Ajax National Championships – Royal Harwich Yacht Club 19-22 September 2019

Report by Mike Clayton, Pictures by Will Patten


The defending champions from St Mawes joined nine local boats for the eight race series sailed in Dovercourt Bay, Harwich.  The St Mawes crew chartered Mandalay, one of the three Ajax’s donated to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club earlier in the year. 

Day 1 - The fleet enjoyed three competitive races in Dovercourt Bay. Race Officer Graham Louth set windward leeward courses for the first two races and a triangle-sausage for race 3.

The first race started in an ESE F3 and Polly Oliver (Mike Clayton, Bob Portway, John Gill), Mandalay (Paul Scullion, Ian Woods, Jack Elsby-Hartman) and Thunderer (John Williams, Hugh Williams, James Williams) got the best starts. All three arrived at the windward mark close together with Polly Oliver on the inside and Mandalay on the outside. The outer boats benefitted and Mandalay led down the run with Thunderer and Polly Oliver close behind. On the second beat Mandalay and Thunderer found more wind and extended away to the finish. Behind the front three Orwell VI (Richard Merriweather, Mark Ingram, Simon Abley) pulled through to secure fourth.

In the second race Polly Oliver started well at the pin end with Mandalay mid line. These two quickly established a lead with Mandalay again finding a faster lane to the windward mark. Thunderer pulled through on the run to challenge Polly Oliver. On the second beat Polly Oliver found the best shifts to lead at the windward mark and held on to win with Mandalay second and Thunderer third.

After a short pause to adjust the course to the wind shifting to the East, the third race started with Polly Oliver again getting the best start at the pin end. She pulled away up the beat with Orwell VI close behind and Mandalay recovering from a poor start getting to the first mark third. Behind these three Pegasus (Belinda Joslin, Sian Goodman, Steph Hensley) was going well and moved ahead of Thunderer. Polly Oliver stayed ahead for the first lap but on the second beat Orwell VI found some good shifts to lead with Mandalay closing. At the windward mark Mandalay was able to squeeze round while a boat length behind Orwell VI held off Polly Oliver to round second. These positions remain unchanged on the final run and short beat to the finish.

Leading Overall (after day 1). Mandalay (Paul Scullion) 1,2,1; Polly Oliver (Mike Clayton) 3,1,3; Orwell VI (Richard Merriweather) 4,4,2; Thunderer (John Williams) 2,3,5

Day 2

This was another sunny day with good winds on the East Coast - A solid F4 gusting F5 for the first race blowing from the ESE. The sea looked a lovely shade of brown as sand was blown in from the Cork Sands. The 4th race started with some pin end bias with Polly Oliver and Orwell VI at the pin end. These two pulled away and Orwell VI tacked off and cleared the rest of the fleet including Mandalay and Thunderer. For these four the approach to the windward mark was going to be key and Orwell VI judged the lay line to perfection allowing the initial flood to push her up and round first, followed by Mandalay, Telamon (Gordon Sutton, Mike Moore, Phil Codling) and Polly Oliver. Orwell VI and Polly Oliver gybed early and went round the leeward mark first and second. On the next beat Orwell VI extended away whilst both Mandalay and Telamon caught Polly Oliver.

For Race 5 the course was reset and the line was biased towards the Committee Boat. Polly Oliver started at that end and tacked onto port early. Orwell VI again was going much faster than everyone else and led round the first mark for a comfortable win. Behind, Polly Oliver and Thunderer had a dual on the run with Polly Oliver managing to surf ahead. Mandalay recovered from a disastrous first beat to finish 4th.

Finally Race 6, a triangle sausage. Orwell VI with two race wins for the day was buried at the start with Mandalay and Polly Oliver clear at the committee boat end. Mandalay went right and Polly Oliver left. At the windward mark Polly Oliver rounded with a narrow lead from Mandalay with Telamon and Thunderer close together behind them. On the second beat Mandalay again went right and pulled ahead for the win with Polly Oliver a comfortable second. Behind Orwell VI had recovered and managed to split Thunderer and Telamon with Telamon gaining their second third place of the day. 

The day belonged to Orwell VI, but Mandalay did enough to stay 4 points clear of Polly Oliver, with Orwell VI 1 point behind in third.

Day 3

With a forecast of F2 toF3 and initially sunny skies the fleet set off from Shotley for the final two races of the series. Race Officer Graham Louth set windward leeward courses for the last two races, but in Dovercourt Bay the wind gradually dropped to around 8 knots for the start of the seventh championship race. Two boats including Orwell VI were OCS and Mandalay and Polly Oliver both had good starts. After returning Orwell Vi went right and gained significantly, whilst Guillemot David Mayne, Kelvin Douglas, David Pearce), Pegasus and Thunderer all sailed good beats. At the windward mark Mandalay rounded first, followed by Orwell Vi, Guillemot and Pegasus. Thunderer failed to round the mark and needed to do turns. On the run Polly Oliver gybed early and passed Pegasus, the other places remained unchanged. The main change on the second beat was Pegasus regaining fourth by passing Polly Oliver. At the finish Mandalay had a comfortable lead, with Orwell Vi, Guillemot and Pegasus finishing close together. This was enough to give Mandalay the championships with a race to spare.

For the final race the course was shifted following a wind shift to the right. At the start Polly Oliver was OCS (already halfway round the Committee Boat) whilst Orwell VI and Mandalay and Thunderer all had good starts. A number of boats, including Mandalay, Orwell VI and Telamon went right with Thunderer, Guillemot, Dionysius and Polly Oliver going left. Those that went right lost out as the wind faded with Thunderer reaching the windward mark first, closely followed by Dionysius and Polly Oliver. On a slow run Thunderer and Polly Oliver gybed and headed inshore and established a gap on the boats behind. Guillemot and Pegasus passed Dionysius and the whole fleet were hearted when the Race Officer shortened the course to one 45 minute lap.

Congratulations to Paul Scullion, Ian Woods and Jack Elsby-Hartmen for a well deserved win against a competitive East Coast fleet. The top four boats all won races and there was competitive racing through the fleet.

Thanks to the race team of Graham Louth, Caroline Louth and Peter Wright and Support Boat Crews Will Patten, Joe Hunt, Paul Wright, Charles Twiss, Mark Freeman and Jack Moore