.

Wind was gusting up to 20 knots for the third race, but the course was sufficiently in the lee of the Island to keep a relatively flat sea. 

After another clean start, Downer held a slight lead over Huber and a relative newbie, Sam Christie, at the finish.

The final race of the day followed the pattern of a clean start, with Downer and Huber duelling all the way to the finish — the former again prevailing.

The dire weather for Sunday did not Bembridge until three hours later than forecast, which allowed the final two races to be run in the harbour.

A shorter course set for Race 5 still proved challenging, with a shifty wind starting at 12 knots and falling to 7 knots by the finish. 

The nine-strong fleet had another clean start, with Morrison leading off the line, but inevitably Downer passed him to take another bullet, followed closely by Huber.

Race 6’s start saw the only X flag of the regatta when Downer got over enthusiastic and was called back. 

As the fleet tacked up the harbour, the weather came into play — the wind swinging 80 degrees left and dropped to 4 knots. 

The course was shortened, giving Huber a long deserved victory, but it was Downer who took the Trafalgar Trophy.