Race Report Ajax National Championships 17 – 19th June 2002
Held in Dovercourt Bay and The River Stour
Organised by the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.
Sadly there were no visitors from the South West Fleet despite early enthusiasm
The whole series was spent on flooding tides and working out the different streams across the courses seemed to be quite important!
Wind SE F2 with some difficult chop. The three races were held in glorious sunshine.
Race 1. Windward leeward course. Storm Petrel and Pegasus led at 1st windward mark. Storm Petrel had a poor hoist letting Pegasus and Thunderer through, Thunderer came through to lead by sailing a higher rhumb line downwind. Pegasus returned the favour upwind with a fast and high mode (a recurrently annoying theme for the rest of the fleet for the whole weekend) and held on to the finish with Thunderer second and Mandalay third.
Race 2. Olympic course. Orwell led from early on from Pegasus. Both sailed high on the first reach and hoisted late with the tide taking the fleet down to the mark. The 2nd leg of each triangle was very broad with the tide behind pushing us into Harwich harbour. Orwell created a good gap through the race so Pegasus was looking behind to protect 2ndon the last lap. Thunderer put them under pressure at the final leeward mark contributing to a tangle in the drop and Pegasus sailing the wrong side of the mark. Thunderer finished second and Pegasus did well to hold on to third.
Race 3. Olympic course. Pegasus led all the way round and backing their upwind speed decided not to cover on the final beat .They headed to the favoured left, stretching out to win. Thunderer finished second. Orwell recovered from a poor start to get back to third.
Saturday felt warm and pleasant sailing downwind out of the harbour. It quickly became more windy and wet in the waves needing considerable skill both to negotiate the waves and stay in the boat.
The first race (4 in the series) at sea in 16-18 knots of wind from NE.
Race 4 Windward leeward 2 laps.
There was some pin bias at the start. Orwell started on port and crossed the fleet. Dionysius tacked early and Thunderer got the better of Pegasus on the first beat (almost the only time this happened all weekend). The windward mark dragged to leeward and Orwell only spotted the spreader up to windward after their bear-away. They still retained their lead and didn't look back. Despite a hitting the windward mark Thunderer held on to 2nd from Dionysius. The sea state made conditions more difficult than the wind speed suggested and the Fleet were sent back inside the harbour to the River Stour for races 5 and 6 in a surprisingly reduced breeze. Guillemot and Prometheus had retired to the marina.
Race 5. Olympic course. The pin bias resulted in Orwell struggling to make the line and Pegasus was in the second row. Hermione led to the left, Thunderer tacked off the line to lead at the windward mark and round the first lap. The decision on the following beats was between taking the shifts on the right hand side in an adverse tide, or staying further out of the channel. In hindsight the tide wasn't as strong as feared. Orwell and Pegasus showed their class to sail through the fleet to finish first and third with Hermione sneaking through to finish second on the line.
Race 6 felt quite similar. Thunderer was OCS and had to return. There was a start line altercation between Orwell and Polly Oliver but Orwell again managed to weave through the fleet with good speed and slick manoeuvres. Pegasus snuck in to 2nd on the final short beat to the line with an early tack out to the left. Hermione sailed well to be third. There was much more snakes and ladders than out at sea.
It was still wide open on the last day with only 1 discard in the series but Orwell in the best position at the top
Wind from NE but less breeze than expected. Windward leeward courses for both races.
Race 7 The balance to be found was between minimising tacks, finding the breeze and being on the right shift for the first beat. Guillemot showed their years of experience in the light airs to join the dots ahead of Storm Petrel for a very popular win. An early tack on the last short beat towards the favoured pin end got Thunderer 3rd ahead of Pegasus.
We waited for the last race while the breeze eventually came back in and settled.
Race 8. Orwell had won the series with a race to spare so Pegasus focussed on keeping Thunderer in their sights. Both started at the favoured committee boat end, with Pegasus yet again sailing a high, fast mode upwind to gain a good gap to windward. Two well timed good tacks kept Pegasus in front at the first mark (with Guillemot close behind) whilst keeping a close eye on Thunderer a few places back. A right hand bend on the second beat favoured those that stood on from the leeward mark (particularly Pegasus and Orwell, who climbed through to second). Thunderer was stuck on the left with Guillemot, both feeling a bit sorry for themselves. Orwell got past Pegasus at the top of the run with some slick boat handling following a gybe hoist for the whole fleet. Puffin sailed well and finished third.
Thank you to Tom Dixon and the whole race team for impeccable race management in very varied and sometimes awkward conditions.
James Williams, Thunderer
1st Orwell V1 (57) Richard Merriweather 13 points
2 Pegasus (29) Sian Goodman 16
3 Thunderer (14) John Williams 22
4 Hermione (18) Geoff Mayhew 33
5 Dionysius (71) Phil Mayhew 36
6 Mandalay (50) Giles Wright 36
7 Storm Petrel (65) Jackie Mckellar 45
8 Guillemot (20) David Mayne 48
9 Polly Oliver (17) Mike Clayton 60
10 Prometheus (62) Tim Archer 66
11 Puffin (23) David Pearce 67
12 Telamon (61) Gordon Sutton 91 (DNC)