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Home SPORTS In the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, J-Class Yachts are back

In the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, J-Class Yachts are back

Falling off the deck of a giant J-Class yacht isn’t an everyday thing, but there’s enough risk that every competing J has a chase boat to rescue falling sailors. Imagine handling huge sails on a sloping, narrow, sloping deck without the protective lifeline fences that are standard on other ships.

There are no lifelines on the J Class ships because they would interfere with the tacking of the huge forward sails, the jibs. And then there is a century of tradition: those lines would compromise the classic look of the boat.

Around 50 boats are competing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup starting Monday in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, including four J-class yachts. While many of the boats will be between 60 and 80 feet long, the Js are over 100 feet , with masts much taller than that. They tower majestically over other ships.

“The Js are as elegantly shaped as you can imagine, and in their sheer scale they project a sense of grandeur that no other boat can match,” said John Kostecki, Olympic medalist and America’s Cup winner. “The first time you see them in the water, they take your breath away.”

J-Class yachts had their own era in America’s Cup history. They were built to specifications established at the turn of the last century and were chosen three times for America’s Cup matches between the United States and Great Britain between 1930 and 1937.

The original J’s were quirky throwaways, intended solely for racing. None remained seaworthy during World War II, what was not recovered as war material was simply abandoned. The original J-Class yachts were never intended for casual weekend sailing, and had outlived their purpose for competition.

Since then, the J-Class designs have been resurrected by a few owners who can afford to enjoy its beauty and romance. Now there are seven in the world.

One that competes in Sardinia is Velsheda, which was built in 1933 and abandoned in the mud in 1937. It was salvaged in 1984 and is now owned and run by Dutch businessman Ronald de Waal. It looks 1933-fresh after an extensive renovation.

The other Js races on Monday are replicas of boats either discarded or long designed but never built, and now built to modern standards and with modern features, like the 135-foot boat. Ranger. Harold Vanderbilt defended the America’s Cup in the original Ranger in 1937.

The Ranger replica will be led by 2007 America’s Cup winner Ed Baird, with Kostecki as tactician.

svea other topaz They are also replicas. Svea had been designed but not built in 1937, intended for a Swedish America’s Cup challenge that was canceled due to the war. It was launched in 2017, and its main winches, to control the huge sails, are customized for different maneuvers at different speed speeds computer controlled and hydraulically actuated.

At 143 feet long and with a 176 foot carbon mast, Svea is the J.

Topaz, a 1935 design, was built in 2015 and will be run in Sardinia by Peter Holmberg, Olympic medalist and America’s Cup winner.

In replica construction, there is no forgiveness in underwater design. However, commitments are allowed elsewhere. One such compromise is the glittery house that towers over the deck of the Ranger. The Vanderbilt Ranger did not have a shade house, but the new house is a comfortable place for owner and guests when the boat is not racing. During the races, Kostecki said the structure was a visual obstacle for Baird.

Different lengths and weights also produce differences in performance. New boats are faster than old ones, in part due to the ability of modern materials and engineering to take more stress on the forestay, which joins the top of the mast to the front of the boat, to prevent the candles warp.

Tom Dodson from New Zealand, sailmaker and tactician at Velsheda, said: “The new boats could carry 36 tonnes of cargo on the stay. Velsheda, at 89, can handle at most 22 tonnes before the ship starts to twist and flex, but that’s still a lot of cars hanging off her mast.”

A time correction formula used in racing allows boats launched decades apart to compete fairly.

“Some factors can be calculated and some can’t, but the ships are so big and so heavy that they move through the water at almost the same speed. The latest correction system seems to be working. Velsheda wins races. Topaz and Svea won races in July in Palma,” said Dodson, referring to the Superyacht Cup in Spain.

Steering these ships is not stress free. Given their outdated tonnage and configuration, the long keel in particular, the J’s don’t turn a dime.

“These are by far the most difficult of all ships to steer accurately,” said Dodson. “When I have to intervene [at the helm]maybe while Ron is cleaning his sunglasses, my heart rate goes up. Along with the responsibility for everyone’s safety, at the end of the day, if it is a job well done, it is a great satisfaction, it deserves respect”.

Francesco de Angelis has skippered the America’s Cup for Italy and has sailed many of the J-Class yachts now in service.

“I started with Endeavor, the first of the original three Js to be restored,” he said. “I was curious because the class was a milestone in sailing.”

As a tactician now for Topaz, de Angelis said: “Because the boats are not very manoeuvrable, timing and distance to the starting line requires you to commit to your approach with three minutes remaining on the countdown to start. .

“On the pitch, you can’t afford to do a lot of maneuvering, so you have to choose well and execute well.” Once committed to a tack, “there is no turning back.”


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