Custodian: Will Baillieu; 1984 – 1997
Ajax was built by Will Baillieu in Sorrento, Victoria during the winter of 1984. She is based on a Ken Lacco design adapted by Will in late 1983. Two versions were drawn until Will drew a third version and took it back to the master builder Ken Lacco for his comment. Ken approved this final version comprising a shallower forefoot and straighter deadrise forward. This version completed the design.
Ajax was built out of Huon Pine on Celery Top Pine ribs. Her deck is of Celery Top Pine on Oregon deck beams, while her backbone is out of Grey Box, and her knees out of mature Ti Tree. She was designed at 26 foot 10 inches, but a simple mistake in setting out stations along the keel for the moulds added 3 ½ inches. She finished at 27 foot 1 ½ inches. She has 19 planks per side, whereas most boats of this length have 17. This made a very fair hull.
She was built with a shallow forefoot and straight lines between the waterline and the keel (deadrise) for more than half her length. Because of the straight lines, full-length Oregon stringers were fitted to add stiffness. Because of her wedge shape, the planks required a lot of twist and were steamed before fitting below the waterline. She is a very well-balanced boat with minimal helm in any conditions, and has a 7 inch spring in her keel.
The centre-case is 9 foot long and is built of Merbau to the water line and Celery Top Pine above the water line. She was fitted with a unique rotating tub at the mast.
Ajax was named after the race horse owned by EL Baillieu, great uncle of Will Baillieu. After her launch, she joined the growing fleet of Couta Boats that regularly sailed in the various regattas on Port Phillip, Victoria organized by the newly formed Couta Boat Club.
In this period, Will transported her to Sydney to participate in the on water Bicentenary celebrations in 1988. She remained on Sydney Harbour for three months, competing in numerous regattas.
Two years later, Will took Ajax to Bingil Bay in Far North Queensland where she remained for most of the year. Cruising as far south as Hinchinbrook Island, she lay at anchor at such spectacular locations as Bundarra Island and over the coral reefs of the Brooke Isles. A heavy mooring was put in place at Clump Point, Mission Beach, Queensland using the Dunk Island barge on its last day in service to transport the ground gear, which was a huge lump of concrete, into deep water.
Later, sailing further north to Cairns, Will and his boat had to seek shelter in Trinity Inlet, in the threat of Cyclone Joy in December 1990.
At the end of January 1991, Will and Ajax returned to Sorrento and to the local Couta Boat competition, in which Ajax always flew the ‘Danger Crocodile’ warning sign as a battle flag when racing; she was known as the only Couta Boat that has had Spanish mackerel and Coral trout across her decks!
Custodian: Michael Ahearn; 1997 – 2016
In 1997, Michael Ahearn purchased Ajax and moved her to the Couta Boat fleet at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (RFBYC) in Perth, Western Australia. She was raced competitively over the next 15 years; she was the handicap ‘back marker’ and was always in contention for line honours.
On one charity day sail in 2016, a chain of events led to a change of custodianship when Ajax started to let in more water than was wise to continue sailing. At the time, fellow sailors Martin Jurat and Dermot O’Keefe were shareholders on Hero, penned opposite Ajax. After a few rums, they decided to ask Michael what his future intentions were with Ajax. Over late winter 2016 they became the new custodians, knowing that Ajax, like Hero, stood testimony to the workmanship of Ken Lacco and Will Baillieu.
Custodian: Martin Jurat and Dermot O’Keefe; 2016 – Present
Martin was the founder of the syndicate that rescued Hero a few years earlier from a dry death after a year on the hard stand, and thought that fixing Ajax was a much easier project.
With leaking planks and a dark blue hull, minor repairs were made in 2016 and 2017 and the hull painted cream.
In 2018, the hull below the waterline was stripped to bare wood with repairs made to woodworm damage and the centre-case. The bilges were also stripped up to the lining boards and a few ribs repaired. Some transom planks were leaking badly when purchased, and the temporary repairs done at the time were made good. A section of the port gunwale was also replaced. The mast was found to be rotten under the chaffer where the gaff yoke sits, so a new section of Oregon was spliced in.
In spring 2018, Ajax emerged from the shed cloaked in bright orange. In that year she won the WA State Championships, despite a penalty turn in most races. Since then she has continued to perform successfully in competition out of RFBYC.
Cruising highlights include twilight sailing with 23 people on board, sitting around the large cockpit and along the centre-case.