Ajax National Championships 1999
Chris Brown (Mars) narrowly beat John Williams (Thunderer) and defending champion David Kerridge (Pegasus) to win the Ajax Class Championship which was sailed in perfect conditions in Dovercourt Bay.
Thirteen boats contested the five-race series for the 23ft keelboats from Royal Harwich Yacht Club, with only one point separating the first three boats overall. Every place won or lost counted and the title changed hands on the last lap of the last race.
Race one was sailed in a Force three wind. Mars and Guillemot (David Mayne) initially set the pace but Mars in front and Thunderer and Mandalay (Guy Wallhead) came through to take second and third. Mars also won race two and Pegasus overtook Thunderer on the last beat but Thunderer fought back to take second place by a few feet.
On Saturday the wind increased to Force four and race three was to prove decisive. Pegasus got through to first but Mars rolled over her to lead at the leeward mark, only to see Pegasus sail through her lee on the beat to retake the lead. Pegasus’ triumph was shortlived however, as they had made a premature start and were disqualified. Mars won her third race in a row while Artemis held on for second and Thunderer took third place.
Race Officer Doug Brown set a windward/leeward course for race four instead of an Olympic triangle. Pegasus came out from the committee boat end of the line to lead from Telamon, Osprey (Doug Sharps) and Artemis. These positions stayed the same until Osprey’s jib halyard parted on the beat, giving Artemis third place with Thunderer fourth. Mars struggled to recover from 10th place at one stage to finally finish 7th.
Sunday morning saw the wind up to a brisk Force five with Mars needing only a fifth place to be sure of the championship in the last race. At the windward mark Mars, Thunderer and Pegasus arrived in close formation but a surfing broaching spinnaker reach saw Thunderer take the lead. At the gybe Pegasus got through to second, but up the beat, Mars held a comfortable third place until her jib sheets snarled up as she tacked for the windward mark. She slipped back to sixth and Mandalay came through to third.
The championship would have gone to Thunderer if she could stay in front. Pegasus chased her for two laps but at the last gybe mark, Thunderer’s spinnaker twisted into a knot and they had to drop it to untangle, allowing Pegasus to surge past and win the race. Mars won the regatta overall on a tie-break from Thunderer.
3 Pegasus (David Kerridge) 10 points;
4. Mandalay (Guy Wallhead) 15 points.