Ajax National Championship 2013
Seventeen boats turned out for the championship held on the East Coast in Dovercourt Bay and hosted by Royal Harwich Yacht Club.
There were three visitors from the St Mawes fleet in Cornwall, including Ajax (David Mathewson) Athena (David Liddington) both past champions with their best crews, and Diomedes (Paul Over), fresh from extensive renovation and looking like a new boat. The home fleet had several contenders, including Polly Oliver, winners of the Spring series, and Mars (Rosie Davey) returning from a couple of years resting and Atalanta (Alex Davey). These boats had top racing crews in the form of Chris Brown and Anthony Gifford on Mars, and Nigel Waller and Fran Gifford on Atalanta.
The fleet were greeted with a fresh WSW 4-5 on Friday. Race Offer Doug Brown set windward/leeward courses. After a general recall, Ajax was first at the weather mark from Atalanta and Athena. Those chasing included Storm Petrel (Bruce Johnson) Widgeon (Richard Burnford, with Malcolm Mackley and Julian Molyneux) and Pegasus (David Kerridge). On the second beat the wind shifted right, but the positions stayed the same. On the second run, Ajax and Athena set off on starboard gybe, but Atalanta did a gybe set and sailed down the rhumb line and into the lead, winning from Ajax and Athena.
In race 2, Atalanta led throughout from Thunderer (John Williams) (who missed the first race to fix a gear failure) with Athena third and Ajax fourth.
In Race 3, Polly Oliver got a good start and led at the weather mark from Athena and Atalanta. Once again, Atalanta went into the lead on the run, and then gear failure left Polly Oliver without a spinnaker, so Atalanta won from Athena and Ajax.
Saturday brought grey skies and a force 6, so there was no racing. The crew of Ajax were given a guided tour of the high spots of Ipswich by John Pack, which may have affected their performance on Sunday.
Sunday produced a SW 3-4 with interesting shifts. Two races on Olympic courses were sailed. In race 4, Athena led from Atalanta, Guillemot (David Mayne) and Pegasus. Guillemot had a spinnaker gear problem and fell back. Around the wing mark Athena and Atalanta briefly headed for the wrong mark, allowing Pegasus into second. Up the beat, Pegasus closed up on Athena on a big shift to the left. Atalanta was just ahead of Guillemot and Thunderer. On the run Guillemot passed Atalanta, who held on to fourth place, which was what they needed to secure the championship after four races. Athena won the race from Pegasus and Guillemot.
In the last race, Ajax led at the first mark, but then set off on a run, forgetting it was a close reach to the wing mark. Atalanta took the lead from Ajax, pursued by Thunderer and Polly Oliver. Athena was well back, but worked her way back to third by the end, with Atalanta first and Thunderer second.
Overall, Atalanta won comfortably from Athena, Ajax and Thunderer. Alex Davey paid tribute to Nigel Walker and Fran Gifford in enabling him to launch the boat and win the first three races straight off.
Thanks to Doug Brown for running the races smoothly and skilfully as ever and to Phil Mayhew on class captain for organising a championship that was closely fought on the water and highly sociable ashore, the highlight being a barbecue hosted by the Mayhews at Home Farm.
Full results are on the Ajax and RHYC websites.