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!

2019 Plans

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.

2018 Reports available by clicking here!

Ajax 2019 Race Reports

Ajax Summer Series Races 3 & 4

A reduced fleet of seven boats raced, with the entry and the course area restricted because of the Optimist Area Championships.  The wind gradually increased during the morning to a F3 and some gusts into F5.  The course took the fleet to Prof, a beat to Berners, and run to Park Farm Beacon and a beat to Park Bight, for the second lap the second beat went to No 6 and then the finish.  On the first leg both Orwell VI and Dionysius flew spinnakers and these two led around Prof with Polly Oliver close behind.  Polly Oliver tacked early on the beat to Berners and reached it behind Orwell VI and ahead of Dionysius.  The front two boats then opened out a good lead on the run to Park Farm Beacon.  Behind Guillemot managed to get ahead of Dionysius.  On the second and final beat to Berners Orwell VI held on for a long time on starboard allowing Polly Oliver to seize first place and sail the rest of the race unchallenged.  Orwell VI managed to stay ahead of Guillemot for second.

The second race had the same course with an extra lap, and a change to round Berners to Starboard to match the dinghies.  Again Orwell VI and Dionysius flew spinnakers on the reach to Prof, but a header close to the post allowed Polly Oliver to gain an overlap on Dionysius with Guillemot able to round in third behind them.  Polly Oliver and Dionysius tacked early while Guillemot held on starboard.  Polly Oliver was able to round first but Dionysius lost out to Guillemot and was not able to claw their way back.  Behind the front three Orwell VI and Pegasus engaged in a close battle with Orwell VI coming out ahead to claim fourth.

Results:  Polly Oliver 1,1; Guillemot 3.2; Orwell VI 2,4; Dionysius 4,3; Pegasus 5,5; Prometheus 6,6; Puffin 7,7

Ajax Summer Series Races 1 & 2 

A dramatic days racing with lots of incidents for the 10 boats that sailed.  Race 1 started with a fetch to Park Bight and two beats from there to Grog with a run/reach to the finish.  After the course was set the wind shifted from the South to the SSE and strengthened resulting in a short race!  Three boats were over at the start (Polly Oliver, Thunderer and Pegasus) and there was drama immediately Pegasus re-started with one crew member falling out, to be recovered very quickly by the remaining crew.  Ahead of all this Orwell VI led the fleet to Park Bight and quickly established a clear lead, chased by Guillemot and Telamon.  Behind these three racing was closer with more place changing on the short beats to Grog, but the three leaders remained unchallenged.  

The second race extended to give a beat from Park Bight to Grog, a run to Prof, a second beat to Grog and a run to Priory Beacon with a beat to the finish.  Polly Oliver, Thunderer and Orwell VI all had good starts to be confronted with a barge sailing up river as they headed towards Park Bight.  Polly Oliver was able to squeeze to windward and Orwell VI was far enough to leeward to be little affected, but Thunderer lost several places as she sailed through the immediate lee of the barge.  Polly Oliver and Orwell VI round Park Bight together and headed towards the shore.  Orwell VI tacked to gain clear air but had to tack again on meeting a starboard tack boat, allowing Polly Oliver to round Grog with a clear lead.  It then became clear that the Class Captain had misremembered the course he had set (Prof to be rounded to starboard) as he headed down to round it to Port.  This handed the lead to Telamon with others in the fleet wondering, should they do as he (Polly Oliver) did, or as he said when setting the course!  Out of the melee some boats such as Puffin gained and others did turns or unwound themselves.  The fleet concatenated again at Priory Beacon with Telamon leading round and Puffin, and Dionysius close behind.  Orwell VI rounded 5th and with Polly Oliver behind headed towards the channel where there appeared to be more wind.  These two boats then gained a starboard hand lift with Orwell VI able to pass Telamon just before the line and claim a second victory, with Polly Oliver third on the water, but subsequently retiring following a collision with Dionysius.  Behind these three there was further drama with Guillemot caught on port as she was finishing and loosing two places as she did her turn to exonerate herself.  

Results:  Orwell VI 1,1; Telamon 3,2; Guillemot 2,7; Puffin 6,3; Dionysius 4,5; Teal 5,8; Prometheus 10,4; Thunderer 8,6; Pegasus 7,9; Polly Oliver 9,RAF

Ajax Spring Series 2019 - Overall
The series saw eleven boats racing with four different boats winning races in the series and ten of the boats on the podium for at least one race.  Pegasus sailed with an all female crew and their results improved as the series went on narrowly losing their second place on the last reach to the finish in the last race.  5th overall for the series Dionysius recovered from a slow start to get two race wins under different helms before fading at the end in the light and shifty conditions.  In 4th place Orwell VI also claimed a race win, and was unfortunate not to get a second when leading race 8.
The usual suspects again occupied the podium with Thunderer making a late charge, winning the last three races to come third.  Ahead of her Guillemot was consistent with six 2nd place finishes, but she did not claim any race wins.  Polly Oliver retained the series for the 5th consecutive year, winning 4 races and doing enough in the others to secure the Spring Bell.

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
With a gusty wind veering between West and South West the Class Captain eschewed the Clamp House start listed in the programme and set a course from Park Bight to Deer Park with Race Office John Brooke using Lion to set a start and finish line just down river from Park Bight.  For the first race the short start line put a priority on positioning with some boats having to start in a second rank.  Polly Oliver quickly established a small lead, although behind her there were numerous place changes on the first beat with the significant wind shifts evident. At Deer Park the fleet were all able to round and hoist spinnakers before a large ship sailed up river.  Polly Oliver rounded first with Thunderer and Pegasus behind.  Polly Oliver extended on the run and had time to do a 360 for hitting Park Bight and still remain ahead of Thunderer at the start of the second and final beat.  On the second beat Guillemot passed Pegasus with the remaining boats having a close battle.  In fact this was so close the final three crossed the finish line overlapped with Dionysius holding off Teal who managed to just edge across the line ahead of Orwell VI.

The same course was used for the second race but with Thunderer OCS at the start and Polly Oliver needing to do a 360 for a pre-start collision with Teal there was the opportunity for Orwell Vi to open up a large lead on the first beat.  Both Thunderer and Polly Oliver found some good shifts and followed Orwell VI round the windward mark.  On the second beat the two chasing boats split leaving Orwell VI with a difficult choice who to cover.  This allowed Thunderer, who benefitted from significant shifts and more wind on the marina shore to squeeze around Deer Park just ahead of Orwell VI.  Behind these two both Guillemot and Dionysius caught up with Polly Oliver and the three rounded Deer Park together.  On the final run to the finish Orwell VI chased Thunderer down the channel but was not able to find a way through, and Polly Oliver managed to hold off Guillemot and Dionysius to come home third.

Results:  Thunderer 2,1; Polly Oliver 1,3; Guillemot 3,4; Orwell VI 7,2; Dionysius 5,5; Pegasus 4,7; Teal 6,6

Sunday 19th May - Spring Series 5 & 6
With little wind forecast and little evident 9 boats rigged on Sunday.  In fact the wind did fill in for both races.  The start was delayed until after the dinghies, with a triangular course of First Red Can, Priory Beacon and Cat House, all to starboard. With barely 5 knots of wind, the direction changed just before the start from the NE to the SE.  Spinnakers were set, and Dionysius (helmed by Geoff Mayhew)led the way to the first mark, closely followed by Prometheus. Guillemot was an early casualty getting caught on a moored yacht as they set their spinnaker.  With a good beat into the tide from Priory Beacon gains were made by staying out of the flooding tide and this tactic allowed Prometheus through when Dionysius tacked off too early for the lay line. They regained the lead at First Red Can by a slick gybe and held on to win.  Behind these two Puffin sailed a conservative race to finish third holding off Teal and a fast closing Polly Oliver. 

For the second race the course was windward/leeward with a beat to Berners followed by a run to Priory Beacon. Polly Oliver and Guillemot led off the line closely followed by Telamon and Dionysius. Polly Oliver passed Guillemot to lead at Berners and stretched away on the run. Guillemot closed on the second beat and run but couldn’t find a way past on the final beat to the line. Behind these two Telamon and Dionysius battled for the final place on the podium. 

Results. Dionysius 1,4; Polly Oliver 5,1; Teal 4,5; Prometheus 2,8; Telamon 7,3; Puffin 3,7;  Pegasus 6,6; Guillemot RTD,2; Sirius 8,9

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)