From the time these hulking super yachts appeared on the horizon around 1930, they were not alone in their grandeur. At the time, oversized sail plans and long bow sprits and waterlines were in vogue amongst the prominent yachtsmen. It was an era for all things magnificent, and these yachts were no exception. The first J Class Yacht (Shamrock V) was commissioned by Sir Thomas Lipton as part of his 5th and last challenge for the “America’s Cup” and it was part of an agreement to accept a rule penned with ideas from our neighbor, L Francis Herreshoff about limiting the scale of these yachts and imposing maximum waterline length, draft and sail area.
These yachts have graced finish lines and yacht clubs all over the globe, attracting crowds with an appreciation for their rich nautical history, for their beauty and for the spectacle of racing any number of them together in one port. It is difficult to organize and while these modern J class try to meet annually in certain regattas (Antigua Classics and St. Barth’s Bucket, to name a few), it is a rare treat to see them lined up and trimmed, in full race mode with pro crews and massive spinnakers.
This video takes us back about a month to the UK where 3 of the modern J’s met up for racing off Falmouth Harbour. Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart are no stranger to racing each other and they tossed around the first place finishes almost daily, leaving hem quite equally paired. Lionheart, the newest of the 3, was the eventual winner but the other 2 were never far behind.
This weekend the same 3 J’s are back at it, racing at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s International Bicentenary Regatta in Cowes. It will be interesting to see who comes out as the eventual winner, just a month after the last races.
Enjoy this great video that gives you a glimpse into the most beautiful yacht races held today. These competitive owners and crew take the racing very seriously, as they should. My 2 boats are worth less than a jib sheet on a J Class yacht – (maybe so) – proving it’s all about perspective. Someday I hope to step aboard one of these fine beauties and feel for myself how awesome it must be to sail under approximately 7,500 sq. feet of sail area.
A few other fun facts to share: The current J Class fleet comprises eight boats: Endeavour, Hanuman, Lionheart, Rainbow, Ranger, Shamrock V, Velsheda and, launched in June 2015, Topaz.
The J Class revival was launched down the road from us in Newport, RI by American Elizabeth Meyer who, starting in 1984, oversaw the refits of Endeavour and Shamrock V. She sailed Endeavour as her own yacht for years before moving on to create the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport. Since that time the interest hasn’t slowed down. Velsheda was another original yacht that sat neglected that obviously found her way into good hands and a complete restoration, sending her back to the race course today. She is one of just three remaining original J’s from the 1930’s.