Bermuda will host the America’s Cup J-Class Regatta. It will be a unique opportunity to see for the first time in history such a large fleet of these admired jewels. Born in 1929, the J-Class raced three exciting editions of the America’s Cup.
Sailing community had a debt to the J-Class. They were the first America’s Cup boats to compete as a box-rule, based on the new emerged International Rule measurement system. The waterline length, displacement and sail area were the main factors in the ever-complex equation to find the best performances of a racing boat. The evolution of the Bermuda rig and its innovative masts, which began to use duralumin plates, were some of its important contributions, as well as the mythical “Park Avenue” booms.
Sir Thomas Lipton opened the way in 1929 when he presented his fifth challenge to the 1930 America’s Cup with the first ever J-Class Shamrock V. The response of the American defenders was blunt building four boats: Enterprise, Whirlwind, Yankee and Weeatome. In the 1934 edition there were built Sopwith, Rainbow and Endeavour. Velsheda was launched a year before but never considering competing the big regatta. The last two J-Class were Ranger and Endeavour II, racing in 1937 for the Auld Mug.
And then the war…
The war sparked a pause in the America’s Cup until 1958, and also that many of these admirable boats (Enterprise, Whirlwind, Yankee, Weetamoe, Sopwith, Rainbow and Ranger) were scrapped to contribute to the construction of US Navy ships. Steel was a limited material and J-Class’ hull had it. Afterwards Endeavour II was also scrapped in 1968, letting Shamrock V, Velsheda and Endeavour the only original survivors that some years later were restored to regain all their splendour.
In 2000 the magic letter J was reborn when the J-Class Association was created. Rules were established to build replicas of original draws and also a rating to compensate the performances of all boats, both pioneers and replicas.
Once planted the seed, the fleet grows with replicas Ranger, Hanuman and Lionheart (both Endeavour II draws), Rainbow, Topaz (Frank Praine draws), Svea (Tore Holm draws) and Yankee.
The mystery of the J
The letter J is not refereed to Jurassic, even before Flintstones’ age as some ones refers to fans of America’s Cup monohulls.
The International Rule segmented the boats in different groups by their waterline length. Sorted alphabetically, each letter corresponded to a group and the boats with a LWL between 75 and 78 feet belonged to the group J. Hence the origin of its mythical name.
Letter J also will mark a new milestone, as it will be in June when a large fleet of maybe 8 J-Class boats will meet in Bermuda. There, Sailing will pay them the tribute that they deserve, offering a show that even “Facebook victims” will enjoy.
But there will be more opportunities for these legends. Following Bermuda, next stop for J-Class will be the World Championship hosted in Newport, the most famous race area of the America’s Cup.