Falmouth Week 2007  Ajax Class Report by James Skellorn & Simone Kennett


David Liddington won the Ajax keelboat class at Falmouth Week for a remarkable 11th year in succession although the early race results had suggested that this year, there may have been other contenders.  High winds prevailed and as the week progressed so the scoreboard took on its familiar look with Athena well out in front of the 25 strong fleet overall. 


The Ajax Class like to have fun so our Falmouth Week starts with the Angela Beaman Trophy.  This triathlon event involves a race to Mylor with added points for fancy dress, general knowledge quizzes and bonuses for the number of limbs or paws in the boat!  This year the theme was “Pirates of the Caribbean” and there was a fourth competitive element added – that of composing limericks with local and topical references.  Nine boats competed and the event was won comprehensively by Lindsey Thomas and her piratical crew on Aquila.  Aquila – with the help of some cleverly crafted pieces of cardboard taped to her sides and two broomstick yardarms hoisted up the mast was a splendid representation of a pirate ship.  However being unable to sail in case heeling reduced the ship’s sides i.e. the pieces of cardboard - had to be towed to Mylor by the long-suffering but ever-helpful John Howard.


Sunday saw the start of the serious racing with a fine day and a good north-westerly Force 3 for the Helford Regatta.  From a port-biased line Hermes(Anthony Armitage) and Athena (David Liddington) each took a flyer that resulted in Hermes reaching the windward mark just in front of Samaki (Alan Williams).  On the run to Zone, Athena and Avocet (Doug Sharps) went through to first and second with Avocet just reaching Gyllyngvase after the next beat in first place.  However on the final beat to the finish, Nemesis (Robin Edwards) went left and picked up a good lift to take him into the lead.  Pegasus (David Kerridge) took the same route and brought himself into contention.  At the finish, Nemesis led from Avocet then Pegasus.  However each of these 3 boats was disqualified as they did not cross the correct line.  This gifted the race to Athena, followed by Samaki and Amalthea (Roger Wood) in 3rd place.


Mylor Regatta on the Monday saw the fleet out in the Bay taking on a trapezoid course in a moderate south-westerly breeze.  A significant port bias on the line led to a general recall following which two boats were black-flagged for further transgressions.  Avocet showed good speed in these conditions and led all the way round crossing the right finishing line to gain her first victory.  Behind her, Athena, Kali (Oliver Edwards) and Amalthea had a close battle until Athena got the wrong side of a windshift and dropped to an uncharacteristic 7th place.  This left Amalthea second and Kali third.  Kali is owned by Charles Emmett and was rescued by him from Eire where she was in a much neglected state.  Charles has had her restored to immaculate condition and this is his first year in the fleet.


Restronguet’s day on Tuesday dawned with some fearsome but well-predicted gusts of between 30 and 40 knots.  14 stalwarts planed down the Roads to the Start line of St Just but as the wind came up the Race Officer decided on discretion and cancelled the day’s racing – to the relief of many!  The beat home to St Mawes was memorable in itself with Pintail’s crew on strike at one point resulting in helm Richard Bown going about on his own and straight into the drink!  He alleges he was in control of the boat at all times despite not being actually in it for part of that time!


Wednesday saw another fresh wind from the north-west.  Nemesis revelling in the gusty conditions got off to a good start and led from Amalthea and Pegasus.  Athena blasted through on the run down to Zone and passed Nemesis.  However a close tacking battle up the St Mawes shore under the Castle between Nemesis and Athena resulted in Athena taking a penalty turn and returning line honours to Nemesis with Amalthea 3rd.


On St Mawes day the fleet was fitted with the Race-Trax system so that every move could be followed online.  A north-westerly Force 3 to 4 promised a good race in the Bay.  After the Race Officer announced the course and two rounds, a very polite question from Nemesis on the VHF asking whether he knew that the Ajax does not carry navigation lights resulted in the number of rounds being reduced to one!  What promised to be a good course resulted in a soldier’s one as a windshift meant the beat to Gyllyngvase became a close fetch, followed by a close reach to Rosemullion and a run to Bay.  The limited scope for overtaking meant that Athena after her usual good start, led all the way round followed by Kali and Samaki.


Back in the Carrick Roads for Friday, a fresh but shifting north-westerly produced a challenging race.  A port-bias on the start line resulted in a general recall and a half-hour delay. From the restart Avocet went up the middle and Nemesis went left.  At the weather mark Avocet led from Athena and Nemesis.  Confusion about the race instructions within the boat led to Avocet dropping her spinnaker early on the way to St Just and Athena passed and was away to the win with Amalthea getting 3rd place behind Avocet and just in front of Nemesis.  At the fleet Prizegiving on the Saturday, the crew of Avocet,  Gordon Sutton was presented with a special map of the buoys of the Roads, a GPS and a pair of giant spectacles!  It was also suggested that a sign be erected for Avocet on the final mark saying “Finish line this way!”


Falmouth Town’s Champagne Day did not attract as large a fleet entry probably due to tiredness and the nasty weather forecast.  The conditions turned out to be very similar to Friday with a win for Amalthea followed by Samaki and Athena.


Amalthea, Avocet, Kali, Samaki and Nemesis all posed problems for Athena during the week but each lacked the consistency to be able to end David Liddington’s extraordinary run of success in Falmouth Week.  At least this year he has been beaten once - by Goosander(Ian Sharps) in the National Championships held at Harwich but in Falmouth he is the undisputed King of the Fleet!


Whilst these boats are consistently fighting for the top places, the beauty of the Ajax fleet is that there are races within races.  Just behind the leaders and in the middle section of the fleet, Aquila(Lindsey Thomas) triumphed over Pegasus, Pintail, Troy (Cedric Thomas), Sandpiper( Hazell/Litherland), Diomedes (Richard Hitchings), Ajax(Kim Mathewson), Atalanta(Elaine Davey) and Odysseus(Dudley Kennett). 


The next boat home, Mary B had a better week this year too.  Skipper Richard Boucher-Giles usually has adventures resulting in the annual bow fender award for collisions almost being his own property! This year Richard decided to have a go at a Flying Fifteen in order to qualify for the trophy which he has duly won.  The difference this time being however that he was actually in the right and on starboard himself!


The friendliness of the Class means that those boats bringing up the rear third of the fleet also have terrific competitions with their own tussles and traumas.  Mary B was followed home by Achilles(Richard Townshend), Kittiwake (Mike Evans), Polyphemus(James Leggate)Persephone(Colin Jardine-Brown), Friday(Tim West), Polly Oliver(Chris Bateman) and Osprey(Paul Smart).


As the Commodore of St Mawes Sailing Club – Bomber Holm said when he presented the prizes, the Ajax fleet is undoubtedly the premier racing class now sailing out of St Mawes.  The class spirit is fostered by the end of week barbecue hosted by the Thomas family at Messack where in addition to finishing place prizes the silly ones provide much entertainment and provide the great leveller that keeps the class together.  Even a top half finisher can be ribbed for going the wrong way around marks and presented with their own inflatable buoy for practising(Glenn Litherland) or given a SAGA brochure for defying age limits(Anthony Armitage)!


This year a new trophy – the Ajax Jolly Pot (Chamber of course!) was awarded for the first time – to Chris Bateman for 27 years of service to the class.  Chris has now sold his boat and will compete no more in Falmouth Week.  We hope he will remain within the family that is the SW Ajax Association and continue to sail his races but this time from the Castle car park – where many of us find it is a lot easier to win!


The Ajax continues to provide incredibly competitive one-design racing at reasonable cost.  None of us who sail could do so without the dedication of the army of crews willing to turn out for the races.  Falmouth Week alone meant that there were some 75 people on the water at any one time in the fleet.  As David Liddington said in his Champion’s speech, it is truly a team effort to make a boat go fast, and the Association is always keen to welcome both new crews and helms into the fleet.  Contact the Hon Sec via the Ajax website or St Mawes Sailing Club if you would like any information about the boats or the Ajax Association or a trial sail.