Ajax 23 One Design Keel Boat – day racing at its best!

The Ajax fleet at RHYC provides competition and excitement both for regular top-finishers and crews aspiring to be at the top.  A superb sea boat that looks after its crew, the Ajax is fast both to windward and with the spinnaker flying downwind.  It is solid and stable and copes exceptionally well in strong winds, making it a pleasure to helm and to crew. The Ajax is normally raced with a crew of three, although two up is perfectly possible, especially in lighter winds. 

The class has two fleets, one at RHYC (23 boats registered, about 13 actively racing) and the other at St Mawes (Falmouth).  The National Championships are held by each club in alternate years.  In alternate years a number of RHYC boats will make the journey to St Mawes to compete in July, and may stay on to sail in Falmouth week (August) where the Ajax is often one of the best represented classes.

At RHYC, we race every weekend in the sailing season, making full use of the River Orwell, as well as going out to sea frequently or up the lovely River Stour.   An attraction of Ajax sailing is that we do not need rescue boat support for our racing, and this gives us great flexibility with our courses - sometimes choosing short, sharp racing (usually when windy) and sometimes using fair wind and tide to go further.  Being a strict one design keelboat means that what really counts is how the boat is sailed.  While there is plenty of rivalry on the water, Ajax sailors are friendly and welcoming; always happy to help each other and new owners get the best out of their boats.  In winter there are occasional lunches at the RHYC for the class.

The 2017 Ajax Class Captain is Martine Clayton.  Please contact Martine if you have any questions about the Ajax or if you are interested in joining the fleet at the RHYC. 
Email: martine.clayton@btinternet.com

Ajax Summer series 1 & 2 race report.

Only 4 boats appeared on the start line, the others presumably exhausted by the Championships the previous week end!

The wind was blowing from the WSW force 2-3.  The course was set with Deer Park as the windward mark and a run down to Park Bight and a reach to Park Farm Beacon and a beat back to the line.

Telamon made the best start. Thunderer followed with Guillemot to windward and behind having tacked after starting at the leeward end.

Telamon slightly overstood the starboard tack to the windward mark having not allowed enough for the strong flood tide. This allowed Thunderer to tack early and just lay and squeeze through into the lead.

Thunderer had a quicker spinnaker hoist and then developed a good lead over the next two laps but on the last lap of 3 elected not to cover the fleet, preferring to stay on the right side of the course in the hope of more breeze. However the rest of the fleet got a huge lift on port and Guillemot was dead even with Thunderer as she got back to the middle on Starboard. Thunderer rounded first.

The run was very close with Thunderer  just getting to the leeward mark first and then after 2 close tacks, Thunderer was able to prevent Guillemot tacking for the line first and therefore won by 2 boat lengths.

The wind shifted to the right between the races and the course was altered with Priory buoy becoming the windward mark. 
However, by the start the wind had shifted left again making the beat a 1 tack affair. 

Phil Mayhew in Dionysius made the best start at the leeward end of the line.  Guillemot had started to windward in less breeze with Dionysius and Thunderer to leeward and able to lay the windward mark on Port in 1 tack.

At the mark Dionysius had sagged off to leeward in a different wind stream. Guillemot and Thunderer were level with Guillemot on the inside. She rounded first and gradually pulled away over 2 laps to get a very comfortable win over Thunderer , then Telamon and Dionysius who had a close battle all the way round.
Guillemot  2, 1
Thunderer  1, 2
Telamon    3, 3
Dionysius  4, 4

Ajax National Championships 2017

There were nine entries for the 2017 Ajax class championships sailed in Dovercourt Bay, Harwich from 16th to 18th June.  Conditions were ideal for racing in the bay with the first day providing a shifty west north west wind from the shore that provided opportunities upwind for overtaking, with the second two days sailed in a sea breeze from the south.

The first race was probably the most dramatic with a number of place changes.  Telamon led at the first mark and was caught by Thunderer on the run.  On the second beat Polly Oliver gained the lead and held on to take the win with Telamon second and Thunderer third.  Race 2 was set as an triangle, sausage course.  Thunderer won the start with Polly Oliver looking lost on port and over the line.  At the windward mark Puffin, Telamon and Guillemot were in contention.  Thunderer had a comfortable lead and with the next group of boats going wide at the gybe mark Polly Oliver was able to gybe inside and gain second place.  Guillemot extracted herself first from the group of boats and held on for third place.

The final race of the day had a slight pin end advantage and Polly Oliver ducked under Guillemot to win the pin with Thunderer starting closer to the Committee Boat.  A shift on the first beat allowed Polly Oliver to tack clear and lead round the first mark followed by Thunderer and Dionysius.  The first two boats remained clear but there was a tight battle for third with Dionysius loosing out to both Telamon and Guillemot on the short beat to the finish.

Day two started with a light westerly wind.  Guillemot started at the Committee Boat end and went right up the beat and Polly Oliver led the remaining boats up the left side.  As the windward mark approached Guillemot took advantage of a favourable shift to lead round the mark with Polly Oliver second and the consistent Thunderer third.  On the run the wind died and the sea breeze filled in.  This did not alter the places with Guillemot holding on to win and Polly Oliver second.

After a short break to allow the new wind to settle Race 5 was started.  Polly Oliver again led away from the start with Thunderer and Guillemot behind.  Teal was also in the mix and at the second windward mark rounding these three boats were close.  Thunderer managed to get away down wind with a slick spinnaker hoist with Guillemot in third.  For the final race of day two Thunderer had the best start and led from start to finish.  Polly Oliver was again over the line avoiding an aggressive Telamon but was able to recover to second by the windward mark by benefitting from a favourable shift on the right hand side of the beat.  This left the overall championship position as advantage Polly Oliver with Thunderer needing to win both races on the final day.  It was also close for third between Telamon and Guillemot.

The final days sailing was sunshine and a force three sea breeze from the start time of the first race.  The bay was alive with boats, including the classic yacht regatta.  For race seven three boats had good starts, Polly Oliver, Thunderer and Telamon.  Telamon was able to lead around the first mark and with Polly Oliver covering Thunderer up the second beat Telamon held on to win and by keeping Thunderer back in third Polly Oliver was able to secure the championship with a race to spare.

The final race was again led by Polly Oliver for the first lap but she overstood the windward mark on the second beat allowing Thunderer to take the lead which she kept to the finish.  Behind these two Telamon confirmed her third place with another third.

The championships were well organised by the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and with the weather and the wind conditions being ideal for racing in the sheltered waters of Dovercourt Bay.  The crews of the leading boats were:

Polly Oliver – Mike Clayton, Bob Portway and John Gill

Thunderer – John Williams, Hugh Williams, James Williams

Telamon – Gordon Sutton, Mike Moore, Philip Codling

The overall results are shown below:

Rank Boat Sail No 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Nett

1st Polly Oliver 17 1.0 (2.0) 1.0 2.0 1.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 11.0

2nd Thunderer 14 (3.0) 1.0 2.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 3.0 1.0 13.0

3rd Telamon 61 2.0 4.0 3.0 (7.0) 5.0 3.0 1.0 3.0 21.0

4th Guillemot 20 (6.0) 3.0 4.0 1.0 3.0 4.0 4.0 5.0 24.0

5th Teal 26 5.0 (8.0) 6.0 4.0 4.0 5.0 5.0 4.0 33.0

6th Dionysius 71 4.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 (7.0) 7.0 7.0 7.0 40.0

7th Sirius 34 (7.0) 7.0 7.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 44.0

8th Puffin 23 8.0 6.0 8.0 (10.0 DNC) 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 8.0 8.0 58.0

9th Indefatigable 38 (10.0 DNC) 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 10.0 DNC 70.0

Short Sharp Series

We had an excellent Short Sharp Series brilliantly organised by Race Officer George Finch.

Six races were planned and six were sailed.
Six boats appeared at the start line after heavy thunderstorm rain which had dampened spirits somewhat.
The sky then turned blue and a light SE breeze appeared and the sun cream was required after all.
Guillemot led the first race from the start after Thunderer and several others tried to be too clever at the pin end and got away very slowly.
The wind gradually veered to the South during the day and increased which allowed the RO to vary the courses very considerably.
The wind, now off the South shore became very variable in strength and direction which allowed big gains and losses.
Almost all the boats had their turn at the front and the racing was very tight.
Thunderer had at least 2 senior moments where she set off to the wrong mark, and Teal had a win disallowed for missing out the line for the second lap.
Gordon in Telamon won the event with 11 points after the most consistent series, Thunderer  and Guillemot were tied on 12 and the next 2 boats were tied on 13.
Well done Gordon and crew for a popular win.
Thanks again to George and crew for their excellent work on the committee boat.

Ajax Spring Series Races 11 & 12

Just three Ajax’s raced on Sunday 4th June with a fourth (Mars) joining in the Nancy Blackett flotilla and having a gentle family sail to Harwich and back.  The racing boats were grateful for Ed Harrison who came down in Lion 2 to start the fleet for both races.  Race 1 was a short affair with a run (that became a reach) to No 3, a  beat (that became a fetch) to No 4 and a run (that was a run) to Stratton.  Polly Oliver led away from the start and was never headed although Teal showed some signs of her form for later in the day to pull away from Sirius to finish second.
Race 2 was a one sided beat to Orwell, a reach to Shotley Horse followed by a beat to Parkstone with the return via Shotley Horse and Collimer.  Again Polly Oliver controlled the start and led for the first part of the race.  In the Stour Sirius caught the first of the flood tide and a lift to come through Teal and all three boats were very close at Parkstone.  Downwind Teal was able to cover Polly Oliver forcing a number of gybes for both boats as they returned to Shotley Horse where they rounded abreast.  Teal then sailed high and easily passed Polly Oliver with superior boat to gain a small lead.  This was reduced slightly by Collimer after Polly Oliver flew her spinnaker on the reach, but Teal rounded ahead and was able to tack to cover on the long fetch to the finish.  The victory by Teal confirmed her second place in the series ahead of the absent Telamon.
Results  Teal 2,1  Polly Oliver 1,2 Sirius 3,3

Ajax Spring Series Races 9 and 10

Seven Ajax’s came out on a glorious day on 21 May 2017.  With an afternoon low tide the start was downriver at Clamp House giving everyone a relaxing sail down with the tide.  With an absent Race Officer the decision was made to self start and finish for the two races and the class rose to the occasion and were extremely well behaved at the start of both races and then managing to establish clear gaps at the finish.
For the first race there was a fetch to Collimer (S) and a beat to No1 (P), a run to Stratton (S) and then a short beat to the finish at Trimley.  Polly Oliver and Hermione both started well with Polly Oliver out in the tide.  Behind a line of Telamon, Teal, Pegasus and Sirius luffed each other towards the shore before Pegasus and Sirius broke ranks and dipped down to get the full benefit of the ebbing tide.  Hermione pressed on along the shore but suffered because she could not lay Collimer.  In fact as the fleet approached Levington the wind headed and no one was able to lay the first mark.  Polly Oliver led with Telamon behind but the remaining fleet, including Guillemot had a close race to No1 .  On the run Polly Oliver stuck with the Trimley shore whilst behind them some of the fleet headed toward the Shotley side.  Although this did pay, Polly Oliver stayed ahead to win with Telamon in a well-deserved second place followed by Guillemot and Pegasus.
For Race two the start line was between Trimley and No 2 with a beat to No 1 (P), a run to Stratton (P), a beat to Trimley (P) and then a run via Collimer (P) to finish between Bay and No 4.  It was a good start with all the boats on the line.  Those towards the Trimley shore needed room to tack and had to duck those still coming in from the outer end of the start line. Polly Oliver failed to duck Telamon cleanly and after doing her turn was left struggling mid fleet.  Telamon led up the beat and round No 1 just ahead of Guillemot.  These two gybed to set spinnakers and head towards the Shotley shore to avoid the last of the ebbing tide.  Pegasus in third went up the Trimley shore.  Polly Oliver and Teal also headed towards the Shotley shore and caught up with the leading two boats.  These four managed to move past Pegasus as they approached Stratton and remained overlapped until some 6 or 7 boat lengths from the mark.  Polly Oliver, who would have been the outside boat managed to break the overlap at this point and rounded first, followed by Guillemot who was on the inside.  Teal and Telamon were squeezed out of the sandwich and had to fight with Pegasus up the short beat to Trimley.  There the starboard hand approach by Teal allowed her to round in third, but on the run back to the finish she was not able to hold off the Telamon who found yet more boat-speed.

Ajax Spring Series Race 7 and 8 

A warm weather race and hotly competitive. 8 Ajaxes windward-leeward courses in a shifty WSW3-4. Courses Race 7 : DeerPark port, Prof port, Race 8 No.7 port Prof port, through line A each lap, each way.
A bundle at the start with boats squeezed against the marinas by later Starboard tack boats, with Sirius caught by PollyOliver while trying to escape on port. The collision sent both boats to the back of the fleet, but no material damage.
Meanwhile, Thunderer kept clear in the North side of river, and established a lead which  she held to the end. Dionysis also kept clear, and showed good speed to pass Teal and finish within seconds of Thunderer.
For the second race (race 8) the opening beat was very short which led to a frantic mark rounding with most boats approaching on Port, with varying degrees of overstanding. As usual, the issue was resolved with a lot of shouting and Sirius managed to scrape inside from an unpromising approach route on Port. Thunderer was clear away from the melee, and sailed downwind into a substantial lead.
Behind these two, the fleet approached Prof in line abreast and some more shouting was needed for everyone to get round.
The second lap was slightly less noisy (some of us were getting hoarse by that stage) and the fleet finished, mostly within a 1minute interval. Thunderer held her lead from Dionysius, but Sirius again squeezed in between them at the finish ODM, to end a particularly eventful 1st race day of the season for them and The Williams in Thunderer.
A good days sailing for all, even those of us who did not finish in the front half of the fleet, and we can’t wait for next Sunday!

Ajax Spring Series Race 5 

Sunday 7 May saw a cold northerly wind blowing and it was not perhaps surprising that only 3 boats sailed downriver for the Clamp House start. After some gentle lobbying by the crews of Teal and Pegasus the course set was a simple one, Collimer (S), Pye End (P), Collimer (P) with a finish between Bay and No 4.  The expectation was a spinnaker run out and a beat back, if only sailing was that straightforward.
With such a long course it seems appropriate to try and allocate points to show how the three participants fared.  Polly Oliver (3 points) had the best start followed by Teal (2 points) and Pegasus (1 point).  The boats stayed in this order until Pepys where the prevailing NNW of the river was cancelled by a north easterly sea breeze.  At this point the boats concatenated and Pegasus (3 points), and Teal (2 points) both drifted past the  becalmed early leader (1 point).  The previous order was restored shortly thereafter and Polly Oliver led towards the Harwich shelf.  Here the caution of Polly Oliver and Teal allowed Pegasus to sail closer to the shore and lead towards the breakwater.  So at this point 3 points to Pegasus, 2 to Polly Oliver and 1 to Teal.  With the sea breeze shifting to the South-east Pegasus established a good lead on the way across Dovercourt Bay to the turning mark.  Behind Teal earned a bonus point by drifting past a stationery Polly Oliver with sails filled.  
Then the wind shifted back and the prevailing Northerly filled in and spinnakers were hoisted.  This helped Polly Oliver and Teal to catch Pegasus with Polly Oliver nipping past a gentle Pegasus luff to reach Pye End first.  The resulting 3 points gives the points score to Polly Oliver with 2 for Teal gives a tie with Pegasus.  The race really began again at Pye End with Polly Oliver first away followed by Teal.  Pegasus was hindered by a slow spinnaker drop.  The boats remained in this order to the finish with Polly Oliver pulling away from Teal on the long beat back.
Results:  Polly Oliver 1, Teal 2, Pegasus 3

Ajax Spring Series Races 3 and 4

Conditions were not kind for the second week of racing in the Ajax Class’ spring series.  The wind was blowing from the South East with gusts of up to 35 knots and few lulls in between.  The Tera class, due to be racing in an open event were held ashore waiting (without luck) for the wind to ease when the Ajax’s were helped away from the lee shore marina berths for their first race at 13:30.  With a beat down river from the club line the course was set as No 6 (P), Grog (P), Line A, No 7 (P). The inclusion of No 6 was designed to encourage the fleet towards the southerly shore initially in case the Tera fleet were able to race.
Five boats came to the line and the first beat required a number of port trackers to duck starboard boats as they tried to dodge the tide and the wind shifts.  Polly Oliver managed to get a lift along the shore after No 6 and rounded Grog with a small lead.  Behind her Dionysius, Teal, Telamon and Pegasus were all closely bunched.  The run up river was nerve racking for those flying spinnakers as it was a dead run with the last of the flooding tide.  On the second beat all boats opted for the northern shore initially, with the exception of Teal who retired after damaging her mainsail on No 7.
Dionysius pressed Polly Oliver and was close behind by Grog after Polly Oliver was left without jib sheets.  Further spinnaker issues slowed Polly Oliver on the run allowing Dionysius to surge past and take a well-deserved win on their first outing of 2017.  The spinnaker carrying Telamon completed the podium ahead of Pegasus. 
The second race of the day had the same course and this time Polly Oliver stretched away from the start line and was never challenged.  Behind her Telamon kept finding starboard boats and managed to translate a good start into fourth place by the time Grog was reached.  Pegasus sailed well to round Grog with Dionysius but her lack decision not to fly a spinnaker downwind meant she dropped back to third downwind.
Results.  Polly Oliver 2,1 Dionysius 1,2 Pegasus 4,3 Telamon 3,4 Teal DNF,DNS 

Report on Ajax Spring Series Races 1 and 2

With just six boats launched it was pleasing to see all six being rigged for the first races of the 2017 season when we mark 50 years of Ajax racing.  All boats set off for the Clamp House start in good time where Race Officer Pat York was waiting.  With the wind flicking between South South East and South the course  for the first race was Collimer (S), Trimley (S), No 1 (P), Trimley (P), No 1 (P) with a finish at Trimley.  The start found five of the six on the line with Hermione just behind.  As the fleet sailed towards Levington the wind backed and no one was able to lay Collimer.  Teal tacked first on to port but could not clear the other Starboard Boats.  Teal delayed her tack back causing Telamon to alter course and after the usual pleasantries Teal took a 360 turn penalty. To leeward of this Polly Oliver managed to squeeze up ahead of Pegasus to establish a clear lead by the time the fleet reached Trimley.  The wind was a steady forever 3 against the tide and there wee some waves as a result.  Polly Oliver stretched her lead on the run back from No 1 whilst some boats had to gybe before setting their spinnakers.  Teal powered up the next beat and round No 1 for the second time just behind Telamon surging past to take second just before the finish line.  Guillemot and Hermione rounded out the finishers with Pegasus retiring for further crew training and debriefs.
The second race had a windward start with just Fagbury (P) and Collimer (P) as turning marks with the finish between Bay and No 4.  Polly Oliver started at the starboard end of the line with Teal and Telamon slotting in behind.  Guillemot chose the Port end. The first beat against the first of the flooding tide was notable for Teal running hard aground when trying to work through under Polly Oliver.  This left Telamon and Gullemot battling for second place as again Polly Oliver stretched away upwind.  The run back from Fagbury was amongst some RHYC cruising boats, perhaps returning from the Cruise In Company shakedown cruise.  Guillemot chose the Trimley shore which looked very promising initially.  By Collimer Telamon had a solid second place with Teal coming through ahead of Guillemot.  Teal continued this charge but could not catch Telamon by the finish.
Results.  Polly Oliver 1,1 Telamon 3,2 Teal 2,3 Guillemot 4,4 Hermione 5,DNS, Pegasus RTD,DNS