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j class sailboat ranger

Published on June 26th, 2017 | by Editor

Return of the J Class Yacht

Published on June 26th, 2017 by Editor -->

J Class yachts , which reigned supreme in the 1930s, are making a thrilling comeback, with restorations, new builds and the biggest fleet the class had ever seen at the America’s Cup J Class Regatta . Why wasn’t the event broadcast, people asked. One theory was the fear of higher viewership than the actual America’s Cup.

In this report by Matthew Sheahan , he charts a return to glory for the class.

Only 10 were ever built from just 20 designs and their reign lasted less than a decade. In their day, J Class yachts were the most technically advanced and universally admired yachts in the world. They drew royalty and captains of industry aboard, while regularly pulling big crowds of spectators to vantage points ashore. But the death of a sovereign, who regularly raced one, and the threat of a world war saw them disappear as fast as they had arrived.

Of the 10 that were raced between 1930 and 1937, six were built in America and four in the UK. Three of the British boats survived, but only just, while all the American ones were scrapped.

j class sailboat ranger

Conceived in 1930 as a more affordable alternative to the previous generation of expensive, one-off America’s Cup yachts, now, more than 85 years later, J Class is about to hit a new high. In 2017, seven J Class owners raced their boats in Bermuda – the biggest fleet the class had ever seen ( see photos ).

Of the original examples that still existed, Endeavour was the first to be fully restored back in the 1980s. Velsheda and Shamrock V followed. Since then, all three have been newsworthy sights at some of the most famous yachting venues around the world. From there, fascination with the Js continued, but with no original boats to restore, people started building replicas.

The first was the American yacht Ranger. “When we launched her in 2003 she was the first new-build J Class yacht for 66 years,” says owner John Williams. “I have had a number of large yachts over the years, but owning a J Class is like owning an F1 car, you simply can’t go back.”

The launch of Ranger, combined with Williams’ success on the water, inspired the construction of others, including Hanuman, the modern interpretation of aviation pioneer and yachtsman Thomas Sopwith’s 1936 J Class, Endeavour II.

Indeed, it was the competition between Endeavour II and the original Ranger that rekindled interest in the last J Class battle for the America’s Cup in 1937, when Harold Vanderbilt wiped the floor with Endeavour II in a match that brought down the curtain on prewar J Class activity and the class itself.

Some owners are now even building yachts from original 1930s lines plans that were never actually constructed. Lionheart was the first– one of seven rejected Ranger models from 1936. Svea, which launched earlier in 2017 ( see photos ), is the latest example – based on an original Tore Holm design from 1937, brings the total in the J Class fleet to nine.

Over three decades, J Class fever has taken a hold at a price tag of around $16.5m apiece. They are expensive boats to run too, costing around $1.3m to $2.5m per year for a racing J. The most competitive might even have new sails for each regatta, so with a single genoa priced at around $127,000, campaigning these boats is not for those looking to compete on a modest budget. And herein lies part of the appeal.

A J Class is not simply a type of yacht – it’s a phenomenon and has always attracted the world’s wealthiest individuals. In addition to Sopwith, Vanderbilt, George V and tea magnate Thomas Lipton were among the famous owners on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as satisfying a personal zest for yacht racing, the boats drew attention that often helped develop their global businesses.

Today, many current owners are equally accomplished, whether as captains of industry, technology or the internet, but in contrast to their forebears many prefer anonymity and are discreet about their professional backgrounds. That said, they are just as besotted with what are described as the most beautiful yachts in the world. Such is the legacy of the J that many see their ownership as simply custodial, even if the boats are replicas.

Back in 1984, American writer and businesswoman Elizabeth Meyer kick started the reincarnation of the J Class when she bought the derelict and barely floating hulk of Endeavour. One of the most famous of all the Js, Endeavour is still widely considered to have been Britain’s best chance of winning the America’s Cup in over 160 years. A full restoration programme saw the yacht back afloat in 1989.

“The size and beauty of these boats is a huge draw. It is hard to make a boat look as beautiful as a J does – there is some magic to it,” says Dutch businessman Ronald de Waal. As the owner of Velsheda, he admits to being hooked on the class. “Their history is also an attraction. They all have a big provenance.”

De Waal’s involvement started almost by accident but quickly led to Velsheda’s full restoration from a bare hull and deck. “I had bought a 40m yacht that caught fire during trials, which led to me looking for another boat,” he explains. “Yacht designer Gerard Dykstra found out there was a J Class hull that had been confiscated after the boatyard restoring it ran into financial difficulties. I paid off the shipyard and the bank, bought the hull and set about restoring the boat, and in 1997, she was launched.”

De Waal is the longest-serving J Class owner and remains very active on the racing scene. His enthusiasm and support, along with Dykstra’s design expertise, have been instrumental in the development of the current fleet. Where Meyer was the catalyst, De Waal and Dykstra have created solid foundations for the class. “To own a boat like Velsheda is to own something that is irreplaceable,” says De Waal. “It’s not just about the money, it’s the history and the almost spiritual feeling about the boat and what she stands for. It reminds me of life and living, it’s that strong a connection.”

Dykstra and his design team have been involved in no fewer than six different Js, with another on the drawing board, and remain closely involved with the practical day-to-day aspects of running a J campaign. “When you step aboard a J, you are not just a sailor but a part of yachting history,” says Dykstra. “The sailing is impressive, but it’s impossible not to be affected by the sense of heritage and the part these boats have played. They drew huge crowds in their day, and today’s spectators are equally fascinated.”

While the J Class continues to epitomise all that was grand, elegant and competitive about yacht racing in the 1930s, the reality is that these boats were, and remain, challenging brutes to handle. Not surprisingly, their immense power and complexity attract some of the world’s top professional sailors.

Jeroen de Vos at the Dykstra design office is one of several staff who sail regularly on Js. “Of the 30 or so crew aboard, more than 20 need to be highly experienced sailors,” he says. “You have to work flawlessly as a team because the boats are so powerful that the slightest mistake can result in a serious situation. The level of competition is also extremely high.”

Following the racing in Bermuda, the aim of the fleet is now the 2017 J Class World Championship on August 21-26 in Newport, RI

Sharing the credit for the new wave of Js is designer Andre Hoek who has created five of the modern Js. His work has concentrated on yachts like Lionheart and Topaz, modern builds from original lines.

“The move to aluminum as a construction material has been a big step for the class and one of the key factors in their current appeal,” he says. “Originally the boats were stripped-out racing machines built from steel. Today, owners want full interiors with creature comforts and systems that allow them to cruise the boats as well. A lighter aluminium build means they can have these interiors and still float to their original lines.”

Another key factor has been the clever handicapping system that ensures equitable racing at all the events. The handicap system was originally developed by Dykstra in conjunction with technical experts at the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University, which required detailed performance analysis. Andre Hoek’s team has also spent time assessing the current and future performances of the Js, but for subtly different reasons.

“We conducted a huge amount of research with velocity prediction programs to assess the various performances of the boats, both those that had been built and those that were just designs,” says Hoek. “The result is we now know more about why certain hulls work and others don’t. We can also see which of the original designers were working along the right lines.”

The willingness and enthusiasm of owners to take their elegant yachts to the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda in June 2017 is testament to both the continued pull of the America’s Cup and to the historical significance of the J Class.

“It’s rare for a venue to host more than a few boats, but the Hamilton Princess hotel in the centre of the town provided berthing for all the Js,” says J Class Association secretary and event organiser Louise Morton. “This created an incredible spectacle, right at the heart of the event.”

J Class yachts could not be more different from the modern, lightweight, high-speed, hydrofoiling catamarans that are the current America’s Cup boats.

A J Class has a single 41m hull, a lead keel and over 900sq m of sail. She requires around 30 crew, weighs around 150 tonnes and has a typical maximum speed of 12 knots (14mph). A modern America’s Cup catamaran is 15m long, has two hulls, flies above the water on hydrofoils at speeds approaching 52 knots (60mph) and is powered by an aeroplane-style wing sail. The boat is sailed by just six crew and weighs only 1,320kg.

On the face of it there is no comparison, yet they share the same DNA. Just as current foiling catamarans are defining new limits, the Js of the 1930s represented the leading edge of yacht design and construction, their size and loads pushing at the limits of what was technically possible.

But it wasn’t just the boats and their towering 50m masts and colossal sails that were breaking new ground; systems and technologies developed elsewhere on the boat were also helping to shape the modern era of both racing and cruising yachts. A good example is the development of electronic sailing instrumentation for information on wind strength and direction. First used on Sopwith’s J Class Endeavour II, such instrumentation soon became commonplace.

Even to this day, such technical developments have continued. “In the early 1990s, the winches on these boats were manually powered by the crews winding pedestal grinders,” explains Dykstra. “Now those grinders have been replaced with hydraulically powered winches that allow crews to handle the boats more efficiently. It has changed the game and led to more advanced systems and new sailing techniques.”

So while the enthusiasm for this classic yacht may appear to be driven by nostalgia, the boats are continuing to do exactly what they were originally designed to do – push the boundaries and create the ultimate racing machine. Sometimes history repeats itself in unexpected ways.

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Tags: America's Cup , America's Cup J Class Regatta , J Class , Matthew Sheahan

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j class sailboat ranger


Contractionary policies in response to what was an era of recession globally, leading to reduced aggregate demand and the fundamental cause of the Great Recession were hardly conducive conditions for the building of large race yachts.

It was thought that the J-Class could well sound the death-knell for the America’s Cup as a sporting contest and even the New York Yacht Club members, often insulated to a degree from the worst of the depression, were sailing smaller boats for club racing – most notably those rating to the 12-Metre and K-Class rules.

Against this dire economic backdrop, that incidentally was about to get worse through 1937-1938 before it got better, the Commodore of the Royal London Yacht Club, Richard Fairey, entered a speculative challenge - after surreptitious enquiries had been made - with a design that measured to the lower end waterline length permitted by the Deed of Gift and measure to the 65 feet New York Yacht Club rating rule. Not unreasonably, Fairey argued in a communication to Junius Morgan, Commodore of the NYYC, that: “I feel very strongly that the present J-Class boats are altogether too large and too expensive and that their design has been overshadowed by the necessity of fitting them out with accommodation for the owner and his guests when living aboard.” Further concerns surrounded the safety of the J-Class and whether they were suitable in anything above a Force 3 with particular note around the new duralumin rigs and their seaworthiness. The New York Yacht Club, however, were not in the mood to compromise on their premier competition.

Recognising this unwillingness and the rejection of the Royal London Yacht Club’s challenge, Thomas Sopwith commissioned Camper & Nicholson of Gosport to build what was hoped to be another technical wonder, Endeavour II, that was laid down in February 1936 and launched on 8th June 1936. Its flag was to the Royal Yacht Squadron but at the time of launch, no formal challenge had been proposed as both Charles Earnest Nicholson, the boat’s designer, and Sopwith felt that a long period of working up and crew training would be the key to a successful challenge. That challenge was duly posted to the NYYC by August 1936 for the Endeavour II rating to the 76-foot rating rule as recognised by America’s premier club and seeking for racing to start in July 1937.

Early assessment of Endeavour II was mired by the collapse of two masts, but the Americans were concerned by the seemingly devastating performance of the boat against Endeavour I in light airs, where it was widely assumed that she had a significant advantage over the successful defender of 1934, Rainbow. The New York Yacht Club formed a syndicate again under the command of Harold ‘Mike’ Vanderbilt who duly commissioned Starling Burgess as lead designer but also made the crucial decision to create a design team by bringing onboard the fast-rising star of yacht design in Olin J. Stephens. Burgess’s star had been falling for a while in the eyes of the members of the New York Yacht Club with the view, widely expressed, that the speed deficiencies of Rainbow and Enterprise were only rectified by the brilliance of Vanderbilt, Bliss and Hoyt in the afterguard. Bringing Olin Stephens in was a nod to the future and a check on Starling Burgess.

Tank-testing was nothing new in the America’s Cup, G.L Watson was tank-testing in 1900, but the advance in the way those tests were undertaken, and the data extracted, particularly in terms of heel angle and side force, saw the 1937 design project for Ranger advance yacht design to a whole other scale. Using the Stevens Institute testing tank at Hoboken under the command of Professor Ken Davidson, Stephens and Burgess both drew lines for two models each to be tested. The final design for Ranger has, however, become something of legend with no clear view on whether it was from the hand of Burgess or Stephens as the models were adapted during testing with input from both, but what became evident was that the result was a sensation.

Olin’s brother, Rod Stephens, was brought in for the design of the rig whilst Starling’s brother, Charles Burgess, took charge of the mast design. These were crucial areas as Vanderbilt insisted on using some sails from the Rainbow campaign – in particular an unused mainsail that he had been saving – and much concentration was given to more efficient sail-handling. Meanwhile, the final design for Ranger’s hull profile had the mark of Olin Stephens writ large with a low aft profile and the famous snub-nosed bow whilst Vanderbilt himself had considerable input in the final waterline length of 87 feet having seen a marked improvement in 1936 when he added a 10-ton lead shoe to Rainbow’s keel for the annual New York Yacht Club cruise races.

j class sailboat ranger

The final model that produced the design was number 77-C, one of the first tested, and the Bath Iron Works Boatyard was commissioned for the build, but worsening economic climes caused Ranger to be built at cost using highly efficient construction methods. Filler was almost eliminated in the process with flush riveted steel plating forming the hull and cedar was laid on steel for the decks to reduce both weight and cost. The designers went novel for the rudder creating a negative buoyancy structure with a watertight air compartment and a very low clearance to the hull and Ranger was launched on May 11th, 1937, after a christening ceremony with Mrs Gertrude Lewis Vanderbilt (nee Conway) breaking the customary champagne on the snub bow.

j class sailboat ranger

Just like the problems on Endeavour II, Ranger experienced a mast failure on its tow down from Bristol, Maine in a heavy seaway thus proving the fragility of the duralumin masts as feared and in a race against time, the old 1934 mast of Rainbow was stepped whilst a replacement was re-fabricated. At this time, in May 1937, Endeavour II arrived in Newport under tow having sailed the last 720 miles owing to a significant Atlantic storm – remarkably she arrived unscathed minus some rusting on the spar.

Ranger’s preliminary races against Rainbow and Yankee proved that she was a rocket-ship of sorts. Stiff, fast and devastating on a reach, she won each of the three races and entered the defender trials with the notion that she was ‘unbeatable’ – and by the time her replacement mast was stepped, and the old 1934 sails replaced by modern ones, the trials were to be a one-sided affair. Indeed, in one race against Yankee when Ranger won by a massive margin, she did so at an average speed of some 11 knots and set the fastest recorded time ever over the America’s Cup course. The omens were good for a successful defence and Ranger was appointed without question by the New York Yacht Club committee.

Endeavour II’s work-up that summer was almost solely against Endeavour I in a series of practice sessions that roused both suspicion and derision by the yachting journals in America. Sopwith was obsessed with speed trials and manoeuvres, setting exactly the same sail plan on both boats and then proceeding through a set of drills before long runs on opposite tacks before coming back together and then halting the session. De-briefings were long, and crew-work was honed as the memory of poor sail-handling in 1934 was sought to be avenged. Endeavour II was observed by the Americans as being faster on all points of sail than her much-admired predecessor and on July 1st, 1937, the Royal Yacht Squadron confirmed to the NYYC that Endeavour II would be lining up as challenger for the America’s Cup (there was a thought that Sopwith might try and swap out Endeavour II for Endeavour I but this pure media speculation).

Could she match the pace of Ranger though who had spent that summer on their sail wardrobe and in typical Vanderbilt fashion, sought improvements all over?

j class sailboat ranger

Ranger’s sail inventory that summer was the most remarkable seen on a J-Class to date. The introduction of the enormous 250%, 175% and 135% quadrilateral jibs that were set over over-sized staysails that had been tacked further forward to produce an effective ‘slot’ gave Ranger power unseen before on these boats – and a commensurate beefing up of winches and blocks to cope with the loads was thoroughly worked up through that summer after notable failures in the trials. Vanderbilt was convinced that as much as the waterline length had been a determining factor in 1934, that in 1937 the major gains would be made aloft. Ranger’s mainsail inventory included one from Enterprise of 1930, updated by the City loft of Ratsey’s, a staysail from Vanderbilt’s M-Class ‘Prestige’ and great advances were made both in the spinnaker design, particularly the ballooner, and in how they were handled in manoeuvres. Vanderbilt even mastered a way of gybing with the spinnaker left up that was ultimately outlawed for 1937 but became standard thereafter.

By contrast, Endeavour II’s sail programme had seemingly not advanced from the standard plans of Endeavour I in 1934 and the early loss of two masts in early trials led to caution creeping in on Sopwith’s behalf to push the rig development. It was a fatal error in competitive terms but both boats came to the start of the America’s Cup in 1937 wary of the other and after such a close fight in 1934, the American media assumed that this would be a desperately closely affair once more with some even arguing that a Cup abroad would be good for the future of the sport.

The first race dawned with very light winds on July 31st, 1937, causing the race committee to postpone for 45 minutes to allow the expected breeze to fill in for the planned 30 mile windward / leeward test. Endeavour II got the better of the start, crossing the line ahead by three seconds to leeward of Ranger and able to squeeze up, forcing Vanderbilt to tack away for clear air after 11 minutes.

With clear wind now, and despite Sopwith throwing in a tack to try and cover, Ranger just eased away with Vanderbilt steering loose for speed before coming back to course and after an hour of sailing had left the English challenger almost a mile dead astern. With the breeze freshening, both boats called for a sail change. Vanderbilt was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the 250% quadrilateral in an un-tested wind-range so called for the 175% quadrilateral but the crew, in error, launched the 135% and with Endeavour II swapping from genoa to 175% quadrilateral, for a while the American skipper, although with a healthy lead said that Ranger felt “dead in the water.”

By the top mark, Ranger had clung on and rounded with a lead in excess of six minutes and launched a balloon jib with a light staysail as the wind backed. Sopwith was in gambling territory and sailed high once around the weather mark on the thinking that the incoming breeze with layers of mid-fog would back the breeze further. In short order, the two boats lost sight of each other and as the wind came aft, Ranger launched a light parachute spinnaker formerly seen onboard Yankee and romped home. The margin was astonishing – 17 minutes and 5 seconds – and Endeavour II was in danger of missing the time-limit. Spectators, that numbered some 300 craft of all shapes and sizes, had never seen anything like it in the modern America’s Cup. The early writing was on the wall for the Challenger.

A fresher breeze awaited the yachts for race two with a triangular course set and it was Endeavour II that again made the better start. The practice that Sopwith had executed in the tune up with Endeavour I paid handsomely at close-quarters and a tack beneath Ranger in the dying moments of the pre-start was a textbook move. Ranger, now sitting in backwind dirty air was forced to tack off onto port soon after the start but on the tack back to head out to the left of the course, a top block for the quadrilateral sheeting position exploded and the crew struggled to get optimum trim.

Endeavour II was looking good to maintain her lead and at various points of the first leg she could have easily tacked and crossed, but the race was about to be turned on its head as the English sailed into a light, heading patch of breeze that slowed her dramatically. Ranger came up astern, hit the same pattern and immediately Sopwith tacked in the hope of getting up to speed and crossing the Americans’ bow. Vanderbilt maintained better speed and seeing the English dead in the water, tacked with way under her to leeward and with better crew-work emerged with pace on port tack. Pretty soon Ranger was eking up onto Endeavour II’s line, forcing her to tack off and it was one-way traffic. Ranger extended on the second half of the beat to round 10 minutes 25 seconds up.

With her 250% quadrilateral set – a sail that was nicknamed the ‘Mysterious Montague’ for its inherent cloth being specially developed by DuPont DeNemours Company with rayon and a special coating of aircraft dope – Ranger extended on both reaches of the triangular course. Sopwith had no answer for her waterline speed and superb sail inventory and the winning margin of 18 minutes and 32 seconds was another hammer-blow to the English who simply couldn’t match the super-J creation of Vanderbilt, Burgess and Stephens.

Sopwith called a lay-day to haul Endeavour II out of the water, convinced that she had damaged her centreboard through tangling with a lobster buoy or some other object under the water, so inexplicable was the speed loss on that first beat. “Ranger was pointing much higher, and we could not point any higher than we were. We lost 10 minutes in 5 miles. It is possible we picked up one of those lobster pots,” Sopwith commented afterwards whilst also insisting that some 5,070 pounds of lead were removed from the ballast to improve the light-weather performance. It was time to gamble.

j class sailboat ranger

Race three, always a crucial race in these first to four America’s Cup battles where the pendulum can swing or momentum can be carried forward, was do or die for Sopwith but Vanderbilt, smarting from the Dailies taking issue with his starting prowess was more than up for the fight. The windward / leeward course was set in a steady 10 knots of breeze, and it saw the two magnificent J-Class yachts circling aggressively in the pre-start before heading to opposite ends of the start-line on opposite tacks at the gun. Vanderbilt aced the start at the leeward end on starboard tack whilst Sopwith came across 18 seconds down at the other end on port. Sopwith certainly felt that with the reduced ballast, he had the measure of Ranger in a tacking duel and initiated the play which resulted in Ranger’s winch jamming again forcing the quadrilateral sail to be mis-sheeted halfway up the beat.

The wind Gods of Newport however saved the day for Vanderbilt as she sailed a few degrees off the wind but into a favourable shift, keeping Endeavour II on her stern, that allowed Ranger to tack and sail into a lead of 4 minutes and 13 seconds at the top mark – incidentally the fastest recorded time for a 15 mile beat to windward in America’s Cup history.

A split decision upon rounding the windward mark saw Ranger gybe off immediately whilst Endeavour II bore away onto the port gybe with both boats setting spinnakers as the wind increased to 14 knots. For the next 14 miles the boats converged on opposite gybes with Ranger holding the lead but Endeavour II looking the more likely to maintain a direct line to the finish without the need for the costly manoeuvre of gybing. A wind-shift, just a mile from home however, scuppered any chances and both boats were forced to gybe to make the finish with a shy reach to the line calling for a ballooner to be re-launched on the new gybe on both boats. Ranger held on and crossed with a 4 minute 7 second delta and it was match-point to the Americans.

For what proved to be the final race of the America’s Cup in 1937, and in fact the last time that the regatta would be run for the next 21 years, it failed to live up to its billing and an English fight-back was scuppered when Sopwith went over the start-line early. Aggressive tactics from Vanderbilt in the final circle saw Ranger trapping Endeavour II forward and with nowhere to run, she was forced over and Sopwith had to dial away into a gybe and re-cross, losing a minute and fifteen seconds in the process.

Ranger was now unstoppable, sailing in clear air, and matching Endeavour II tack for tack with no discernible loss of speed in the fresh breeze. Vanderbilt had insisted on setting a flat-cut mainsail from the 1930 wardrobe inventory of Enterprise and it was a masterstroke. By the windward mark she was 4 minutes and 5 seconds up and with her 250% quadrilateral set, she powered to the wing mark and despite Endeavour II shaving 30 seconds on that leg, the two boats were even on the final reach to the finish, and it was a resounding win to the Americans of 3 minutes and 37 seconds.

At the finish line, Vanderbilt handed the wheel to Olin and Rod Stephens to cross in a remarkable gesture of recognition at their efforts in producing what was undoubtedly the finest yacht in the world at the time – and considered even today, as the greatest yacht ever to compete in the America’s Cup. She was a marvel of the age and a testament to American design, astute build in strained financial times and Vanderbilt’s undeniable prowess at taking a boat to its racing limits. In subsequent races that summer, she was untouchable, beating all-comers and stamping her authority on the global yachting scene as the marker by which the era would be judged.

For the English it was another disappointment. It was to be T.O.M. Sopwith’s last hurrah in the America’s Cup but he was proud of his efforts saying: “We have had a series of the most wonderfully close races and I find the greatest difficulty in expressing my gratitude to our crew, amateur and professional, for the wonderful work they have done – they have all worked like slaves. May I say that we are not downhearted.”

The America’s Cup in 1937 was the last of the J-Class in the competition. With a pause for the Second World War, the next regatta in 1958 would see the 12-Metre rule adopted and the graceful lines of some of the most iconic yachts ever created would forever more be for the history books or those with deep pockets in modern times to restore, re-build or recreate those fabulous yachts. Only ten J-Class yachts were built, six in America and four in Great Britain, although several boats of the ‘big class’ of the era were adapted to conform to the J-Class rule. It was truly a ‘golden era’ and one that put the America’s Cup very much at the pinnacle of the yacht racing world. 

GoNautical Decor

Sailing Yacht and Sailboat Models

Classic Yacht Under Sail

1900’s America’s Cup Defender ” Yacht Columbia”

Shamrock V Racing via marsemfim

J Class Lionheart Sailboat Onboard

J Class Yacht “Lionheart”

J Class Wooden Yacht Model Replica “Lionheart” 

 1937 America’s Cup J Yacht Ranger Wooden Sailboat Model 

The J-class yacht Ranger won the 1937 America’s Cup, defeating 4-0 the Endeavour II of Britain, raced at Newport, Rhode Island. It would be the last time huge J-class yachts would race in the America’s Cup.

Vintage Photo Shamrock V off Rhode Island J Yacht,  America’s Cup

1895 Yacht Iverna at Full Sail 

In 1890, Iverna represented a new design of great racing cutter – a handsome yacht with her distinctive fiddle or cutter bow and undercut stern. Commissioned by John Jameson (of the Irish whisky family), designed by Alexander Richardson and built by J G Fay in Southampton, she was 98ft. in length – 118ft. with her bowsprit – with a beam of 18ft. and a sail area of 8157 sq. ft.

J Class Yachts Rainbow and Vesheda Under Sails source

Shamrock V Yacht via jclassyachts

Shamrock was originally owned by Sir Thomas Lipton, the owner of the English grocery chain ‘ LIPTON ’, and famous for his import of Lipton Tea from India.

Shamrock V was built in 1930 for Sir Thomas’s fifth and last America’s Cup challenge. Designed by Nicholson, she was the first British yacht to be built to the new J Class Rule and is the only remaining J to have been built in wood. After launch she was continually upgraded with changes to hull shape and rudder. The rig was also modified to create the most effective racing sail plan but she was no match for the faster US design “Enterprise”.

Sir Thomas made all five of his America’s Cup challenges as a member of Royal Ulster Yacht Club, a club that continues to this day to have a strong involvement with The Cup.

Shamrock V was sold in 1933 to Sir Richard Fairey (Fairey Aviation) who again was a keen yachtsman who campaigned it in company of two new steel J’s built during 1933 – 1934, Velsheda and Endeavour. After World War II, Italian owner Mario Crespi installed the elegant bird’s-eye maple interior.

America’s Cup Shamrock Wooden Sailboat Model

Sails and Rigging Wooden Mast

  1934 J-Class Yacht Rainbow Model 

J Class Yacht Velsheda Model 

Designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1933 for Mr W.L. Stephenson, Owner of Woolworth chain of shops, she was built in 1933 at Gosport. She was Nicholson’s second design for a J Class and Stephenson’s second big yacht.

“Velsheda” was named after Stephenson’s three daughters, Velma, Sheila and Daphne. She raced with the greatest names in classic yachting including “Britannia”, “Endeavour” and “Shamrock” between 1933 and 1936.

In her second season she won more than 40 races and achieved an outstanding record of success at Regatta’s from Southend to Dartmouth. Other venues included Torbay, Swanage and of course the Solent, all under the control of the very famous Captain Mountfield.

The permanent racing crew at that time was probably around 16 men and this would have been augmented to around 30 for racing. When not required for sail changes, spare crew were moved to below decks.

1966 Queen Elizabeth with birthday gift for Prince Andrew age 6. Sailboat was a gift via flickriver

J Class Yacht Velsheda via source

Schooner Atlantic source

On the Deck at the Helm photo by Terry Hilbert

Atlantic Schooner Ship Model 

Commissioned by New York Yacht Club member Wilson Marshall, the Atlantic was launched in 1903. William Gardner, one of America’s foremost designers of large yachts, designed her. From the moment Atlantic went to sea, it was clear that she was an exceptionally fast and beautiful schooner. When a yacht in 1903 hits twenty knots during her sea trials, she is a promising yacht, but even then nobody could imagine two years later this yacht would set a record that would stand unmatched for almost a century.

 Sailing Yacht Atlantic – Photo credit to Kees Stuip

1934 America’s Cup Race Yacht Rainbow source

J Class Yacht Endeavour via jclassyachts

Endeavour was commissioned by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith to challenge for the America’s Cup in 1934. Having prepared his campaign in Shamrock V, Sopwith was keen to ensure that this yacht was the most advanced design possible. With his experience designing aircraft Sopwith applied aviation technology to Endeavour’s rig and winches and spared nothing to make her the finest vessel of her day. From launching in 1934 she continued her preparation by competing against Shamrock V (then owned by Sir Richard Fairey) and the newly launched Velsheda (owned by W.L Stephenson).

The Yacht Magic 

America’s Cup Rainbow Yacht Model 

Yacht Rainbow via yachtworld

Olympic Class Racer Dragon  Model Ship 

 Vanderbilt at helm of RAINBOW, New York Yacht Club Cruise,1934 source mysticseaport

Concours Racing 

Bluenose Schooner source

Bluenose Schooner Model Ship 

Classic Yacht on the Deck

Classic Sailing Yacht

Classic Yacht J Class  Endeavour photo Yoshi Yabe

 America’s Cup Sailboat Endeavour Fully Assembled Model Ship 

j class sailboat ranger


Sailing Schooner Under Sail source

Sailboat Love this Rigging source

Windjammer Schooner Heritage of Main  schoonerheritage

the coast of Maine has been the foundation of the schooner’s design

 Luxury Sailing Yacht SY Huckleberry source

Classic Sailing Yacht source

Yachting World

j class sailboat ranger

A stunning superyacht showdown in Palma

j class sailboat ranger

Superyacht Cup Palma: Fleet of Js set to race

j class sailboat ranger

The purist’s America’s Cup – the story of the seven-strong J Class Regatta in Bermuda

j class sailboat ranger

J Class picture highlights: spectacular images of 7 J Class sailing together at the 35th America’s Cup

j class sailboat ranger

A spectacular day as seven J Class yachts race for the first time ever

j class sailboat ranger

Inside J Class yacht Svea – what it’s really like to race on board the newest member of the fleet

j class sailboat ranger

Svea rules the day and Lionheart wins the J Class Superyacht Regatta in Bermuda

j class sailboat ranger

Brand new J S1 Svea stars in a record J Class racing fleet at America’s Cup

j class sailboat ranger

The J Class brings timeless elegance to the America’s Cup during their first day’s racing in Bermuda


Highlights and amazing images from St Barth as six J Class yachts race each other for the first time

j class sailboat ranger

The new heyday of the J Class – why this illustrious class is now more popular than ever

J class videos.

J Class RYS Bicentenary video

Video – a beautiful film of the J Class racing during the RYS Bicentenary regatta

Video of J Class racing Falmouth 2015

Video: All the J Class action from Falmouth, as Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart put on a show

j class sailboat ranger

Video – the timeless elegance of the J Class. Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart dance on Falmouth waters

The 5 j’s battle it out in palma, 5 j-class race – video.


Videos: J Class Falmouth Regatta

J class pictures.

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Three J Class yachts are racing in Falmouth – see the pictures and highlights from the first race here

J Class

J Class Regatta Solent

J Class Regatta Day 3

J Class Regatta Falmouth Day 3

Velsheda wins second J-Class race in Falmouth fog

J-Class UK regatta Falmouth Race 2

J Class Falmouth Race Day 1

J Class Regatta Falmouth Race 1

J class Practice Day

J Class Regatta Falmouth Training

The J Class has its roots in the oldest international yacht race in the world, the America’s Cup.

j class sailboat ranger

Our Heritage

Considered some of the most beautiful yachts ever built, the story of the J Class is defined by fierce transatlantic competition for the America’s Cup, followed by an era of steep decline, and the modern-day revival.

j class sailboat ranger

The J Class includes a mixture of refitted surviving yachts along with a number of new yachts faithfully built to original hull lines from 1930’s designs, with more yachts currently in build.

j class sailboat ranger

The J Class Association was founded in 2000 to protect the interests of the Class, present and future, and organises an annual calendar of racing for these magnificent yachts.

2024 Calendar

The Superyacht Cup Palma

Palma, Spain

8 - 14 September

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Puerto Cervo, Sardinia

5-11 October

America's Cup J Class Regatta

Barcelona, Spain

We love them because they are sublimely beautiful, utterly impractical and fiendishly demanding.

Elizabeth Meyer

Modern-day saviour of the J Class

j class sailboat ranger

Latest news

J class duo velsheda and hanuman heading to saint barths bucket.

J Class duo Velsheda and Hanuman heading to Saint Barths Bucket

The renowned Saint Barths Bucket superyacht regatta has long been popular with J Class yacht owners and crews, many of whom have enjoyed success at the Caribbean spring showcase event over recent years.

Svea find more joy in Ibiza

Svea find more joy in Ibiza

The well drilled Svea team continued their winning ways when the Swedish flagged recent winners of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup raced against Topaz under the J Class Association rule last week at the third edition of Ibiza JoySail.

j class sailboat ranger

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CPM Model Sailboats

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j class sailboat ranger

1/25 (36") Scale America's Cup high performance model sailboat

5ft Replica of the 1962 Americas Cup 12 Meter

45" Scale Model of the Olympic Star Boat

J Class Boat-Shamrock V

1/16 (8'-10')Scale Replica of the 1930's America's Cup Class Yacht

RMG Sail Winches

High Performance sail control winches

j class sailboat ranger

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2023 J Boat Down the River Race Aug 25th Info CPM is now producing the Shamrock V Original Plug and mold by Dave Brawner and Ranger mold and plug by Gary Mueler

Shamrock V and Range Fiberglass hulls, Rudders, Mast fittings.

Current prices for the Shamrock V are as follows Hull - $625.00 Rudder w/Shoe - $175.00 Ballast (3 Piece) - $200.00

Current prices for the Ranger are as follows

Hull - $700.00 Rudder w/Shoe - $175.00


Fully Built Ready to sail Shamrock V J boat cost estimate.

Shipping is additional

Are you  interested in building a J Boat?

Take a look the Shamrock V Build Web site for all aspects of building a J Boat


Build queue Deposit Policy

To be placed into the CPM Build Queue a min deposit of $100 is required. Due to the custom nature of building fiberglass hulls and components this deposit is NON refundable.

J Boat Video's

J BOAT Photos and Construction

2011 J-Boat National Championships - Mystic, CT

CPM's David Ramos 2013 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

CPM's David Ramos 2014 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

CPM's David Ramos 2016 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

CPM's David Ramos 2018 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

CPM's David Ramos 2020 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

CPM's David Ramos 2022 J-Boat National Champion sailing the Shamrock V

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The new J Class sailing yacht Lionheart

Lionheart was the third new J Class to be launched since Harold S Vanderbilt's successful America's Cup Defender, Ranger , took to the water in 1937. In 2003, a replica of Vanderbilt's Super J Ranger left the Danish Yacht boat yard and immediately began racing, followed six years later by the J Class replica of Endeavour II , renamed Hanuman , leaving the Royal Huisman Shipyard and competing successfully against Ranger just four months after launching. With the launch of the Hoek Design_ Lionheart_ from Claasen Jachtbouw the stakes have been raised again.

The meeting between the replicas of Ranger and Endeavour II was significant when the duo met in 1930s, Ra nger _was victorious, but the more recent _Endeavour II-r eplica, Ha numan, triumphed on the water 90 years later.

For Andre Hoek, a detailed research program focused on testing the various, original J Class designs revealed that Lionheart was one of the best set of designs available for an all-round, high-performance J.

When an existing client came to us for a third yacht, his main interest was a new J Class yacht,' says Hoek. 'He asked us what we would do if we were to build a new J and that led to a proposal to first do a dedicated research project to determine what would possibly be the best performing J Class yacht.

'We proposed to analyse the theoretical performance of all existing J Class lines and to develop a dedicated Velocity Prediction Program specifically geared to J Class hulls with long keels,' the marine architect explains, 'as the existing VPP software is all for round-bilged hulls with fin keels and spade rudders, which are totally different hydrodynamically to a long keel hull with a rudder that forms a flap on a long keel.'

The proposal was accepted and a new Velocity Prediction Program for typical J Class hulls was developed together with Peter van Oossanen (of wing keel and FDHF fame).

Tank test data of a 20 foot long model of the J Class _Rainbow _was used to calibrate the mathematical formula of the VPP program. With this new software, initially all possible Super Js (with a maximum waterline length of 26.51m) were analysed for performance both on line honours and handicap.

The five best-performing hulls from this research were then analysed using computational fluid dynamics software (CFD). The CFD analysis confirmed the VPP findings and the search was narrowed to three hull designs:

One of the eight tank-tested designs commissioned by Vanderbilt from W Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens for the Ranger 77-F project;

Svea , designed by Sweden's Tore Holm in 1938 but never built; and A Frank C Paine design that didn't progress beyond the drawing board.'Of the final three, Lionheart showed the best overall performance,' Hoek reveals. 'The Paine-designed Atlantis is a very good light wind and downwind boat and Svea is the best upwind boat.'

Furthermore, the research proves that the_ Lionheart_ design is faster than the lines chosen for the original Ranger a choice that was not due to flaws in the combined wisdom of Vanderbilt, Burgess and Stephens, but purely that tank testing with models of just under a metre in length is now known to supply inconclusive and misleading data.

Once the optimum design podium was full, the client purchased the intellectual property rights for the Burgess/Stephens Ranger 77-F designs from Sparkman and Stephens and optimisation began on the_ Lionheart_ hull, rig and sail plan. The process started with recreating the 1937 lines to ensure that both port and starboard matched a common error in early, hand-drawn, pre-digital designs.

Continuing research soon showed that the designs with the buoyancy further forward were more effective; wind tunnel testing produced the sail plan geometry, and rudder angle calculations with the new VPP dictated the mast position.

The next phase in the design process was hull strength and construction. While the original J Class yachts were built in steel, the J Class Association (JCA) allows the modern, replica yachts to use aluminium a farsighted decision by the JCA, but one that raises issues of longitudinal stiffness in yachts possessing the enormous overhangs synonymous with the classic J Class profile.

To prevent the characteristic hogging, sagging and alarmingly slack standing rigging associated with an elastic, aluminium hull, Hoek and his team used a 3D finite element model (FEM) to explore load levels throughout the yacht, resulting in an exquisite, internal lattice of aluminium supports to keep Lionheart stiff, and hull panels of multiple thicknesses dependant on specific load stress areas.

While the overall hull design remained faithful to the original, 1930s J Class remit, one aspect of the replica hulls had to change. 'We are allowed to raise the freeboard by 10cm and make a bulwark of an extra 10cm above the level of the deck,' confirms Hoek. 'These are the only two changes you are allowed to make to the original lines.'

The reason the JCA introduced the rule change is simple: 'It has everything to do with the fact that the boats were never built to be equipped with vast interiors, generators, powered winches, galleys and electronics,' Hoek explains. 'There were hardly any interiors in these boats and they were purely built for racing.'

However, J Class purists who fear that the sanctity of the original class rule has been compromised with modern tampering should realise that the truth is somewhat different.

'Most people think that a J Class has an extremely low freeboard with long overhangs,' continues Hoek. 'Especially when you look at the original, surviving boats Ve lsheda, Shamrock V _and _Endeavour.'

In reality, the modern equipment on Velsheda and _Endeavour _has sunk both yachts by around 30cm below their 1930s waterline.

'None of the surviving Js fit the original Universal Rule now,' he adds.

The Universal Rule ensured that waterline length was no longer than 87 feet (26.51m). 'In some of them, the waterline length is now about 95 feet as they are so much lower in the water,' states Hoek.

Historically, the 26.51m waterline achieved by the Super J yachts was a fundamental advantage an area researched heavily by Vanderbilt.

'In 1936, they did a test with Rainbow and ballasted her down to precisely 26.51m,' recalls Hoek. Sinking the yacht below her natural 24.99m waterline delivered immediate results.

'She was faster than she was before due to the improved righting moment, but still did well in light airs,' he adds. 'The conclusion that a Rainbow -type boat at 26.51m waterline length would be high performance led to all the subsequent Ranger designs.'

The implications of this issue are twofold in terms of performance and aesthetics, for although modern photographs of the surviving yachts suggest that reduced freeboard is more in keeping with tradition, the replica Js with their stretched overall length in the overhangs to compensate for the increased freeboard, share an identical design DNA.

'So, technically, the freeboard of the new boats is higher,' explains Hoek, 'but they are actually closer to the original.'

Lionheart's immaculate hull has been built at the Bloemsma yard, a key player in the current J Class revival, which has also been responsible for the hulls of Atlantis and Rainbow . Lionheart's fitting out was done at Claasen Jachtbouw with a team of 20 craftsmen and specialist contractors working with extraordinary co-ordination in the yacht's slender hull.

Deeper into the boat at the turn of the bilge in an area that charter guests are unlikely to visit the engine room is a masterpiece of space management. Despite the sheer volume of engineering squeezed into such a confined space, it is possible to stand upright and move around without skinning elbows or slipping discs.

And while Claasen Jachtbouw is famous for its exquisite joinery work and attention to detail, technical installations are to very high quality levels as well. MCM from Newport, USA, acted as the owner's representative a team of specialists that have added considerable experience to the build team. Their vast technical and big boat racing experience has also contributed to the end result on board.

For Victor Weerens, the yacht's project manager at Claasen Jachtbouw, Lionheart has been an exceptional experience.

'It has been a great project for us with many challenges,' he admits. 'But the team here and our sub-contractors have met all the demands of building a modern J.'

After launching she was taken up river to Zaandam for the stepping of the clear-coat carbon mast and boom from Hall Spars with Future Fibres PBO rigging.

Bugsy Gedlek; Claasen Jachtbuow; Freddie Bloemsma Aluminiumbuow; and courtesy of Hoek Design

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  10. About

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    The J Class Association was founded in 2000 to protect the interests of the Class, present and future, and organises an annual calendar of racing for these magnificent yachts. 2024 Calendar. 19-22 June. The Superyacht Cup Palma. Palma, Spain. 8 - 14 September. Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Puerto Cervo, Sardinia.

  21. J Boat

    2023 J Boat Down the River Race Aug 25th Info. CPM is now producing the Shamrock V. Original Plug and mold by Dave Brawner and. Ranger mold and plug by Gary Mueler. Shamrock V and Range Fiberglass hulls, Rudders, Mast fittings. Current prices for the Shamrock V are as follows. Hull - $625.00. Rudder w/Shoe - $175.00.

  22. The new J Class sailing yacht Lionheart

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