A Touch of (J) Class
Sabrina Sully looks forward to a summer of America’s Cup and classic yachts - sailing heaven
unshine never feels better than when mixed with salt spray. This July the international sailing fraternity is gathering on the Solent (the water between the South Coast and the Isle of Wight), arguably the UK’s premiere sailing venue. Kicking off with the annual Panerai British Classic Week (July 18 – 25), which envelopes Cowes Classics Week (July 20 – 24), there’s some elegant boats and some serious sailing, with more than 60 boats entered as we go to press. This leads nicely into the America’s Cup World Series regatta, part of the preliminary race series, the results of which will affect the seeding for the America’s Cup qualifier events that take place in Bermuda during 2017. In-shore testing of the high-speed AC45 foiling catamarans from July 23rd to 26th off the Portsmouth coast makes it a spectator sport, with two ‘preview’ races Friday before the 'races proper' on the Saturday and Sunday, and ‘parades of sail’ on each day. Competing teams include the 34th America’s Cup Defender Oracle Team USA for Golden Gate YC, and 2017 Challengers Swedish-owned Artemis Racing under Iain Percy’s
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management, Team New Zealand, Sir Ben Ainslie’s British Team BAR, SoftBank Team Japan and Team France. (Italians Luna Rossa, who valiently raced in the last America’s Cup have sadly withdrawn). Expect a few of those yachts synonymous with the America’s Cup, the giant J Class yachts, in the parades. Every child’s idea of the perfect yacht, but BIG. There’s news that the J Class will return to race in the America’s Cup in a parallel regatta in 2017, and three J Class yachts, Lionheart, Ranger and Velsheda, fresh from their own regatta in Falmouth, Cornwall at the end of June, will moor in Ocean Village, Southampton, together with another J Class, Rainbow, which has confirmed participation in The Royal Yacht Squadron celebration of its 200 year history with a Bicentenary International Regatta (BICIR), (July 25th to 31st) across the water at Cowes. Expect a record turnout of sail for this milestone. Five days of varying format and multi class racing are scheduled, including J Class races - they will race as a fleet with challenging 2-3 hour courses in and beyond the Solent, depending on conditions. We can watch every tack
and gybe as it happens, thanks to live tracking on each J Class yacht. See jclassyachts.com. Meanwhile the 52 ft yawl Dorade, probably the most famous yacht in the world, owned by Pam Rorke Levy and Matt Brooks, will be racing up from Cornwall for the Bicentenary. They’re in the Transatlantic TR2015 race (run by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club), which set off from Rhode Island at the beginning of July, and once past The Lizard, Cornwall, races on to Cowes, in a Coastal Race. Winning The Transatlantic in 1931 earned the Dorade crew a tickertape parade so it will be a nostalgic trip. In 1929 Sir Thomas Lipton, owner of Lipton’s Tea, issued his fifth challenge to the Americans for the America’s Cup, commissioning the build of the first J Class Yacht and these awesome beauties were born. Dystra Architects have new designs based on the third American J, ‘Yankee’ that they’re hoping to build to sail alongside the seven J Class boats currently sailing. Is this the rennaissance of the J Class? Oh, I hope so.
The Savannah, a recent build based on J Class, but smaller at under 100 ft. PHOTO ©SABRINA SULLY