In the long and storied history of the J Class, Newport Rhode Island is a very special place.
It was when the event moved from New York City to Narrangansett Bay for the 1930 regatta that the America’s Cup was first raced for the very first time in J Class yachts. The Vanderbilt syndicate’s Enterprise prevailed against Shamrock V. Harold S Vanderbilt won again in the colours of the New York Yacht Club on Rainbow in 1934 and then once more in 1937, winning 4-0 on the mighty Ranger.
Those three America’s Cups in Newport reflected the J Class in its pomp before it was superseded in 1958 by the 12 Metre which raced eight subsequent editions off Newport.
An exciting new chapter in the history of the J Class and its colourful association with Newport and with the passionate hosts and organisers, the New York Yacht Club, will be written over coming days when a record fleet of six J Class yachts will compete for the very first J Class World Championship.
The class’ recent incorporation as a member group of the International Maxi Class Association allows the J Class yachts to compete for the World title – as ratified by World Sailing – for the first time ever. The chance to bring a J Class race crew to Newport to challenge for the inaugural world title has proven simply irresistible to the active, competitive minded J Class owners. Indeed for several teams this championship has been the absolute pinnacle event they have been working towards since it was announced in 2014.
Six shooting for title
Crews of the six yachts – Velsheda (1933), Ranger (2003), Hanuman (2009), Lionheart (2010), Topaz (2015) and Svea (2017) – have been training on the Bay over recent days, building up to Monday’s official Practice Race before racing starts Tuesday. A flexible programme of five days of racing – three of windward-leeward contests, usually two per day, and two days of Navigator Races, middle distance coastal races using a variety of fixed navigation marks – should prove a fitting challenge. Forecasters suggest normal sea breeze conditions for the opening days, some stronger winds midweek tapering to lighter airs for the final races. The choice of racing format for each day will be decided the previous evening.
All of the competing yachts raced in June’s America’s Cup J Class Regatta in Bermuda where Lionheart only clinched the overall win on the last run of the final race and Velsheda finished second. And Hanuman, which is steered by Newport’s Ken Read, will be looking for a world championship win as a salve to memories of losing out to Lionheart in Bermuda.