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Ajax East Coast Championship at Royal Harwich Yacht Club

by Mike Clayton 22 Jul 2021 07:27 BST 17-18 July 2021
Ajax East Coast Championship in Dovercourt Bay © Damien Burke /

Thirteen boats entered the 2021 East Coast Championships for the class sailed in Dovercourt Bay on the 17th and 18th of July. The weekend had light winds and sunshine and over the five race series there were 4 different race winners and 3 boats each able to win at the start of the last race.

Day 1 - The fleet enjoyed three competitive races with the Race Officer Graham Louth setting windward leeward courses for the first two races and a triangle-sausage for race 3.

The first race saw Orwell VI (Richard Merriweather, Mark Ingram, Simon Abley) and the Thunderer (John Williams, Hugh Williams, James Williams) having a close race on the first beat. Orwell VI seemed to have the edge downwind and extended away to win with Thunderer second. Behind these Polly Oliver (Mike Clayton, Bob Portway, John Gill) was third on the first lap before being passed by Indefatigable (Will Anderson, Sebastin Anderson, Jono Agar/Jeremy Halfhide) on the second beat.

In the second race Polly Oliver started well and led Thunderer at the first mark with Orwell VI back in the chasing pack. On the second lap Thunderer found more pressure on the approach to the windward mark and sailed over Polly Oliver to take the win. Orwell VI pulled through to third.

The third race saw both Orwell VI and Thunderer OCS buried with Polly Oliver away in clear air to establish the biggest lead of the day. Behind Pegasus (Belinda Joslin, Steph Hensley, Sian Goodman) found extra speed on the second beat to claim second with Orwell VI again staging a good recovery to claim third.

At the close of Day 1 Polly Oliver and Orwell VI were tied on 7 points with Thunderer counting a 7th in the third race back on 10. It looked as if the championships was once again a battle between these three crews.

Sunday dawned with very little wind. Most of the fleet ignored the Race Officer's advice to stay in Shotley Marina and drifted out. When the wind did fill in this allowed the last two boats to be towed out so racing commenced after only a short delay from the planned start time. The wind was very light with between 2 and 5 knots across the course, and 7 knots at the top of the Committee Boat's mast.

Race 4 started with all the leading boats in trouble. Polly Oliver managed to find room to head off on port whilst Orwell VI and Thunderer were both OCS. Prometheus (Tim Archer, Will Lynch, Shaun Priestley) came in to the windward mark on port and just managed to get round ahead of Gannet (Freddie Brasted-Watts, John Davies, Paul Davies) with Telamon (Gordon Sutton, Mike Moore, Phil Codling) and Pegasus close behind. Polly Oliver round 5th and gybed early on the run into more pressure to take the lead by the leeward mark. On the second beat they chose to cover Pegasus and that allowed Telamon the chance to go further out to sea where they found more wind and a good lift to the mark. Telamon held on for the next lap and a half, despite pressure from Polly Oliver. Both Orwell VI and Thunderer again showed their class by pulling up through the fleet to finish third and fourth with Pegasus caught on the last beat to the line.

Going into the final race only a point separated the three leading boats. The race was sailed in probably the lightest conditions of the weekend and at the start Thunderer found clear air and was able to tack onto port when the wind shifted. Orwell VI also was clear and with Polly Oliver in trouble there were only two contenders for the championships. On the second run Orwell VI closed up, but with time and wind running out the race was shortened after two laps with Thunder ahead. This gave John Williams and his brother Hugh their seventh East Coast Championships, and it also meant they have a hat trick of wins sailing with Hugh's son James in this bi-annual event.

After the fleet sailed home up the Orwell the prize-giving was held on the lawn at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and the volunteer mark layers, race officials and helpers were thanked for enabling the fleet to complete the race series in Dovercourt Bay which once again proved itself to be a fantastic venue for a championship.

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1stThunderer14John Williams21‑7317
2ndPolly Oliver17Mike Clayton/Bob Portway4212‑69
3rdOrwell VI57Richard Merriweather133‑429
4thPegasus29Belinda Joslin‑10425516
5thTelamon61Gordon Sutton6591‑1121
6thTeal26Bob Tate7‑956321
7thIndefatibible38Will Anderson3104‑11724
8thPrometheus62Tim Archer‑117610427
9thHermione18Geoff Mayhew‑8687829
10thPuffin23David Pearce58‑119931
11thGannet63Freddie Brasted‑Watts‑13121281042
12thStorm Petrel65Jackie McKellar91110‑121242
13thMandalay50Dominic Knights121313(DNC)DNC52

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