Ajax 23 One Design Keel Boat – day racing at its best!
The Ajax fleet at the Royal Harwich Yacht club has a long history with some boats within the fleet for the last 50 years. The racing is frequently very close and provides competition and excitement both for regular top-finishers, crews aspiring to be at the top and sailors who want a close and fun race wherever they may finish.
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). Each club holds the National Championships in alternate years. In 2018 two Royal Harwich boats travelled to St Mawes for the championships with one, Polly Oliver staying on for Falmouth week.
At the Royal Harwich Yacht Club we race on almost every weekend in the sailing season, making full use of the River Orwell, as well as going out to sea or up the lovely River Stour. An attraction of Ajax sailing is that we do not need a support boat 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 boat!
The main racing is in three series, The Spring Series from May to the fits weekend in June, the Summer Series then until the end of July followed by the Autumn Series. There are two short sharp series planned on Saturdays, the first for the Prosser Plate on 22nd June and the second on the 31st August. The Club’s regatta is on 3rd and 4th August with two races each day for the fleet. Finally in 2019 the Club are hosting the national championships with three days of racing in Dovercourt Bay from Friday 20th September to Sunday 22nd September.
Ajax 2019 Race Reports
Sunday 18 August - Autumn Series Races 2 & 3
Five boats raced on Sunday with a mercurial south westerly (ish) wind that varied in strength and direction to cause both joy and frustration for the fleet, often to the same boat on the same leg. For the first race with the flooding tide the course was set as a windward leeward between Deer Park and Prof, but the wind then went further south making the start of the first leg a fetch. Thunderer and Polly Oliver got the best starts and Thunderer was able to gain initially. Both boats were headed before they reached Deer Park and had to tack onto starboard to lay the mark. The next leg started as a shy spinnaker reach and the leading two, chased by Guillemot headed downriver, with positions unchanged. Telamon who had reached the windward mark third dropped back with crew training on the spinnaker hoist. On the second beat (and I use the word loosely) Polly Oliver was able to find a bigger lift than Thunderer and managed to round Deer Park just ahead, with Guillemot finding no room (or rights) as they tacked under Polly Oliver within three boat lengths of the mark. On the final leg to the finish Thunderer went high, drawing Polly Oliver with her to protect her position. These two then found themselves in less wind which shifted to the west, allowing Guillemot to snatch victory.
For the second race the course started from line B and after Deer Park and Prof took the fleet to Berners and Park Farm Beacon before a final beat to Deer Park and a reach to the finish. Polly Oliver and Thunder were both OCS and Pegasus came back to join them. This was advantageous for all three as once they re-started they found a wind at 30 degrees to Guillemot and Telamon allowing them back into the race. Thunderer judged the approach to Deer Park best and rounded first followed by Polly Oliver and Guillemot. Polly Oliver suffered spinnaker problems attempting a windward drop at Prof allowing both Guillemot and Pegasus through. On the final beat to Deer Park Guillemot caught and passed Thunderer but this time it was their turn to lose out on the reach to the finish with Thunderer catching and passing them as the line approached.
Results Guillemot 1,2; Thunderer 3,1; Polly Oliver 2,4; Pegasus 4,3; Telamon 5,5
Sunday 11 August - Autumn Series Race 1
The forecast for the area was F5 gusting 6, and in reality Shotley recorded F7 gusts as the fleet raced up the Stour. With a SW wind finding a beat was always going to be a challenge but the course sent the fleet from Trimley to Orwell and from Shotley Horse to Bristol with boats needing to tack on both legs.
Sadly the numbers were low, just three starters after Teal lost their mast on the way to the start having clipped a moored boat. The boats enjoyed a cracking sail with the spinnaker reach down the Stour the highlight. Polly Oliver won the start and edged ahead of Dionysius on the fetch to Collimer. They gradually extended on each leg for a comfortable win. The third boat Sirius sailed two up and completed the course without incident.
Results Polly Oliver 1; Dionysius 2; Sirius 3
Ajax Racing Regatta August 3rd & 4th
Six Ajaxes appeared for racing on the Saturday. Numbers were therefore slightly down on average. The wind was SE about 10 knots but quite variable in strength and with some significant shifts. The tide was flooding. The course was windward, leeward, with No6 being the windward mark and Downham the leeward.
The fleet all started on Starboard with Orwell VI at the leeward end. They appeared to have made the best start but were OCS and had to return. Thunderer had Puffin just to windward and was unable to tack to join the rest of the fleet who had tacked over to the Woolvestone shore. Thunderer was able to edge out from under Puffin and pulled ahead while heading for the Nacton shore and tacked across the river to join the rest of the fleet who had short tacked up the Woolverstone shore. Pegasus had a good lead at the top mark and rounded comfortably ahead. Thunderer appeared to be second on the Starboard lay line but was surprised to find Puffin steaming across the river on port in good wind and on a massive lift. Puffin was able to just round in second but hit the mark in so doing. Orwell VI had crossed the river 30 yards behind Puffin but tacked onto Starboard for the top mark but understood the mark twice which put her to the back of the fleet.
Pegasus rounded the bottom mark with a comfortable lead and headed across to the Woolverstone shore. Teal had made ground on the run and had got an inside overlap on Thunderer. These 2 headed for the Nacton shore on the beat and Thunderer was able to get on the correct side of 2 shifts which got her ahead of both Pegasus and Teal.
Pegasus and Orwell were both on the Woolvertone shore by now, so Thunderer tacked across and arrived on the starboard lay line again with a comfortable lead over these two. However Teal arrived at the top mark on port at great speed and on a huge lift. She was just able to round in front and maintain her lead to the line where the race was shortened.
Result: Teal, Thunderer, Orwell VI, Pegasus, Telamon, Puffin.
The course was the same with approximately the same wind conditions.
The fleet again all started on Starboard. Thunderer was at the leeward end of the fleet and continued to the Nacton side. The rest to the fleet went to the Woolverstone side. Thunderer tacked back and joined the others with Pegasus again getting to the windward mark first, Thunderer second, Teal and Orwell VI in close proximity.
Teal and Orwell VI rolled over Thunderer on the run. These four boats rounded the bottom mark very close together. There was lots of place changing on the beat with the significant shifts. Orwell VI was just ahead at the top mark with Thunderer very close behind. These 2 pulled clear on the next run but Thunderer was unable to get an inside overlap at the bottom mark. Orwell tacked for the Nacton shore to get out of the tide. Thunderer stayed on Port and picked up 2 shifts which got her well ahead of Orwell when the next converged. Pegasus had done the same, so at the line it was
Thunderer, Pegasus, Orwell VI, Teal, Telamon, Puffin.
The wind direction was the same as Saturday but slightly stronger at about 12 knots.
The course was therefore the same windward/ Leeward, using No6 and Downham.
The wind was more off the south shore and No6 could almost be layed in one. With a strong flood tide running, there was a premium on being close to the Club end of the line. Guillemot, having missed the first days racing because of a wedding, made the best start. Thunderer had failed to get to the favoured end because of congestion and made a bad start to leeward. The rest of the fleet were tightly packed at the club end.
Thunderer luckily found a gap to tack through and ended up close behind Guillemot on the approach to No6. The rest of the fleet were close behind on the run. Guillemot and Thunderer extended away from the fleet and had a tacking duel on the final beat but Guillemot held on to win comfortably with Orwell VI in third.
As the wind had shifted more to the right, the course was changed to use Berners and Priory beacon as the marks.
The tide was running less strongly and at the start the fleet was spread out down the line. Thunderer and Pegasus were to leeward in clear air. Again, most of the fleet were trying to get to the club shore. Orwell VI got round first with Thunderer and Guillemot close behind, with the rest of the fleet still very close.
Orwell built a very comfortable lead to win easily, with Thunderer having to cover Guillemot to hold on to second.
All in all, the Ajax fleet had excellent close racing on 2 lovely days with places changing all the time.
Orwell VI: 3,3,3,1
Ajax Summer Series 2019 - Overall
The series saw eleven boats racing an average turnout of just under 8. There were four boats claiming race wins and another three with top three finishes. Two boats, Orwell VI and Polly Oliver, dominated the series and both claimed five wins and two second places to tie on points, with Polly Oliver winning the series because they won the final race, the closest series finish in the memory of the class captain. The other race winners were Pegasus who sailed with an all female crew on most occasions and Guillemot.
Behind these four boats Telamon opened the series with two second places, but couldn’t maintain that form for the rest of the series, and Thunderer was in the unusual position of not claiming any race wins to finish in 7th place, one point behind the more consistent Teal.
Ajax Summer Series Races 11 & 12
The final two races of the summer series were held on Sunday 28th July. A combination of the forecast, the later start time
and the start of the school holidays reduced the entry to six boats, with one only able to make the second race because of
a mix up over start times. Sailed on the last of the ebb tide the first race started at Clamp House with a run to Stratton,
a beat to No 4, a run to no 3, a second beat to 4 with the finish at No 3. The initial run was close with Teal getting
to Stratton first, closely followed by Guillemot, Polly Oliver and Orwell VI. On the long beat back to No 4, Orwell VI worked
her way up through the fleet to lead followed by Guillemot and Polly Oliver. Teal struggled in the gusty conditions
2 up and had a close race with Telamon.
The places remained unchanged on the run, and on the second beat Orwell VI initially covered Polly Oliver on the Levington
Shore, and then crossed to cover Guillemot who was making gains on the Shotley shore. This allowed Polly
Oliver through both boats as they found more wind and were able to round No 4 with a small lead which they were able
to hold on the run to the finish. Orwell VI and Guillemot rounded together and Guillemot managed to pass to leeward and
just clinch second place. Further back Teal held off Telamon.
The second race of the day and the final race of the series was a series of three beats from No 3 to No 4 with two runs.
Dionysius started on the Shotley shore with the rest of the fleet choosing the Levington side. Polly Oliver established
an early lead and when midway up the beat Dionysius crossed over, the two boats were evenly matched. Polly Oliver
again found more wind on the Levington side and led around No 4. They held on to this advantage to the finish, behind
them Orwell VI and Guillemot had a close race with Orwell VI prevailing this time round. Dionysius persisted in
trying the Shotley shore on subsequent beats and allowed the rest of the fleet past, while Teal again managed to remain
ahead of Telamon.
Results: Polly Oliver 1,1; Orwell VI 3,2; Guillemot2,3; Teal 4,4; Telamon 5,5; Dionysius DNS,6
Ajax Summer Series Races 9&10
With a northerly wind across the river there was little choice than to set a course with two short beats from Berners to Park Farm Beacon (both left to port) and from the First Red Can to Priory Beacon (both left to starboard) with a requirement to go through the line in each direction. For the first race the full course of two laps was sailed, the second was shortened on the way upriver on the second lap.
The beats were difficult with large shifts and gusts both having an impact. It was the kind of day when no place was
safe as there were significant opportunities to overtake. Against this backdrop two victories for Orwell VI showed
that good starting, and downwind speed could make it look fairly easy, but both races were closely contested with place
changes throughout the fleet and no one boat remaining ahead for long. It was a day when even if you sailed the
beat well someone could find more wind and a favourable shift and overtake you.
In the first race most boats started at the leeward end and Orwell VI used their spinnaker effectively to reach Berners ahead
of Guillemot and Thunderer. Thunderer passed Guillemot on the beat to Park Farm Beacon and carried their spinnaker
to overtake Orwell VI by the First Red Can. Orwell VI re-took the lead on the next lap and the order remained until
For the second race Orwell VI and Polly Oliver both flew spinnakers to good effect on the reach to Berners with Pegasus also
going well. Thunderer and Guillemot came through on the next beat and by Priory Beacon Thunderer had a good lead.
This evaporated quickly as they needed a windward hoist for their spinnaker and Polly Oliver led Orwell VI as the fleet
reached the end of the first lap. After the line Orwell VI had the better downwind speed and stayed ahead to win.
Polly Oliver maintained second just managing to cross Thunderer on the last beat, whilst Pegasus surged through to round
Park Farm Beacon ahead of Guillemot.
Results: Orwell VI 1,1; Thunderer 2,3; Polly Oliver 4,2; Guillemot 3,5; Pegasus 5,4; Teal 6,10; Telamon 9,7; Puffin 7,9;
Prometheus 8,8; Dionysius DNC,6
Ajax Summer Series Races 7&8
With the series leader Polly Oliver left in the marina with her crew late back from cruising in Finland the rest of the fleet had an opportunity to improve their positions. The course for both races was a beat to Grog, a run to Park Farm Beacon, a second beat to Grog and a run back to the finish line. Guillemot started the first race to windward of the fleet and found more wind to lead all the way on the long beat into the tide to Grog. Orwell VI, who started more to leeward made ground later in the beat to round second with Thunderer close behind. By Park Farm Beacon Thunderer managed to establish a leeward overlap on Orwell VI and was able to round second, but lost out upwind with Orwell VI pulling away on the second beat. Guillemot remained ahead of the fast finishing Orwell VI with Thunderer staying ahead of Pegasus to claim third.
For the second race the fleet split on the beat to Grog with Guillemot, Orwell Vi and Pegasus each taking turns to lead up the club shore and Thunderer choosing the Nacton shore. Thunderer was just able to round Grog first closely followed by Orwell VI, Guillemot and Pegasus. At this point your correspondent had to leave, but I can report that Orwell VI moved up to finish first and Thunderer dropped back to finish third, but I can’t tell you how!
Results: Orwell VI 2,1; Guillemot 1,2; Thunderer 3,3; Pegasus 4,4; Teal 5,5; Sirius 6,6
Ajax Summer Series Races 5&6
After a week’s break for the Prosser Plate the summer Series resumed on Sunday 30th June with wall to wall sunshine and a westerly breeze of 10 knots with some early gusts over 20 knots. The course was a windward-leeward between Deer Park and Prof (both to port) going through the line in each direction. For the first race a wind shift in the final minute caught many of the fleet at the wrong end of the line allowing Polly Oliver, Puffin and Pegasus to escape on port up river. Polly Oliver led around Deer Park to be followed by Pegasus who found more wind than Puffin on the first beat. On the run to Prof, Pegasus caught Polly Oliver and gained the inside berth to take the lead, which they then extended to take a well deserved first win for the all women crew. Behind Polly Oliver and Puffin maintained their places.
For the second race the tide was starting to ebb and Polly Oliver and Orwell VI led the fleet towards the Nacton shore with
Puffin also in contention. Polly Oliver stood on and benefitted when Puffin and Orwell VI were headed approaching
Deer Park and need an extra hitch on port to round the mark. Puffin, caught underneath Orwell VI hit the mark and
ended up last, albeit by inches in a close finish with Prometheus at the end of the race. Ahead Polly Oliver maintained
a narrow lead over Orwell VI and Pegasus pulled through to third.
Results. Polly Oliver 2,1; Pegasus 1,3; Orwell VI 6,2; Guillemot 4,6; Puffin 3,9; Telamon 8,4; Sirius 7,5; Prometheus 5,8;
Prosser Plate at RHYC - 22 June 2019
Ajax Summer Series Races 3 & 4
Ajax Summer Series Races 1 & 2
Ajax Spring Series 2019 - Overall
Sunday 2nd June Spring Series Races 9 & 10
Nine boats turned out for an early start on Sunday 2nd June. With the dinghies holding a scatter race and rounding
all marks and posts to port a special leeward mark was laid near Park Bight for the Ajax’s to round to starboard on their
way to Grog. The wind was initially from the South, and forecast to go South-South West. In fact for the
first start it went round to the south east giving a beat away from the line towards the first mark. Guillemot
led the fleet away on the Nacton shore with Thunderer leading a group of boats who started mid-channel. After the
special mark the wind started to oscillate a left patches of calm as the fleet beat into the strong flood tide. Pegasus
did a turn after just failing to clear Teal on the beat and then found some wind near the channel only to be left drifting
when the wind died. Guillemot and Thunderer stayed clear to round Grog with Puffin leading the rest of the fleet
round. Places stayed the same on the run to the special mark but on the next beat Thunderer managed to find an
extra lift to overtake Guillemot and hold on until the finish. Behind these two Orwell VI came through to finish
third with Puffin holding on for fourth.
For the second race with the wind blowing from the forecast direction (SSW) the course took the fleet down to Prof for a
second beat to Grog. Polly Oliver led at the first special mark having started at the leeward end of the line with
Orwell VI leading the boats who started mid-channel. Behind these two leaders the fleet gained some big lifts to
enable them to reach Grog without tacking, whilst Polly Oliver and Orwell Vi both had to tack. This allowed Puffin
to round first with Polly Oliver on her outside and Thunderer and Pegasus leading the boats just behind. This delayed
Polly Oliver's spinnaker hoist and allowed Thunderer and Pegasus to lead round Prof. Position remained unchanged
on the beat to Grog with Polly Oliver closing on the leading two. On the final reach to the finish Thunderer stayed
ahead but Polly Oliver found more wind and managed to pass Pegasus just before the finish line.
Results: Thunderer 1,1; Guillemot 2,4; Polly Oliver 5,2; Orwell VI 3,5; Pegasus 6,3; Puffin 4,8; Teal 7,6; Dionysius
8,7; Sirius 9,9
Sunday 26th May - Spring Series 7 & 8
Sunday 19th May - Spring Series 5 & 6
Sunday 12th May - Spring Series 3 & 4
10 Boats to the line for each race! Sunshine, F3-4 East wind, start 2 hours before H.W. whats not to like? Course using Grog and 7, through Line A each way, gave a longish opening beat and the Nacton shore favoured. Orwell VI (Richard Merriweather) sailed the perfect race to an easy win. The chasing pack contained Guillemot(David Mayne), Thunderer and Dionysius (Phil Mayhew), who finished in that order.
The 1st race was so much fun, we decided to do the second on the same course. This time there were some big shifts. Orwell VI, Telemon (Gordon Sutton), and Guillemot all looked able to win, but on the last beat, Dionysius came through to a hard fought win. Positions were changing throughout the race, with snakes and ladders shifts, and a lot less water along both shores (neap tide + high pressure) leading to some undignified groundings.
Full results> Orwell V1 1,3. Guillemot 2,2, , Dionysius 4,1,Telamon 5,4,Thunderer (John Williams) 3, 6, Teal (Bob Tate).6,5, Pegasus (Belinda K) 8, 7, Polly Oliver 7,10 (Hugh Rich, Puffin (David Pearce) 10,8, Prometheus ( Tim Archer) 9,9.
Sunday 5th May – Spring Series 1 & 2
The 2019 season opened to a cold NNW wind in complete contrast to the much warmer weather of the previous year. With seven of the fleet launched for the start of the year five boats ventured out to race and one bimbled on the pontoon. The course for the first race was First Red Can, Bridgewood, First Red Can, Priory with the start and finish on the club Line. The wind shifted between a northerly (making the beat almost a fetch), and North Westerly and varied in strength, barely reaching the 15-knot gusts forecast.
Orwell VI, Dionysius and Guillemot chose to start close to the club shore with Polly Oliver and Teal further to windward. Polly Oliver was able to sail over the leeward boats on the reach to the first mark while Dionysius and Orwell VI engaged in a luffing match, with Orwell VI coming out ahead. Polly Oliver was able to maintain the lead on the beat to the first mark, and rounded ahead of Orwell VI with Guillemot in third. On the run, Orwell VI went higher and closed the gap on the leader, but was not able to gain room at the leeward mark. In much lighter conditions at the start of the second beat Polly Oliver extended away and Guillemot closed on Orwell VI to round Priory in second place, which they held to the finish.
In the second race the course was shortened with Priory used as the windward mark for both beats. It was a much closer race to the first mark with Orwell VI leading and Guillemot gaining room on Polly Oliver. The later two boats stayed closer to the western shore on the beat and Polly Oliver was able to round first closely followed by Orwell Vi and Guillemot with Teal also in contention. Approaching the First Red Can Polly Oliver was able to sail over Guillemot and round first, with the other three boats close behind. Initially on the beat Orwell VI led, but Polly Oliver again found extra wind closer to the western shore and was able to regain the lead which they held to the finish. Behind her, Guillemot and Teal also passed Orwell VI.
Results: Polly Oliver (1,1); Guillemot (2,2) Teal (4,3); Orwell VI (3,4); Dionysius (5,5)