Ajax Nationals 1998
St Mawes SC hosted the Ajax national championship on June 5-7, and 17 of these one-design 23ft keelboats took part. The event is a needle match between the East Coast fleet of Royal Harwich YC and the South West fleet at St Mawes. Two boats, ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Artemis’, trailed from Suffolk to Cornwall and another two crews from Royal Harwich borrowed local boats.
A strong easterly breeze on Friday produced big seas in Falmouth Bay and the race officer Ron Medlyn set the course in Falmouth Roads. Reigning champion David Liddington in ‘Athena’ showed his mettle by leading from the start of the first race, with ‘Pegasus’ (David Kerridge) and ‘Artemis’ (Tom Hill) chasing. On the third beat ‘Artemis’ went left and found stronger tide, taking her into the lead. On the last beat ‘Pegasus’ overtook ‘Athena’ to give Royal Harwich a first and a second.
On Saturday the wind shifted to the west and the racing was held in the bay. In the morning race there were a number of premature starters, including ‘Artemis’ and ‘Nimrod’ (Richard Beaman). ‘Pegasus’ led and looked set to win until on the third beat the leaders tacked inshore. There was a 90-degree wind shift as the sea breeze came in from the south. ‘Nimrod’, recovering from a poor start took full advantage and moved from sixth to first. ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Atalanta’ (Elaine Davey) staged good recoveries to take second and third. ‘Athena’ was not so lucky and slipped from fourth to tenth. ‘Artemis’ was a long way last after responding to the recall and recovered to seventh.
In the afternoon race a short line and a wind-shift just before the start led to a battle for the committee boat end of the line and a general recall. On the re-start ‘Artemis’ was over the line again. ‘Pegasus’, ‘Athena’ and ‘Atalanta’ went left initially, but it became apparent that there was less foul tide to the right. ‘Polyphemus’ led at the weather mark, with ‘Pegasus’ second and ‘Merganser (Tony James) third. On the second beat ‘Pegasus’ dueled with ‘Polyphemus’, and ‘Astrid’ overtook both of them. On the third beat ‘Pegasus’ powered through into the lead. At the finish ‘Astrid’ held second and ‘Nimrod was third.
After three races ‘Pegasus’ could only be defeated for the championship if ‘Nimrod’ won the final race. In the event, the St. Mawes’ class captain Cedric Thomas in Troy, made a perfect port tack start to cross the whole fleet. Meanwhile, ‘Nimrod’ mistimed the start and ‘Pegasus’, starting conservatively, put loose cover on ‘Nimrod’ up each beat to keep control. ‘Athena’ recovered her form to take a comfortable lead. ‘Pegasus’ was second and ‘Nimrod’ fourth intially. ‘Artemis’ overtook ‘Pegasus’, but ‘Nimrod’ declined to sixth, as desperate measures did not pay off.
The championship produced three days of excellent competitive racing under the expert hand of Medlyn. Each race produced a different winner, with honours split evenly between Royal Harwich and St. Mawes.
1st ‘Pegasus’ David Kerridge (Royal Harwich YC) 5 pts,
2nd ‘Nimrod’ Richard Beaman (St. Mawes SC) 8,
3rd ‘Artemis’ Tom Hill (RHYC) 9,
4th ‘Athena’ David Liddington (St. Mawes SC) 9.