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 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 boat!

Summer Series Races 1 &  2  - 9-10th June 2018

Sunday 10th of June was not looking promising for racing with very little wind from the North blowing as 8 boats left the club for a down river start at Clamp House.  The forecast wind was North Easterly  and locally winds ranging from the North East to the South East were being reported http://hha.co.uk/live-data/wind-speed/ 

The start of the first race at Clamp House was in an almost flat clam but the forecast wind soon started to fill in and Puffin sailed away into an early lead.  Behind her a number of boats attempted to fly spinnakers,  these were soon lowered as it became clear that the wind was heading and laying Collimer was not straight forward.  Dionysius and Thunderer followed Puffin along the southern shore, whilst Polly Oliver tacked off on one header to aim for more tide and subsequently a freeing wind.  Spinnakers were hoisted at Collimer with Puffin maintaining their lead followed by Polly Oliver, Dionysius and Thunderer in close succession.  As the wind went Ea st it became clear that spinnakers could not be carried to Orwell and a delayed drop by Puffin cost her several places allowing Polly Oliver through into the lead, followed by Dionysius and Thunderer. The “planned” beat from Orwell to Trimley became a fetch with a final reach back to the finish at Orwell.  The top three places were unchanged, with Puffin suffering further by having to give room rounding Orwell.

With the wind now clearly established from the North East there was no possibility of a beat in the Orwell so the course for Race 2 was set as No 1 (S), Shotley Horse (S), Bristol (P), Shotley Horse (P), Collimer (P) with a self finish between Bay and No 4.

The start line favoured a pin end start on Starboard from where No 1 could be laid.  This meant that 8 Ajax’s were vying to be in the best position.  Polly Oliver succeeded and managed to avoid being OCS followed by Sirius, with Thunderer opting for speed underneath them.  Behind these three it was very close with boats not having room to tack if there was another boat behind them.  Polly Oliver extended away on the run from Shotley Horse to Bristol whilst Thunderer consolidated in second with Sirius suffering from the lack of a third crew member.  On the beat back from Bristol we had the best wind of the day, although there were some big shifts influenced in part by a large departing container ship.  Puffin and Pegasus gained places by heading to the Marina shore, whilst those who stayed further out were headed. Teal pulled up well on the run and gained third place.  After Shotley Horse there was little opportunity to overtake although Thunderer did stage a late charge to close up on first place.

Results. Polly Oliver 1,1; Thunderer 3,2; Dionysius 2,5; Teal 4,3; Puffin 6,4; Sirius 5,8; Pegasus 8,6; Telamon 7,7

Prosser Plate

Eight of the Ajax fleet came out to contest the Prosser Plate with a short series of races on Saturday 2nd June. They included the re-fitted Orwell VI (formerly Widgeon) with final preparations being undertaken until shortly before racing commenced.  Despite the forecast of rain and even lightning the weather remained bright and sunny throughout with winds of Force 2 to 3.

Charles Twiss, supported by Bob Tate and Jon Stokes managed to complete five races before the turning tide (and exhaustion for the crews) stopped proceeding.  The courses consisted of three windward/leeward courses and two triangle/sausage courses.  There were 2 wins each for Thunderer and Polly Oliver and one win for Guillemot.  The results allowed for one discard once four races were sailed resulting in these three boats finishing within one point of each other.  The overall positions were virtually determined by the first race where Polly Oliver led around the windward mark of a one lap windward leeward course.  On the run first Guillemot and the Thunderer gybed inshore and despite sailing extra distance both managed to come out ahead of Polly Oliver at the leeward mark with Guillemot holding on for the win.  After this two firsts for Thunderer who generally managed good starts at the pin end, and who recovered well from being over the line in race 3 to finish third, gave them a score of 7 points, whilst Guillemot managed three second places to have the same score and lose out on count back.  Polly Oliver added another third and two firsts to finish one point behind.

Behind these three racing was close throughout the fleet on the short courses. Teal came fourth and was second in race 4 whilst Orwell VI and Prometheus finished level on points with the latter’s third place finish in the final race enough to give them fifth place on count back.

Race 11 and 12 - 27th May 2018

The concluding part of the spring series saw Summer take over with Warm and a gusty F3-4 ENE to hurry us along. A course of Line A, Prof P, 7P Line A x 2 looked to give a fair Beat/Run and was used for both races, with 7 boats on the line. 

A promising start by Giles in Teal saw him round Prof alongside PollyOliver(Bob Portway) after a close tussle up the beat, but then pull out a good lead after PollyOlivers spinnaker failed to fly. On the beat to Line A, PollyOliver sailed more out of the tide to lead for the rest of the race. Gillemot (David Mayne) was back to sailing fast and had moved up to 2nd by Prof. The order stayed like this to the finish.

In the second race, Teal again made a good start to lead in the early stages, but was caught by Guillemot before Prof. Approaching Prof with the fleet very tight and the wind very shifty, PollyOliver infringed Thunderer (John Williams) and took a penalty turn. The fleet remained very bunched on the subsequent run and beat, with Guillemot just leading Thunderer and Dionysius(Phil Mayhew). In the tightest of finishes, Guillemot held her lead from Thunderer, while PollyOliver sneaked ahead of Dionysius and Teal, with these 4 boats crossing in a space of 3 seconds.

PollyOliver has been the on-form boat this series, winning races with both Mike and Bob at the helm. Guillemot found form in the later stages, while Teal has been very consistent towards the front of the fleet throughout. Good to see you there Giles.


Results: Guillemot (20) 2,1  PollyOliver (17) 1,3. Thunderer (14) 5,3. Teal   (26)    3,5.  Dionysius (71) 4,4 Telamon (61 )  6,6. Sirius     (34)  7,7

Race 9 and 10 - 20th May 2018

After the results confusion from Race 8 (resolved by email during the week) the Ajax fleet had to contend with self-starting from the club line for races 9 and 10.  For Race 9 the timings were taken from the starting sequence for the dinghy's scatter race and with 10 boats out there was some bunching on the favoured end of the line.  The course was a beat to Grog (P), a run to Downham (P), a second beat to Grog (P) and a run to the finish.  The wind was a light F2 from the South-East.  Four boats (Mars, Teal, Dionysius and Polly Oliver) went right with the rest of the fleet going left.  Initially there was more wind to the right but that side did not pay with the four boats at the back of the fleet by the time Grog was reached.  On the left the race quickly developed into a match race between Thunderer and Guillemot chased hard by Pegasus, Sirius, Telamon and Prometheus.  Thunderer and Huillemot pulled away on the run and continued their battle until the finish line, never more than a couple of boat lengths apart.  Thunderer managed to lead round all the marks and stay ahead for victory.  Behind these two the fleet compressed at Downham with a short period of little wind.  Sirius and Telamon had an incident rounding Downham with both doing a 360 turn to exonerate themselves.  This allowed Mars, Teal and Polly Oliver through for the long beat back to Grog.  This section of the fleet remained close at Grog with Mars and Polly Oliver improving their positions.  On the run to the finish Mars pulled through to third, with Pegasus 4th and Polly Oliver 5th.

Race 10 was self-started with signal over the radio from Thunderer.  The course was a single lap of Grog to Downham and finish.  With the experience of the previous race everyone went left with some boats choosing to start at the favoured end of the line and cross the tide.  This strategy paid and Mars and Teal led the fleet towards Grog.  Guillemot emerged ahead of those starting out of the tide and managed to reach Grog ahead of Teal.  Most of the leading boats gybed onto port before setting spinnakers.  On the run Mars had a problem with their spinnaker pole allowing Guillemot to reach Downham ahead, and with Mars not being able to remove the pole quickly Teal was able to tack inside to move up to 2nd.  Behind these three Polly Oliver gained on the run by staying out in the tide and moved up to 4th with Thunderer 5th.  These positions were held on the beat to the finish in what was perhaps the best breeze of the day.
Next Sunday has the final two races in the series, Polly Oliver looks to have won the series, but the race for 2nd and 3rd is still wide open.

Results  Guillemot  2,1; Mars 3,3; Thunderer 1,5;  Teal 6,2; Polly Oliver 5,4; Telamon 8,6; Prometheus 7,7; Pegasus 4,10; Dionysius 10,8; Sirius 9,9

Race 7 and 8 - 13th May 2018

A forecast of 10 knots NW for these two races must have encouraged the fleet as 9 Ajax's came out to play for race 7, and 10 for race 8. Although the tide was high, we were limited by a Topper event using the area of Priory Beacon and Middle, therefore it was agreed that we would stay in the channel by leaving 7 to Starboard on the way to Downham (port turning mark) and 1st Red Can to port on way back to the line. Park Bight port turning mark and through line A each way seemed a logical way of achieving this.

The 1st beat was typically chaotic with difficulty finding a way through on Port. In the midst of chaos, some boats left 7 to port, including early leader Giles in Teal, and the Williams in Thunderer. Giles was shouted at, but John must have been out of range, as he tacked onto starboard to cover the fleet towards 1st Red Can, but left 7 to Port, observed by both Telamon (Gordon) and Dionysius (Phil and Simon). Thunderer continued to sail very steadily, making no further mistakes and benefitting from clear wind ahead if the fleet, once early leader Pollyoliver (Bob Portway) was passed. Pollyoliver was left fighting for air amoung Teal, Dionysius, Telamon and Guillemot, managing to hold on to 2nd, but promoted to 1st on the retirement of Thunderer. Guillemot sailed the shifts expertly as always to taker 2nd ahead of Telemon and Teal.

The 2nd race was the same course, but having started after the top of the tide, was slowed by the strength of the ebb, and an unexpected fading of the wind. Thunderer and Pollyoliver got away best, but Prometheus (Tim Archer) found the GO button and was in contention around Park Bight. In the drag race to the shore, Pollyoliver footed off under Prometheus and Thunderer, found some heading wind and tacked for the line. Another header later and some more tacking on shifts brought Mars and Dionysius into contention. Pollyoliver and Thunderer kept out of the tide to grab 1st and 2nd ahead of Mars (Chris Brown) and Dionysius.


PollyOliver (17) 1,1. Thunderer (14) rtd,4

Mars (41)dns3 Guillemot (20) 2,rtd

Teal (26) 4,9. Puffin (23) 8,5

Telamon (61 ) 3,6 Prometheus (62) 7,7

Dionysius (71) 5,2. Pegasus (29) 6,10

Sirius (34) DNS, 8

Race 5 and 6 - 6th May 2018

Sunday 6th May was a perfect day for sailing with a light F2 blowing straight up the river giving a good beat for a course set between Grog (P) and Downham (P).  The first race was one lap only.  Six boats started with Polly Oliver having an individual recall for an early start.  As is often the case opinion was divided as to whether to keep to the southern or northern shore to avoid the tide.  Guillemot led Pegasus on the southern shore, with Teal leading Telamon and Puffin on the north.  Polly Oliver recovered quickly from her re-start to join the northern shore boats and managed to slip ahead of Teal on the approach to Grog.  The Northern shore boats led around Grog and Polly Oliver and Teal had a close race to Downham, with Polly Oliver just managing to keep clear ahead as they approached the turning mark.  On the beat back to the line Guillemot chased hard but Teal hung on for second.

For the second race the course was extended with a second beat to Grog and a finish on the run up-river.  Again there were premature starters with Teal and Puffin being subject to re-call.  This time the wind died on the Northern shore and both Polly Oliver and Telamon were caught by Teal who had started on the southern side, crossing after No 6.  These three boats had a close race to Grog with Polly Oliver again managing to lead at the mark followed by Teal and Telamon.  Teal again closed up on Polly Oliver on the run to Downham but again Polly Oliver managed to escape and break the overlap when the mark was reached.  The leading positions remained unchanged on the beat to Grog although all the boats were still close together at the finish.

 Results:  Polly Oliver 1,1; Teal 2,2; Telamon 4,3; Guillemot 3,4; Puffin 5,5; Pegasus 6,6

Race 3 and 4 - 29th April 2018

Oliver led the fleet away followed by Prometheus and Dionysius who had arrived too early and needed to return whilst avoiding the “Allen Gardiner” who was parked on the start line.  Teal and Pegasus both started late.  The course for both races was a fetch to First Red Can (S), a beat to Priory Beacon (S), a reach to Berners (P) and a final beat to Prof (P) with two laps.
Positions remained unchanged on the short beat although Dionysius  closed up on Prometheus.  Polly Oliver, sailing 2 up hoisted her spinnaker on the reach but quickly lowered it to sort out a major twist.  Dionysius used her spinnaker to good effect to overtake Prometheus and close up on Polly Oliver.  The beat to Prof was very one sided and didn’t allow any overtaking opportunities and the position remained unchanged.  On the reach back Prometheus flew her spinnaker, but the reach was too fine and the attempt short lived.
Polly Oliver held her lead for the next lap, successfully flying their spinnaker on the reach from Priory Beacon to Berners to hold off Dionysius.  Dionysius also attempted to fly her spinnaker after Prof, but again the attempt was short lived and there were no further place changes.
The second race started without any confusion with Polly Oliver and Dionysius leading the charge to the first mark. Polly Oliver gained the inside berth and held on starboard with Dionysius unable to tack.  Teal and Pegasus both tacked early and when the boats had gained and Polly Oliver ducked with Dionysius forced to tack.  Polly Oliver also ducked Pegasus allowing Teal and Dionysius to lead round Priory Beacon with Pegasus behind and Polly Oliver level with Prometheus.  Teal extended on the reach and led Dionysius round the rest of the course.  Behind these two the battle for third was close, initially with Pegasus and Prometheus in contention and finally Polly Oliver using her spin an alter effectively on the second lap to over take Prometheus and secure the theirs place on the podium.
Results (subject to protest). Polly Oliver 1,3; Dionysius 2,2; Teal 5,1; Prometheus 3,4; Pegasus 4,5

Race 1 and 2 - 23rd April 2018

The Ajax class started their 2018 Spring Series in bright sunshine and a southerly F2 to F3. A real contrast to the colder weather of just a few weeks ago that delayed some boats preparations for the season. Despite this four boats came to the line with Prometheus having to tack round as Polly Oliver claimed the pin end.  The course was a fetch to Colimer, a beat to No 1, a run to Trimley, a second beat to Orwell with the finish at Trimley.

Polly Oliver held of Teal on the first leg to round Collimer first, with Dionysius in third.  The boats remained close up the beat and rounded No 1 in the same order.  On the run to Trimley, Polly Oliver gained and Dionysius passed Teal.  The second beat to Orwell saw both leading boats finding the mud, with Dionysius losing enough ground to allow Teal to over take.  These positions were held on the final run.

The second race was a beat from Trimley to Orwell, a run to Collimer and a fetch to the finish at Bay.  Dionysius claimed the best start and all four boats had a close race for most of the beat.  Towards the end of the beat Dionysius found the benefit of of the veering wind to lead around Orwell followed by Polly Oliver, Teal and Prometheus.  These position remained until the finish.
Results. Polly Oliver 1,2. Dionysius 3,1. Teal 2,3. Prometheus 4,4