Ajax National Championship 2011
Three contrasting days produced close racing for the seventeen Ajax keelboats competing in the 2011 championships hosted by Royal Harwich Yacht Club in Dovercourt Bay.
Friday was fine with a force 3 westerly which shifted about as it came off the land. Race Officer Doug Brown used the new eight race format to good effect, setting three Olympic courses designed to be one hour or less.
In Race 1, Atalanta (Alex Davey) led at the weather mark from Sirius (Ken Stowe) and Thunderer (John Williams). On the second beat, Atalanta headed right and out of the breeze. Those who went left did better, so Thunderer led from Guillemot (David Mayne) and Artemis (Malcolm Mackley) and this was how it finished. Teal (Bob Tate) was fourth.
In Race 2, Teal led initially from Pegasus (David Kerridge) and Guillemot. On the second beat Pegasus found her way past Teal to win, with Teal just holding off Guillemot. Dionysius (Philip Mayhew) was fourth.
In Race 3, the leaders at the weather mark were Atalanta, Teal and Telamon (Gordon Sutton). However, the wind dropped on the reach against the tide, and Mandalay (Peter Nicholls) and Pegasus sailed through to leeward of the whole fleet. Pegasus led after the gybe mark. However, on the run the wind dropped again. Those who headed offshore found the breeze. This brought Artemis to the front, but then the wind dropped again. Storm Petrel (John Selby) went further offshore than the rest, and found and held enough breeze in their spinnaker to sail round the fleet and score a memorable win from Odysseus (Dudley Kennett, visiting from the St Hawes fleet in Cornwall) and Pegasus. Thunderer went from second place to last on the run and finished 15th.
Saturday brought a 20 knot south westerly with some severe gusts. The three races were windward/leeward courses.
In Race 4, Mandalay led from Atalanta and Thunderer. A hair-raising run with 29 knot gusts was made even more alarming when two Thames barges racing in the Pin Mill barge match reached across the course at speed passing through the leading group of boats. It was Thunderer who had to take the most extreme avoiding action on each occasion, crash gybing four times. At the leeward mark Mandalay’s spinnaker got away from them, so Atalanta led from Thunderer and Artemis and this was how it finished.
In the following two races, gear failure and stress of weather whittled the fleet down to eleven, and at the front Atalanta, Artemis, Thunderer and Puffin (David Pearce) battled it out with Pegasus and Teal snapping at their heels.
In Race 5, Atalanta won from Artemis and Puffin, and in Race 6 Thunderer won from Puffin and Artemis. Overnight Thunderer and Artemis led on points with Pegasus third and Atalanta fourth.
Before the dinner on Saturday, there was a reception hosted by Malcolm and Margaret Mackley marking their farewell to the Ajax fleet as they are moving to Salcombe.
Sunday produced sunshine and a light southerly.
Race 7 was an Olympic course. Merlin (Jim Scorer) led from Atalanta and Artemis. Downwind Artemis took the lead and Thunderer improved to fourth. Up the beat Atalanta took the lead to win from Thunderer and Telamon. Artemis and Merlin lost out on the second beat to finish 9th and 10th.
Race 8 (windward/leeward) began with sea fog threatening to engulf the fleet. After a general recall, the fleet got away. Telamon and Pegasus (James Skellorn) went left and found a 25° header. At the weather mark Pegasus led from Atalanta and Storm Petrel (Bruce Johnson). Thunderer pulled through on the run to battle with Merlin for third place. Up the second beat the fog arrived. Hasty bearings were taken and Pegasus found her way through the fog to win from Atalanta and Thunderer with Merlin fourth.
Overall, John, Hugh and James Williams in Thunderer won by three points from Atalanta (Alex Davey, James Clayton and Belinda Joslin/Stephen Clayton). Thunderer only won two races compared to three wins for Atalanta, but she was rarely out of the top three. Malcolm Mackley (Artemis) in his swansong with the Ajax was nearly as consistent as Thunderer, but slipped to third overall. Full results are on the RHYC website.