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Ajax East Coast Championship at Royal Harwich Yacht Club

by Mike Clayton 3 Sep 2018 17:31 BST 1-2 September 2018
Ajax East Coast Championship © Joe Hunt

The Royal Harwich Yacht Club held the Ajax class East Coast Championship on 1st and 2nd of September using Shotley Marina as the base. The first day's racing sailed in brilliant sunshine in Dovercourt Bay.

With the fleet of nine boats leaving Shotley Marina on low water and a beat out of the narrow channel to the River Stour some boats needed a tow either to avoid or free themselves from the mud. Telamon even managed to run aground leaving the harbour trying to dodge the early flood tide. James Skellorn the race officer set an excellent windward leeward course and a well-judged start line for the F2 southerly wind. In the first race Polly Oliver tacked off early and found more wind inshore, but Orwell VI managed to catch them on the approach to the first mark and lead down the run followed by Thunderer and Polly Oliver. Thunderer pulled through on the second beat and Mars also caught up when Polly Oliver and Orwell VI over-stood the windward mark. Thunderer held on to win, with Orwell VI managing to hold off Mars on the run for second and Polly Oliver fourth.

The second race started promptly with more of flood tide, catching Telamon OCS at the start. Polly Oliver managed again to find some wind and a lift to reach the first mark first closely followed by Orwell VI. These two battled closely on the run but Polly Oliver just managed to gain an overlap to lead around the leeward mark. They held on to the lead on the next beat and gybed away early on the last run to end up as comfortable winners. Orwell VI showed her consistency to again finish second with Guillemot third and Thunderer fourth.

The wind seemed to ease a little for the start of the third race with Mars and Dionysius pushed OCS by the slackening tide. Polly Oliver again established an early lead but a strategic decision by Prometheus to stand further out to sea was rewarded by the wind shifting in their favour and they led round the first mark. Polly Oliver and Thunderer pushed Prometheus hard on the run but they were able to round the leeward mark clear ahead. They then parked! Later they blamed a jib sheet round the spinnaker pole. This allowed most of the fleet to overtake them.

Polly Oliver and Thunderer traded places on the beat with Polly Oliver coming out ahead and holding on down the final run for the win. Behind these two Guillemot stayed ahead of Orwell VI to come third.

At the end of the day the top three boats (Polly Oliver, Thunderer and Orwell VI) are each separated by one point, with Mars and Guillemot close behind.

Day two of the East Coast Championships again had blue skies and sunshine. Sadly less wind than the first days sailing but enough for the Race Officer James Skellorn to get in the final two races. In race 4 Orwell VI started well and led a small group out to sea with rivals Polly Oliver and Thunderer both forced to tack away early to clear their wind. Orwell VI led round the first mark followed by Mars and Prometheus and then Thunderer. Thunderer pulled through to second on the run but Orwell VI stayed clear to win with Thunderer second. Behind them Polly Oliver managed to pass Mars on the approach to the finish. With the discard coming in this left the three leading boats all on 5 points and with the same discard, meaning that it the overall result was down to the last race.

For this race an Olympic course was set and the race started in the gentlest of breezes. Thunderer led round the first mark followed by Mars, Guillemot, Polly Oliver and Orwell VI. Both Polly Oliver and Orwell VI passed Mars on the first reach. On the second beat the little wind there had been became less and at one point Thunderer looked vulnerable with Orwell VI coming in to the windward mark from the left and Polly Oliver the right. They managed to hang on to the lead for the final run. Polly Oliver went inshore on the run, whilst Orwell VI staying out to sea and Thunderer choosing a middle route. With the wind still dropping Thunderer led round the last mark followed by Polly Oliver and then Orwell VI.

The drama was not yet over as the latter two boats were lifted after rounding the mark with Orwell VI gaining more. Thunderer tacked on to starboard and Polly Oliver chose to duck whilst Orwell VI was able to cross and then tack on to starboard. With the wind almost non-existent it was still anybody's race and championships as the three boats battled the tide to cross the finish line. Orwell VI tacked on to port hoping to cross first but the tide pushed them down the line rather than across, and this allowed Thunderer to inch across at the pin end with Polly Oliver becalmed nearer the committee boat. Orwell VI managed to cross next with Guillemot edging across ahead of Polly Oliver.

This left John Williams, Hugh Williams and James Williams the 2018 East Coast Champions and they were presented with the Geoffrey Wrinch Challenge trophy by his son Steve who had sailed the weekend on Dionysius. Orwell VI, sailed by Richard Merriweather, Mark Ingram and Nigel King in Richard's first season as an Ajax owner had good boat speed downwind and well deserved their runners up position. Polly Oliver, sailed by Mike Clayton, Bob Portway and John Gill rounded off the podium.

Overall Results:

1st Thunderer 6pts
2nd Orwell VI 7pts
3rd Polly Oliver 9pts
4th Guillemot 14pts
5th Mars 17pts
6th Telamon 24pts
7th Prometheus 27pts
8th Teal 31pts
9th Dionysius 37pts

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