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Ajax class at Falmouth Week 2019

by John Howard 19 Aug 2019 06:33 BST 9-18 August 2019
Artemis in the Ajax class at Falmouth Week 2019 © Richard Townshend

Day 1 - Helford River Sailing Club

A force 3 gusting 5 south westerly welcomed the fleet to Falmouth Week 2019. The race officer set a great course with the windward mark towards the docks in a refreshingly clear airstream. Off the start Polyphemus managed to get away from the fleet and continued to extend around the course eventually finishing well clear having loosely covered Pintail for the latter half of the race. Guest helm Andy Chapman who has chartered Vim for the week made great progress up to 3rd passing Achilles and Redoubtable on his way round the course. We all managed to finish just before a massive rain shower came through with dramatic skies that killed the wind off completely and left the other fleets with a very damp and slow finish!

Day 2 - Mylor Yacht Club

The wind had shifted to a North Westerly for the second race of the series with a big flood tide making an interesting tactical course. Artemis, the 2018 National Champion showed the rest of the fleet how to start nailing the pin and getting out into the tide first closely followed by Achilles, Redoubtable and Amalthea. Polyphemus had a shocker of a start and were at the wrong end of the line but managed to wriggle clear but were close to last half way up the first beat to Vilt, however by staying out in the tide and making the most of a nice left hand shift they passed the fleet to lead at the top, closely followed by Achilles, Pintail Vim and Artemis. The downhill leg was a tactical battle of finding nice wind lanes and plenty of gybes before the second beat. Polyphemus' lead grew after a right hand shift benefitted them and was closed down before the trailing boats could use it. A shy spinnaker reach let the heavyweight crew make the most of their size and extend further. Pintail was now comfortably in second with Achilles third. The helm on Artemis, Paul Scullion then had the ignominy of having one of his own company's commercial tugs block his way and slow his progress towards the finish line which kept them down in 5th just behind Achilles in 3rd and Vim in 4th.

Day 3 - Restronguet Sailing Club

Race Officer Nigel Sharp faced an uphill battle to get the racing under way as the wind was forecast to shift from the SW to a more westerly direction, however the wind gods decided that they would start from the South East and then progress round to South West ish but go via East and North East just for good measure. Fortunately we were not set off in anything too fickle and the courses held up, although the first start line had a massive left hand shift in the last few minutes which made it nigh on impossible to lay the line, the race officer could have spent all day trying to get the plethora of starts away and progress needed to be made.

Race 3 - Artemis once again nailed the start, spotted the pin bias, and led the fleet off the line and correctly crossed everyone and made it to the favoured right hand side to approach the windward mark closely followed by Vim, Pintail, Achilles, Hermes and Polyphemus, on the shy reach from the windward mark to Castle a sharp left hander meant all the lead boats would drop their spinnakers to be able to lay Castle and the boats to benefit were to windward of the fleet the main beneficiary was Polyphemus who rounded right on the transom of Pintail. A navigational mix up on Pintail had them dropping their kite for the wrong mark while Polyphemus sailed on by to take a narrow lead at the next mark. Pintail decided that staying out of the tide and creeping up the castle shore was worth a try however this was a disastrous move and cost them 400m at least. Down the last run Vim and Artemis closed up on Polyphemus but couldn't quite pass and this was how the top 3 finished with Hermes finishing a really credible 4th and Mary B an impressive 5th.

Race 4 - Once again Artemis nailed the start, Polyphemus were determined to do a better job of starting and tried to put pressure on Artemis but this all concluded with Polyphemus about ¼ of a boat length over and had to dip the line and restart. This put them right at the back of the fleet and in a hole that stayed with them while everyone else sailed off into the distance. Now I like to keep these reports entertaining and it is important to try and be as accurate as possible, however, yours truly in Polyphemus, was so far back in the fleet that I have no idea what was going on at the sharp end... Through binoculars and in passing it looked like Artemis were doing very well, Pintail were quite close behind and then it was Vim.. and Redoubtable were there or there about as well. And once again Mary B with his novice crew were 5th. So, an up and down day. Onwards to tomorrow where the forecast is for a healthy F4/5 WSW.

Current scores on the doors are Polyphemus in 1st, Vim 2nd, Pintail 3rd and Artemis 4th.

Day 4 - Falmouth Town Champagne race

A south westerly 3 gusting 5 but averaging 4 was the order of the day and the race officer set a testing course, having been congratulated for not using the Sunbeam mark the day before he decided to get his revenge and make the most of it today. The start line was positioned under the water tower with a windward mark over by Falmouth docks. The race started Vim, Artemis and Polyphemus all in a line, unfortunately for them that line was not behind the start and they were all individually recalled. This left Mary B, Achilles and Pintail to make the most of their head start with Mary B making the best of it and gaining a healthy lead by the windward mark. Polyphemus were making some good progress and were picking off boats round the course. The second downwind leg was heading all the way up to Pascoe's Boatyard, at the entrance to St Just Creek, in fact it was so far north that the owner of Polyphemus was convinced he was going to get a nosebleed. By this point Polyphemus had caught up with Mary B and were beginning to extend. Pintail and Achilles managed to move up to 2nd and 3rd respectively. Vim had been caught out with a jib sheet issue and were struggling to make progress. Artemis whose helm regularly sails in waters this far north (dinghy sailor based at Restronguet) had decided that lunch at Castaways was a more preferable option than trying to beat up to the infamous Sunbeam, however his crew got him back in line and started sailing back out of the Mylor moorings and back on track but this move had cost them a few hundred metres. On the last beat up to the finish line Polyphemus took the win, Pintail and Achilles had a great tacking battle with Vim closing in by the finish line but not quite able to pass. Mary B held onto 5th and Artemis were 6th.

Day 5 - Royal Cornwall Yacht Club

The committee boat set up just off Carricknath with a NW force 5/6 for the first race of a 2 race day and a windward mark up towards Falmouth Docks.

Race 1 - Once again, the start maestro on Artemis, got the best of the fleet and headed up the beat playing the shifts nicely to gain an early lead followed by Pintail, Polyphemus, Hermes, Mary B and Redoubtable. There was then a good long run down to Zone just south of St Anthony lighthouse where a nasty short chop had developed, Pintail now made some good gains from 3rd putting pressure on Polyphemus on the beat up to Headland, south of Pendennis point, this was really hard work with the short sea and with the wind shifting regularly through 20 degrees and gusting well above the mean wind speed. Artemis were holding onto their lead proving they were going to be hard to pass. Then a long white sail reach had plenty of action in the mid fleet with a really close tussle between Hermes, Mary B and Redoubtable, helmed by a class stalwart, Hereward Tresidder, showing much tenacity in tricky conditions a couple of years after recovering from a major spinal injury. The last beat up to the finish line had Polyphemus applying pressure to Artemis but never quite getting in front and eventually they held on to take their second bullet of the week from Polyphemus in 2nd and Pintail in 3rd. Vim finished in 4th and have now a very consistent series of results.

Race 2 - by now the flood tide had started in earnest and there was now a healthy pin bias, Artemis Polyphemus, Vim and Pintail were all at the correct end and a clean start meant they were vying for the lead, Artemis were just ahead but Polyphemus found a lovely lift on the approach to the windward mark and managed to squeeze in with a late tack onto the lay line just ahead of a very congested windward mark, Artemis and Pintail were next round followed closely by Mary B, Hermes, Redoubtable, Achilles and Vim. At the reach to reach gybe at Pendennis mark Polyphemus completed a lovely gybe and extended away in testing conditions. The next windward mark was the notorious Sunbeam and anything could happen at this point but the lead boats all negotiated with obligatory swearing at the race officer for sending us here, to be fair he might like us as a fleet because we only went to Sunbeam once! The following run and short beat to the finish at Trefusis had Artemis close up to Polyphemus but could not find a passing lane, Pintail tried to attack but let Vim, in 4th, head over to the left of the course and as they approached the finish line find a lovely shift that let them squeeze up to 3rd.

By now the series was pretty much sown up for Polyphemus with two races to go, however the forecast for Friday looked terrible and was likely to be cancelled. 2nd to 4th were separated by 1 point with Pintail holding a very narrow lead over Vim and Artemis. Achilles and Mary B were also level on points for 5th and 6th.

Day 6 - St Mawes Sailing Club

Unfortunately for all 25kts of breeze but gusting well into the mid 30's meant the Race officer had little choice but to cancel racing for the day, it was also chucking it down with rain so secretly I suspect we were all quite pleased to avoid a drenching!

Day 7 - Flushing Sailing Club

The final day of Falmouth Week 2019 concluded with a fresh force 4 south westerly and a start line just north of the narrows although this breeze was due to build during the day. Polyphemus had already won the week and one of their crew was enlisted onto Mary B to ensure that as many boats could make the last start of the week as possible.

Off the start Vim, Pintail and Artemis, who were all battling for 2nd place with only one point separating them, all made good progress to the front of the fleet, Achilles and Polyphemus went right after the start but this strategy didn't pay at all and at the windward mark they were well down in the pack. The short-handed Polyphemus tried to shoot the mark, made a complete Horlicks of it and ended up impeding Hermes who were coming in on starboard, penalty turn ensued and Polyphemus was dead last on the shy reach to Carricknath. Artemis tried to fly her kite, but this just lost them distance, Vim rounded in first with Pintail 2nd and Artemis 3rd. The next beat from Bohella up to Pendennis had a few changes, Polyphemus had made it up to 6th just sneaking past Redoubtable and Amalthea, Mary B was also making good progress and Artemis were back challenging for first.

A short run and another short beat around Governor which was directly in the wind shadow of Pendennis Point, this resulted in ridiculous shifts of up to 50 degrees and comical gusts which by now were hitting solid Force 6 levels. On the next downwind leg Pintail who had slipped behind Mary B launched their spinnaker and the spent the next few hundred yards trying to sail over the top of Mary B who, only 2 up, were being cautious in the gusty conditions and relished the chance of luffing their competitor up the Penryn river, in the end Pintail slipped through and closed up on the lead pair of Artemis and Vim. The final beat to the finish had the lead three boats of Artemis, Vim and Pintail keeping a watchful cover on each other, Artemis who won the race secured 2nd place overall and Vim and Pintail finished on identical points with identical results and they were only separated by the final race finish where Vim who had been exceedingly consistent all week claimed 3rd overall and 4th went to Pintail.

This had been an incredibly testing week with big breeze and unstable winds meaning very hard work for helms and crews alike. Huge congrats to all the competitors and especially to the Race Officer, Nigel Sharp, who had managed the week with great aplomb setting some great courses, and also to all of the race management teams and crews on mark laying boats and safety boats, you all did a brilliant job!

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmSundayMondayTuesday1Tuesday2WednesdayThursday 1Thursday 2SaturdayPtsNett 1 discards (5 races)Nett 2 discards (8 races)
1Polyphemus40Mike Grice1117121512  
2Artemis21Ian Woods10531612119  
3Vim46Andy Chapman3422443220  
4Pintail36Richard Bown2274234320  
5Mary B42Rob Mathewson6755565436  
6Achilles48Richard Townshend4386398638  
7Redoubtable32Hereward Tresidder59631077845  
8Hermes70Anthony Armitage1064101056748  
9Amalthea66Mike Black78981089958  

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