Ajax South West Championship at St. Mawes Sailing Club

by John Howard

Day 1

Wind SE - SSW - NE From 2kts to around 12kts. The fourteen entries were down to thirteen after a Covid positive. The race area was Falmouth Bay, Cornwall. The race officer was Neil Andrew.

Race 1

The class had agreed a 1-hour postponement the day before as the forecasted breeze was negligible in the morning so we all headed out for a noon start to the first race. Race Officer, Neil Andrew, managed to get the champs off to a good start despite having to relay the windward mark as the wind kept on clocking round to the right.

Troy had the best start and adopted her rightful position alongside the committee boat as the gun went, Athena followed her through and the fleet was pretty tightly condensed as we headed out on starboard. Polyphemus however was the first to react to the persistent right-hand trend and headed off on Port with Achilles, and moved into an early lead which she held around the first lap and continued to protect the right up the second beat.

Troy had worked her way up to second and Athena was third followed by Nemesis and Artemis. However at the last windward mark for some reason, Troy forgot about the spreader mark, even though there had been much discussion about it on the radio, and headed off down the run before realising their mistake and beating back up to the windward mark while Athena scooted around to steal second. Troy recovered back to third with Nemesis fourth and Artemis fifth.

Race 2

The wind was still steadily clocking right, but by now most of the crews had worked it out, and the battle for the right was on. Troy made a great start once again followed by Polyphemus, Athena and Artemis, all of whom were showing good speed and height.

The first run had a bit of jostling for position but in the end Troy extended and made no mistakes smoothly sailing to her first win, Polyphemus second, Athena third and Artemis fourth.

Race 3

At the start the wind had picked up a little to the best breeze of the day, however, the tide was virtually slack to make things more entertaining. Polyphemus started halfway down the line with Troy once again up at the committee boat with Athena. The first beat was more tactical than the first two races with playing the shifts and looking for breeze proving more constructive than pressing hard right for once.

Polyphemus managed to judge everything right and push out to a lead in front of Athena and Troy, the run was steady with no major place movement, but everything changed at the leeward mark. Just as the lead boats arrived the wind suddenly shifted 50 degrees right Troy reacted first and immediately tacked for the top mark and looked like they had made a superb decision.

However they sailed straight into a massive hole and parked up, Polyphemus sailed away followed closely by Nemesis, Athena, Pintail, and Artemis. Halcyon, Achilles, and Vim also managed to make good progress in the new breeze.

Day 2

Race 4

Shift WSW 10 - 15kts

After day 1 Halcyon was up for sale with a string of mediocre results, following a winter of upgrades, but a slight crew change brought the luck of the Irish and they managed to find where the handbrake lever was and release it in time for Day 2.

There were some consistently big shifts and lulls with the wind coming off the land and funnelling down the valleys, Halcyon worked the left and found herself in the lead followed by the ever-consistent Troy, Vim, Artemis and Athena.

Polyp was having a shocker having gone the wrong way and missed most of the shifts, and so it finished, Halcyon was still for sale - but the price was higher!

Race 5

Once again Halcyon led off the start closely followed by Nemesis, Troy and Polyp. The left was consistently paying, find the pressure, and the header, sail into it for a bit and then tack. Halcyon won the pin and headed out, found the most pressure, tacked on the header, and hey presto...

Nemesis, Polyp and Troy all tried hard to make progress down the runs but Halcyon had developed a nice buffer and was far enough ahead to let the chasing pack scrap among themselves.

Two wins in the last two races - Halcyon stock was rising fast!

Race 6

Once again, playing the shifts up the left was paying and this time the best start was had by Troy, with Diomedes hanging onto their shirt tails all the way up the start of the first beat. And then a whopping 40 degrees left-hander turned the beat into a fetch and everyone from the middle of the course could suddenly lay the windward mark.

What made the situation more interesting was the spreader was now to weather off the windward mark and for some boats required a tack to get round it, Polyp tried to squeeze passed the spreader mark, but touched, and then had to complete their turn in the middle of the densely packed fleet and lost six places in that time.

The windward mark was rapidly reset so it was no longer a fetch, but by then the places were fairly well established. Troy sailed away for a win followed by Athena, Diomedes, Pintail and Halcyon. Troy perhaps receiving some Karma from the hole they found themselves in during race 3.

Day 3

Wind: Shifty westerly 12 - 18 kts.

Race 7

Following on from the great results from Polyphemus on day 1, the stellar performance of Halcyon on Day 2, and the consistent scores from Troy and Athena all the way through the event there was all to play for with the last two races. Halcyon led off the start from the pin, while Troy was buried deep in the pack but managed to wriggle out and start making progress up the fleet, playing the shifts perfectly and arriving at the top mark in close contention with Halcyon, Athena, Nemesis and Artemis.

Polyphemus was still close to the back of the fleet, although she had brought her set of meteorological poker dice as part of the winter upgrades. While everyone was heading back to the left, which had consistently paid dividends through the event so far, Polyp was surprised to discover that "going right" was coming out as four queens and an ace, with that info they headed off to the right of the course unspotted by the boats at the front of the fleet, Vim and Diomedes decided to follow suit.

At the top mark, Troy managed to round 1st followed closely by Polyp after their hysterical recovery, Halcyon, Vim and Diomedes. Down the run Troy gybed early into their own personal hole and Polyp and Halcyon sailed over the top of them closely followed by Athena and Vim. Half way down the run there was a right-hand shift and Polyp managed to just get out under Troy to hold the inside line at the last mark for the finish. This result meant the championships would go "down to the wire" on the last race.

Race 8

It was going to be a close run champs between Troy and Polyp in a, pretty much, winner take all situation. Polyp had checked the weather dice once more and were consistently throwing four kings and higher to go right so started at the committee boat and aimed off to the right fairly early with Nemesis, Pintail and Vim. Everyone else was working the left and playing the shifts with Troy, Athena and Halcyon leading the way.

It appears the crews on both Nemesis and Polyp were trying to hide how the beat was going from their respective helms, secrecy was the name of the day. However towards the end of the beat the helms were allowed to have a brief look under the booms to see how the left-hand side of the fleet were getting on, but it was difficult to see without binoculars.

Polyp rounded first and headed down the run with Nemesis and Pintail close behind. The second beat was similar to the first but by now everyone had realised you cannot argue with four kings. Troy valiantly tried to catch up. Nemesis sneaked past Polyp at the top of the beat and led down the reach to the wing mark, these two were followed by Pintail, Vim and Troy.

So Polyphemus had managed to finish first overall, just in front of Troy with Athena, Nemesis and Halcyon making up the top five.

Massive thanks to the race committee on Melkin, Neil Andrew the race officer, The Falmouth Working Boat team who manned the mark laying RIBs, Kyran Hooper for organising the event and the Nemesis crew who press-ganged sponsors for spot prizes at the evening socials, these included: Mylor Chandlery & Rigging, Penrose Sailmakers, Harken, Kayospruce, Dimension Polyant.