Hanuman by George Bekris

Hanuman by George Bekris

The majesty of the J Class era will return to the America’s Cup eighty years after the class last raced for the oldest trophy in international sport.

The J Class Association (JCA) and the America’s Cup Event Authority have agreed to stage a J Class regatta in Bermuda in June 2017 between the conclusion of the America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs and the America’s Cup Match.

“The J Class era of the America’s Cup is widely recognized as being among the high points in Cup history,” said Russell Coutts, director of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA).

“When racing for the America’s Cup in the 1930s, the J Class boats embodied grace and power with cutting-edge design and engineering. Having the J Class join us in Bermuda will create a spectacular blend between the old and new.”

The J Class boats will be moored in the America’s Cup Village in Dockyard at Bermuda, providing as elegant a sight at rest as their beauty and power are impressive under sail.

Louise Morton from the J Class Association (JCA), commented: “The America’s Cup organizers have offered the J Class a unique opportunity to be part of the America’s Cup for the first time in eighty years. On behalf of the Owners, Captains and crew, we are delighted to be part of this spectacular event.”

Hanuman (Photo by George Bekris)

Hanuman (Photo by George Bekris)

Racing in the J Class regatta will be organized by the America’s Cup race management team with the final two days of racing expected to straddle the opening weekend of the America’s Cup Match.

The current J Class fleet comprises seven boats, including three original Js, two of which raced for the America’s Cup. The seven J Class boats currently sailing are: Endeavour, Hanuman, Lionheart, Rainbow, Ranger, Shamrock V, Velsheda. An eighth J Class yacht is expected to be launched in May 2015.

J-Class Ranger and Hanuman (Photo by George Bekris)

J-Class Ranger and Hanuman (Photo by George Bekris)

J Class Wednesday Fleet by Barry James Wilson

J Class Wednesday Fleet by Barry James Wilson

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A difficult first day began with strong winds and a fierce outgoing tide facing the four yachts at the start of the Solent regatta.

Ranger (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

Ranger (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

Ranger crossed the start line first, followed extremely closely by Velsheda and Lionheart, with Rainbow a few seconds behind. Lionheart and Rainbow crossed onto the North shore for the long beat into a strong 20 knot SW wind and building sea.

Velsheda , Lionheart and Ranger (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

Velsheda , Lionheart and Ranger (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

Ranger and Velsheda elected to work the Island shore, where the stronger outgoing tide was expected to work in their favour.

At the weather mark, now crowded with spectator boats from all around the Solent, Ranger rounded first, with Lionheart close behind, followed by Rainbow and Velsheda, who had slipped back. Ranger gybed and set onto a symmetrical kite whilst Lionheart split from her with a bearaway set onto an assymetric kite. Ranger then drew ahead, sailing the best angles into the foul tide with the symmetrical.

The gap between the yachts never opened up significantly. Ranger led 100 metres from the finish line and just squeezed across first, despite a very strong finish from Lionheart.

1st Ranger
2nd Lionheart
3rd Rainbow
4th Velsheda

 

J Class Wednesday  (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

J Class Wednesday (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

J-Class by Barry James Wilson

J-Class Solent Regatta (Photo by Barry James Wilson)

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Ranger In UK J-Class Regatta 2012 (Photo courtesy of J-Class Association)

Ranger In UK J-Class Regatta 2012 (Photo courtesy of J-Class Association)

Fog delayed the start of the first race of the UK J Class Regatta series 2012, postponing the 1200 start, positioned one mile south of Pendennis Point, by one hour.

By twelve o clock, the sun was still struggling to break through but visibility had improved enough to get the UK regattas underway. As 1300 approached, the number of spectators on the water grew towards the hundreds. Almost all spectators kindly complied with the race officers’ request to keep the start line clear.

After the ten minute gun, the yachts started circling and manoeuvring for the best starting positions, the atmosphere getting more and more tense as the minutes ticked away. The last few minutes were thrilling for all spectators.

At the start, the boats split into two sections; Lionheart and Ranger at the end of the line, and Rainbow and Velsheda at the port end.

As they accelerated towards the windward mark at Helford River, the support ribs and spectator fleet gamely tried to keep up.

Ranger, who had sailed on the seaward side of the course, managed to pull in front by a few boat lengths and by the time she’d rounded the windward mark had stretched her lead to 200 metres,  along  the short spreader reach, turning downwind and launching her 10,000 sq. Ft. Spinnaker.

Lionheart was next around the mark, but after an early gybe she ran into a spinnaker problem and was forced to drop it on deck and launch another, smaller spinnaker. This proved costly as she slipped to last place further down the leg.

Meanwhile, Velsheda and Rainbow sailed with spinnakers offshore, picking up a fresh wind from the seaward side and by the end of the leg, with freshening wind, closing the distance on Ranger.

After around 2.5 hours of racing in various wind strengths across the bay, the race was shortened, with Ranger crossing the line first, comfortably ahead of Velsheda and Rainbow, with Lionheart some distance behind.

1 – Ranger
2 – Velsheda
3 – Rainbow
4 – Lionheart

Ranger, Winner of the J-Class Regatta Newport 2011

Ranger, Winner of the J-Class Regatta Newport 2011 (Photo by George Bekris)

The last race was held in light northerly breezes, and the Race officer bravely issued a course with a downwind start, passing the crowded spectator fleet off Fort Adams and Castle Hill.

Spectator fleet during last day of J-Class racing (Photo by George Bekris)

Spectator fleet during last day of J-Class racing (Photo by George Bekris)

Both yachts got away cleanly but Velsheda elected the pin end, closer to the next gate and gained a quick advantage. A gybing duel followed, but after a few inside gybes, Ranger caught her spinnaker high in the rigging and it quickly split, loosing them more ground for the recovery.

Ranger looses a spinnaker (Photo by George Bekris)

Ranger looses a spinnaker (Photo by George Bekris)

At the bottom mark Velsheda had gained a 2 minute lead, enough for them to command the windward berth on the long slow upwind leg back to the shortened course finish line, right in front of the many spectators at Castle Hill.

 

Velsheda and Ranger upwind battle (Photo by George Bekris)

Velsheda and Ranger upwind battle (Photo by George Bekris)

 

The exciting tactical race was a fitting end to a great regatta,  where many thousands of spectators were enthralled by these great yachts.  Just a few of the comments included
” It was wonderful to see these boats from a past era”
“we could not believe the size and power of these yachts”
“and the teamwork on these boats is astounding”
“we can’t believe that they were designed and built in the 1930’s

 

Corum  Watches  presented a wonderful perpetual trophy to Ranger, the overall winner, who also won a unique timepiece – a Corum Tide Watch

Trophy being presented to John Williams by Brad Read (Photo by George Bekris)

Perpetual Trophy being presented to John Williams by Brad Read of Sail Newport (Photo by George Bekris)

Challenge and Adventure would like to thank Jock West and David Pittman for coordinating a spectacular event.  Special thanks go out to Brian Rochelle and Vicki Bray for making it happen smoothly.  Nick Innacone we thank you for going above and beyond helping us out.  We look forward to the next J-Class Regatta.

For more images of the action from all five races by George Bekris click HERE

Crew of Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

Crew of Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

Crew of Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)

Crew of Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)

 

 

Crew from Ranger admire trophy (Photo by George Bekris)

Crew from Ranger admire trophy (Photo by George Bekris)

 

J-Class Regatta Perpetual Trophy Unveiling (Photo by George Bekris)

 

Ranger Winner of J-Class Regatta Newport (Photo by George Bekris)

Ranger Winner of J-Class Regatta Newport (Photo by George Bekris)

 

More Images of the J-Class regatta are available on our Photo Gallery Page.

J-Class Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)

J-Class Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)

A simply stunning day of racing was experienced by the thousands of spectators who took to the waters to see Ranger and Velsheda battle in the near perfect conditions of Newport Harbour – 16 knots southerly with sunshine.

J-Class  Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

J-Class Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

The two yachts circled and manouvred for best position to cross the start line , laid across the bay from Fort Adams. Both got away cleanly, but Ranger quickly got the advantage and covered Velsheda most of the way up to the first mark, laid well out into the bay. nly several boat lenghts seperated them along the next four mile power reach with their massive spinnakers driving them at around 16 knots.

J-Class Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

J-Class Velsheda (Photo by George Bekris)

Downwind the yachts had to pass a gate at Fort Adams, where many spectators had lined the shore to see these yachts glide past with more than 16,000 square feet of area in the mainsail and spinnaker. Sailing through the gate, the gap was down to half a boat length. Both gybed simultaneously in true America’s Cup style and trimmed sails for every inch of advantage, continuing alongside each other under the Newport bridge and down to the leeward turning mark.

Ranger and Velsheda in the J-Class Regatta (Photo by George Bekris)

Ranger and Velsheda in the J-Class Regatta (Photo by George Bekris)

Ranger, just managed to turn the leeward island one boatlength ahead, giving them the advantage to hold a cover up to the finish. Ranger, the bgger boay, gives Velsheda a small handicap in these conditions, but won by 27 seconds on corrected time. Ranger now has a 2:0 win with three races to go in the series.

There is plenty more to see this weekend as the J-Classes take to the waters off Newport this weekend for racing.  The racing starts at 1:00 pm Saturday and Sunday off Fort Adams.

For More Images by George Bekris of the J-Class action click HERE

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Velsheda battles to catch Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)

Velsheda battles to catch Ranger (Photo by George Bekris)