Often cited as amongst the most beautiful sailing yachts ever built, the extraordinary J Class designs – originally born under the Universal Rule some 100 years ago – have experienced a dramatic renaissance over the the last few years. The restoration of a couple of originals inspired a new generation of owners to investigate this glorious, elegant class and as a result, a modern set of rules – building to traditional designs from the boards of the masters in the 1920s and 1930s – has seen a slew of new launches in recent years.
The Js had their first heyday in the 1930s when tycoons such as Harold S. Vanderbilt, Sir Thomas Lipton and Sir Tom Sopwith fought for America’s Cup glory with lithe and lissom J designs. Their second heyday has been a long time coming – as the fleet numbers have grown, successive superyacht regattas have given a tantalising glimpse of what it would be like to see a large J fleet competing for glory. With the recent launch of Svea, the total number of Js afloat is now nine – and the J Class Association’s (JCA) recent affiliation to the International Maxi Association (IMA) has brought that J-fleet racing prospect a step closer.
Following a J Class regatta in Bermuda this year coinciding with the finals of the 35th America’s Cup, the Js will head to their spiritual home in Newport, RI where – for the first time in their history – they will compete in a J Class World Championship. “As the JCA continues to grow and welcome new launches to the fleet, we are really excited to be holding our first J Class World Championship in Newport this summer,” says Louise Morton, J Class Association secretary. “Hosted by the New York Yacht Club in collaboration with the JCA and the IMA, at least six Js are expected to grace the start line in this inaugural edition. We have long enjoyed a positive racing relationship with IMA members and are delighted now to be a part of its supportive, global community.” Confirmed as already signed up for the World Championship event are Velsheda, Ranger, Lionheart, Svea, Hanuman and Topaz.
It has taken nearly two years to bring the relationship between the JCA and the IMA to fruition, but the move creates a mouth-watering prospect for fans of sailing or just of aesthetic beauty for the years to come. “The New York Yacht Club (NYYC), at Harbour Court, is extremely proud to host this historic International Maxi Association World Championship,” says Philip A. Lotz, commodore of the NYYC. “Nearly three decades ago, the duel between Shamrock and Endeavour on Narragansett Bay captivated the sailing world. We anticipate this event to generate a similar, if not more enthusiastic, response, and we’re excited to play our part.” The J Class World Championship will take place 21-26 August 2017.
Photos by Tim Thomas