How J-Class Yachts Made America’s Cup History
Considered one of the most elegant racing yachts in the world, J-Class yachts have maintained a special connection with the America’s Cup since they appeared in 1930 to compete in the 14th America’s Cup.
J-Class Yachts: The Beginning
Labelled with a name beginning in ‘J’ due to their waterline height and a length between 75 to 87 feet, J-Class defines a single-masted racing sailboat. These classic racing boats were built following the specifications of the Universal Rule and are characterised by their massive Bermudan rigs and their huge sail plan.
In 1929, Sir Thomas Lipton, member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, challenged the America’s Cup for fifth time. Lipton built the first British J Class yacht, Shamrock V, to battle the four American-built yachts: Enterprise, Whirlwind, Yankee and Weetamoe. Shamrock V was a worthy challenger in the 1929 America’s Cup, but Enterprise achieved overall victory.
Four years later, tom Sopwith of the Royal Yacht Squadron challenged for the America’s Cup and two new J-Class yachts were built: the challenger, Endeavour, and Rainbow, designed by W Starling Burgess and built in just 100 days. Although Endeavour was the favourite for the final victory, Rainbow beat her by four races to two maintaining the Cup in America.
Luxury Yacht Building
In 1937, Sopwith challenged again for the America’s Cup and the last two original J-Class yachts were constructed. American yacht Ranger achieved the victory over Endeavour II just before WWII marked the end of the emergence of J-Class yachts, until the Cup was next celebrated over 20 years later in 1958.
Almost all J-Class yachts built in the 1930’s were scrapped. Just three of the yachts designed by Charles Nicholson survived: Shamrock V, Endeavour and Velsheda, which was built in 1933 and the only J-Class not designed as a competitor for the America’s Cup.
Classic Yachts: Resurgence
The restoration of these three historic yachts and their participation in the Antigua Classic Week 1998 signalled a return of the class, bolstered by the creation of the J-Class Association. The J-Class Association aims to protect the class and established standards for the construction of replicas from original plans, empowering new J-Class yacht construction by allowing the use of aluminium and other materials for the construction of the hull.
Following the yacht restoration, the first J-Class Regatta took place in Christchurch Bay in 2001 and, between 2003 and 2017, six new J-Class yachts have been launched. Ranger, Hanuman (Endeavour II) and Rainbow are replicas of the historic yachts, whilst Lionheart, Topaz and Svea, the last to join the J-Class fleet, were built using original plans that were never used.
Upcoming Yacht Racing Events
These traditional yachts reached a crowning moment in Bermuda last summer. During the 35th America’s Cup, a J-Class Regatta brought together the largest fleet of its type ever seen, with seven of the nine yachts competing in the first race for the recently launched Svea.
The first J-Class World Championship was held in Newport, Rode Island in 2017, where the original J Class yachts competed in the three America’s Cup celebrated between 1930 and 1937, and where Lionheart was the first to gain the title.
Velsheda, Svea and Topaz raced in the St Barths Bucket Regatta in March 2018, in which Svea won her first J-Class title after only one year’s competition experience.
These three yachts will meet again in the upcoming 22nd edition of the Superyacht Cup in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Celebrated from 20th until 23rd June, the Superyacht Cup 2018 promises to be one of the best events of this season.
Follow the top yacht racing team collaborations for this year’s America’s Cup.
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