AJAX NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2003


 

John Williams finally laid hands on the Gimpel Trophy and won the National Championship for the Ajax class of 23 foot racing keelboats after twenty years racing in the fleet.  Williams’ boat Thunderer, crewed by his brother Hugh and his son Richard, beat off the competition from fourteen boats over five races in Dovercourt Bay.  The regatta was organised by Royal Harwich Yacht Club and racing took place on 18th-20th July.  The fleet included two visitors from the St Mawes fleet in Cornwall, and also new owner Peter Nicholls sailing Mandalay and crewed by his sons, and Aquila, recently recovered by the Thomas family from Belfast and restored to racing condition.  She was helmed by Lindsay Thomas, and crewed by her father Cedric and Bruce Brocklehurst.

 

Friday produced a fresh southwesterly.  Pegasus (David Kerridge) led from the start from one of the St Mawes boats Athena (David Liddington).  However, Thunderer worked her way past Athena and caught Pegasus on the third run, passing her on the subsequent beat, and held on to win.

 

In the afternoon race, the wind strengthened initially, and Athena took a clear lead.  Behind her Storm Petrel (Henry Baker) and Puffin (David Pearce), took up the chase with Pegasus and Thunderer 4th and 5thPuffin held second place and on the last beat Pegasus pulled through to third place as the wind eased and started to vary in direction.  Behind her, the next six boats finished overlapped with one another, making it tricky for the race committee to sort out the correct finishing order.

 

Saturday brought bright sun and a light onshore breeze.  Defending champion Avocet (Doug Sharps and Richard Chenery) got to the front of the fleet at last, pursued by Athena, Guillemot (David Mayne) and Goosander (Malcolm Mackley).  Goosander got to second place on the run, but then overstood the windward mark to fall back.  On the last beat, Pegasus found a windshift to lift her to second place, beating Athena and Guillemot by a few feet.

 

The shifting breeze caused Race Officer Doug Brown problems in setting the course for the afternoon race, and the fleet eventually set off on a short Olympic course.  Thunderer, Goosander and Athena got away cleanly from the pin end of the start line and led the way.  Thunderer held on to win.  Athena crossed the line second, only to discover they had been disqualified for an infringement before the start.  Meanwhile, Pegasus once again found a shift to pass Goosander on the last beat and take second place by inches.

 

The dinner on the Saturday night was enlivened by a speech from Cedric Thomas in which he gently pointed out to the fleet just how many of them had been beaten in races by the only lady helm, Lindsay Thomas.

 

The points situation for the final race was close, as ever.  Athena would have been strongly placed but for her disqualification in race 4.  Now she had to win race 5 to win overall.  Thunderer needed a top three result to win, providing she beat PegasusPegasus had very consistent results, but needed to be first or second and two places ahead of Thunderer to win.

 

Sunday produced a southwesterly wind that varied wildly in strength and direction, producing a course which resembled a snakes and ladders board, with holes in the wind in some places and in other places fresh breezes that enabled you to sail straight for the windward mark.

 

A 30 windshift a few minutes before the start favoured the pin end of the start line.  Avocet, Thunderer and Pegasus arrived at the weather mark at the front, but Avocet aimed too low for the wing mark, allowing Thunderer and Pegasus through.  Thunderer built a small lead on the second reach and Avocet got back to second place.  Pegasus found the snakes on the beat and fell back.  On the third beat, Athena found the fast lane offshore, to bring her back into contention with Avocet and ThundererAvocet held on to win, and Athena eventually got ahead of Thunderer to take second place, but Thunderer held onto third place to take the championship.

 

1  

Thunderer  

(John Williams)  

9 points

2  

Pegasus  

(David Kerridge)  

9 points

3  

Athena  

(David Liddington)  

10 points

4  

Avocet  

(Doug Sharps/Richard Chenery)  

12 points