Story of the J-Class Yachts:



The J-Class was adopted for America's Cup competition in 1928, looking forward to the next regatta in 1930.  The Class itself, though, dated back to the turn of the century when the Universal Rule was adopted though no J-Class yachts had yet been built.

The Rule used a yacht's various dimensions to calculate an equivalent rating in feet.  Boats of equal rated lengths could then race against each other directly without making other allowances for time or distance sailed.  Even though one yacht might have a longer length or another yacht a larger sail area, their overall configurations had to produce a rated length that met the Universal Rule for that class. Boats in Class J, more commonly today termed J-Class yachts, were the largest constructed under the Universal Rule.  The Rule actually includes provisions for an even larger type of boat, the I Class, though none were ever built.  Inquiries made in the 1930s for a Defense in the smaller K Class were rejected.

The J-Class were the first yachts in an America's Cup match to be governed by a formal design rule.  Previous defenders and challengers were only restricted by minimum and maximum lengths set forth in the Deed of Gift.  Sir Thomas Lipton, challenging in 1930 for the fifth time, had held earlier discussions with the New York Yacht Club in hopes of adopting the Universal Rule for the previous America's Cup match, intended for 1914 but delayed until 1920.  Though an agreement to use the rule was not reached for that match, the 1914 US boats, Vanitie and Resolute, still roughly followed J-Class parameters.

Building Program:

There were only 10 J-class yachts designed and built.  Additionally, several yachts of closely related dimensions, mostly 23-Meter International Rule boats, were converted after their construction to meet the rating rules of the J-Class. 

Only the purpose-built Cup yachts, though, could compete in the America's Cup.  The "converted" J-Class yachts, while acceptable for Class racing events, were not admissible for America's Cup competition.  Responding to issues that surfaced in earlier defenses, the America's Cup rules required that all boats had to be sailed to the event on their own bottom.  Some critics pointed out the possibility that the challenger might, as a result, be disadvantaged by  being of heavier construction than the defender.  In order to avoid a situation that could be perceived as an undue advantage, the NYYC eventually agreed that all America's Cup J-Class yachts would be built to Lloyds A1 standards, ensuring that defender and challenger met the same minimum construction specifications (the nautical term is "scantlings").  Most existing yachts were not built to such standards, so the Cup-eligible boats thus ended up heavier than the ineligible J's.

(The issue of challengers having to build heavier boats due to the ocean crossing was a popular, if uncertain, explanation in the British press for the long string of American victories.  In practice, a number of challengers added internal bracing for the crossing, which was then removed before racing.  And on a few occasions defenders subsequently made the crossing in reverse in search of competition following their successful defense.  The rule requiring that the challenger sail to the event on her own bottom was actually instituted in response to a super-lightweight challenger towed to the match through canals and rivers from Canada.

The J-Class Yachts

.  Mahogany planking over steel frames.  Pine deck.  Spruce original mast replaced with duralumin.  Led J's with double-headsail rig. Electric wind-speed devices. Sold to Pynchon. Whirlwind Syndicate: Landon Thorne, Alfred Loomis, Paul Hammond. Longest J-Class until 1937. Scrapped at City Island, 1935.
and winning by 17 hours.  Raced in England, took eight first-place finishes in 32 races.  Defense Trials, 1937, tested single-headed rig, mast step moved forward, lowered center of ballast, larger mainsail.  Sold for scrap by Lambert (reportedly for $10,000) in April, 1941, Fall River, MA, with proceeds donated to war effort. Tender:
also raced in the off-years between defenses.  1930 Tender: .
and (same No. 1 main was used on all three); Vanderbilt's 3 J's all used the tender , which also served the 12M defender candidate in 1958, and challengers (1962) and (1967);  Launched May 11, 1937;  Bath Iron Works Hull # 172; built at cost; funded solely by Vanderbilt; named for US frigate commanded by John Paul Jones; largest displacement J-Class; Hauled at end of 1937 and never sailed again.  Sold for scrap May, 1941, bringing $12,000.
(spelling uncertain but roughly "Four Leaf" in Italian as a play on her original name); ketch-rigged?; Appeared in movie "Swept Away"; Rebuilt at C&N 1967-70; Sold to Lipton Tea Co. 1986, donated to Newport Museum of Yachting; Restored under Elizabeth Meyer 1989, rig, bulwarks, deckhouse rebuilt to original; sold to Newport Yacht Restoration School 1995; sold to Newport Shamrock V Corp 1998; refit 2000 at Pendennis, under Gerard Dykstra; sold to Marcos de Maraes, Brazil. Lipton had a 23M yacht also named , sometimes confused with his America's Cup boats.  The 23M was broken up in 1933.

's keel;  Ends modified 1935;  Name combines Stephenson's daughters Velma, Daphne, and Sheila; (laid up 25 years?); Restored Terry Brabant 1983, maintaining very original condition; Sailed as charter;  Sold to Swiss owner, refit stalled for lack of funds;  Laid up Gosport; Sold in 1996, major refit 1996-7 at Southampton Yacht Services under Gerard Dykstra, interior, CF rig, sails, modernized, but less authentic; Current owner Ronald de Waal.  
lost to in 1914 trials (defense postponed) and 1920 trials, losing 7-4 in final 1920 selection series. Owned by Alexander Smith Cochran.  Not designed as a J, but altered after construction to rate as a J; not acceptable for AC as a J-Class yacht because lightweight, not Lloyd's A1. Sold to Gerard Lambert, 1928. Trial horse 1930 and 1934 America's Cup defender trials. Laid-up at Herreshoff Mfg. and scrapped there in 1938.



by Nicholson for Italian Owner; restored 1989.
in fleet racing on the Clyde, 1894; Built for HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales; Sold to private owners, 1897;  Bought back in 1902, after the Prince had acceded to the throne as Edward VII; Passed to his son George V after Edward's death in 1910; Rated after construction as 23M; not designed as a J, but altered in 1931, converted to "Marconi" rig, sail area 8,700 sf, triple-headed, and rated as a J; modified to double-headed-rig and Park Avenue boom in 1935; Scuttled off the Isle of Wight by Edward VIII, July 9, 1936, as per wishes of his father, George V, who did not wish to see the yacht live on to a life of decline once he was gone.


Conceived at the height of the affluent 1920's, the J-boats arrived during the Great Depression.  They required enormous crews, and, despite expert attention to their technical details, still broke an astonishing number of masts.  While they were in most regards the most advanced sailing yachts yet built, and they were  indeed powerful sailing thoroughbreds formed in sleek lines that can race the pulse of almost every viewer, the glorious J's proved too extravagant for their own good.  Most had very limited sailing careers outside of America's Cup.  Ranger , whose 1937 cost was upwards of $500,000, was laid-up at the end of her debut season and never sailed again.  All of the American J's were scrapped between 1935 and 1941. Most of the British J's were either abandoned or scrapped.

When NYYC sought to revive the America's Cup in the 1950s, there was a faction that favored returning to the J-Class.  Mike Vanderbilt even stated that not only would he like to see the Cup contested in the large boats, but that if so he would consider rebuilding a new Range r to the design of the original.  Still, another faction hoped for smaller dual-use yachts that could be used in offshore racing when the Cup year was ended.  With cost estimates for a 1958-era J starting around three million dollars, the impulse for a J-Class defense faded away in the face of economic pressures and a compromise was reached to sail the America's Cup in International Rule 12-Meters.

  , the 1930 Challenger, and , the 1934 Challenger.  , distinguished by being the only yacht built as a J-class though not intended for America's Cup, is intact and sailing, too.  Of at least seven other boats that were rated as J's, two remain: , and .  was originally a 23-Meter International Rule yacht, but later altered to rate as a J. The surviving boats have all had extensive restoration and re-building. was rescued from near oblivion, too delicate to move without structural reconstruction.

The J-Class Resurgent

J-Class rigs today are no longer built of wood or dur-alumin, but with modern lightweight composites.  Their sail technology is long past being canvas duck, and many other subtle changes have been made to make the ongoing maintenance and operation of these yachts a realistic proposition.  Still, the J-Class owners have gone to great lengths to insure the integrity of the boats.  The J-Class is self-administered, rather than governed by an outside organization as is the case with almost all other classes.  This allows the members to more easily adapt the rules in order to serve the needs of these uniquely historic yachts.

Most of the surviving J's are available for charter.  Cambria was reportedly for sale in 2000.  Endeavour changed hands in 2006 for a reported $13.1 million USD, though as her former owner Dennis Kozlowski said, "No one truly owns Endeavour .  She's a part of yachting history.''

Recreations, Replicas, and a Tender:

For decades, most yachting fans thought that we would never again see the likes of these boats again, the few survivors would sooner or later fade away, and the whole history would be reserved for books and fading photographs, but following the restoration of the surviving hulls rumors grew throughout the late 1990's and early 2000's about building "new" J's.  In 2001, all of this dock talk began to become reality:

Ranger Wooden Boat magazine, March/April 2001, described a "Dutchman" who had commissioned a new Ranger built to the original's plan.  This incredible rumor came true, and a piece of lost sailing history was brought back to life.  The new version of this "Superboat", as Mike Vanderbilt once called her, was officially launched in October, 2003. 

Designed by Studio Scanu and Reichel-Pugh, and built by Danish Yachts, Skagen, Denmark, she is not an exact replica of the original. Some would term her a re-interpretation, as a number of changes were made including greater freeboard, and Ranger 's original designers did not participate in the project.  The new Ranger first competed head-to-head against other J's in Antigua, Spring, 2004.  It took some additional adjustment after launch by her owners and designers to seek the proper trim that would make her float on her lines, an essential step in the process of being officially rated a J-Class yacht.  Visit the Ranger Website for more info.  J-Class Management is also at work on a restoration of Bystander, tender to the original Ranger .

Endeavour II An Endeavour II replica is being built at Royal Huisman Shipyard, with a planned 2008 launch date.  Gerard Dykstra and Partners is leading the project, which features a lightweight Alustar (aluminum alloy) hull and carbon-fiber mast.  See additional photo at Yachtspotter


Lionheart Based on an unbuilt alternate design by Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens II that was considered for 1937's America's Cup defender Ranger , this new boat is being built at yards in the Netherlands for an expected 2008 launch.  Lionheart will be the longest J-Class yacht when completed. See more including photos of the completed hull at the Lionheart Website and the story of sailing onboard including photos and videos Cruising J-Class Style Aboard Lionheart at Yachting World Designer:  Hoek Design Builders: Bloemsma Aluminiumbouw and Claasen Jachtbouw BV

Svea Tore Holm's unbuilt 1937 design, said by some to be faster in the test tank than any of the original boats, is being pursued by Hoek Design

Name To Be Announced In late March 2008, reports of another replica about to begin construction appeared on the Classic Boat website .  Whether this is one of the known projects, such as Svea , above, or yet another replica about to become reality, such as Rainbow , below, should become known shortly.

Rainbow In late May, 2008, Dykstra and Partners announced that a new build of the 1934 America's Cup Defender Rainbow was underway, with an expected launch date of 2010.  Read the Press Release

Other projects: Hoek Design is also studying replicas of 1930's Enterprise and another boat from Yankee designer Frank Paine.  Yankee herself has also been rumored as a new project, as well.  Earlier reports of a Ranger alternate-design carrying the name of Seawolf may have been referring to the project that has become Lionheart , see above.  Whirlwind and Weetamoe are the only two designs of the original ten J's that aren't known to be sailing, building, or under serious consideration as of 2008.  The J-Class website points out that there are 10 unbuilt J designs from the 1930's, so the possibilities for more J-Class yachts are intriguing.

Yachting World reported in May, 2003 , that construction was underway on a yacht replicating the famous G.L Watson design Britannia .  Photos showed a nearly completed hull at Solombala Shipyard, in Arkhangel, Russia, and included interviews with the yacht's owner Sigurd Coates of Norway.  The design was adapted by Cesil Stephansen from published plans.  The original designer's modern descendent company, G.L.Watson & Co., Ltd., has no involvement with the Arkhangel boat.  Little was been heard of this ambitious project for years, until the yacht was finally launched only to become subject of a financial dispute, trapping her in Russia until 2009, when she "escaped" to Norway. 

In the Spirit

A similar project to return elegant yachts to competitive racing, the W-class, was set in motion by Donald Tofias, an American enthusiast.  He commissioned naval architect Joel White to design a new class with lines evocative of famous racing yachts like the New York 50's and the J-Class.  The first two boats, Wild Horses and White Wings , were built in Maine of modern cold-molded wood construction and launched in 1998.  It is Tofias' aim that there will eventually be a whole fleet of the beautiful W-class to regularly compete against each other.  The one-design W-76 is actually similar to the New York 50's.  Tofias' long-range plans involve a range of classes including 46, 62, 76, 105, and 130.  The 130's would be nearly identical in basic dimensions to the J-class. See the W-Class Websit e .  

Additional Links: Chris Cameron onboard Ranger at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, 2010: Photo Gallery

Web Sites of Particular Interest: The J-Class Association J-Class Management, Inc.  

Further Notes:

K-Class: The Royal London Yacht Club made and withdrew its inquiry for a K-Class challenge in 1935.  The intent had been to reduce costs, not the least of which was hoped to be a lower velocity of mast replacement, but the K-Class line of thought was rejected for several reasons.  For one, the K-Class wasn't so much smaller than the J-Class as to have clearly led to significant savings.  Additionally, no K-Class yachts existed on either side of the Atlantic while several J's of various pedigree were available for testing, training, and racing in 1935.  Also a factor was that the NYYC was already actively considering another challenge at the time the RLYC began their communication  about the K-Class and it was the NYYC's policy to consider only one challenge at a time, in keeping with the Deed of Gift.

Sailing to the Event on Own Bottom: This provision of the Deed of Gift was at times strictly interpreted to the the degree of making sure that the challenging yacht actually was under her own sail while traveling to the match, not towed by another boat.  Challengers returning across the Atlantic after Cup matches concluded were sometimes towed for convenience. Eventually the NYYC agreed at various times to permit towing the yachts to the match, particularly when conditions were light, and in 1956, for the coming of the 12-meter yachts in 1958, the Deed of Gift was amended to eliminate the requirement.

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Before the J Class yachts came into existence, yachts were designed to be bigger and bigger. The towering rigs of the Big Boat Class such as ‘ Lulworth ’ and ‘ Britannia ’ dwarfed all other yachts. The late 1920s heralded discussion and agreement of the Universal Rule. This new formula controlled the size and displacement of the new yachts, enabling them to be raced as evenly as possible. Almost immediately, designs were being commissioned for the new, massive ‘Bermudan rigs, with no bowsprits’.

The rule was based on ideas proposed by Nat Herreshoff allowing waterline length to be increased without sail area being restricted, as it had been under the International Rule. This was compensated by a larger displacement and so draught was limited to 15ft.

In 1929 Sir Thomas Lipton, owner of Lipton’s famous for his import of Lipton Tea from India, issued his fifth challenge to the Americans for the America’s Cup. He commissioned the build of the first J Class Yacht which signified the start of a new era in design evolution and racing. On each occasion he challenged for the America’s Cup as a member of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Northern Ireland.  RUYC  are still involved with The Cup – presenting the Royal Ulster Cup to the Club of the winning challenger.

The Universal Rule came into effect in 1930. The size of a yacht was determined (by waterline length) and this was shown as an alphabetical list. “J” signified yachts with a waterline length of between 75 to 87 feet. The addition of the new design Bermuda mast allowed the yachts to carry a huge sail plan. Nothing so large and ‘awesome’ had been built previously. The Americans had a distinct advantage over Britain in the 1930 America’s Cup. They had the money to build four J’s over Britain’s one, yet the British yacht, Shamrock V  was a hot contender. She was designed by Nicholson and built at the family yard in 1930, and before she crossed the Atlantic to attend the Cup she had notched up more than 700 sea miles (1,296km), won 15 out of the 22 races she had entered and had been tweaked and tested to a high degree.

In answer to Lipton’s challenge of 1929 the Americans designed four J-Class yachts as possible defenders. Enterprise, Whirlwind, Yankee and Weetamoe were launched within a month of each other; Weetamoe and Enterprise from the Herreshoff yard and Yankee and Whirlwind from Lawley & Son’s yard in Bristol.

Whirlwind, the second J, was the most revolutionary of the four. Francis L Herreshoff had moved away from conventional yachts and designed a boat, which took the new rule to its extreme. Whirlwind combined many new ideas and Herreshoff experimented with hull shape and rig. She was the longest of the early J’s at 86ft on the waterline and remained so until Ranger and Endeavour II were built in 1937.

J Class

She was built of semi-composite construction (the other three American Js were built out of the highly expensive Tobin bronze), was double-ended and had a permanent backstay. Uffa Fox described her profile as: “Very pleasing to the eye, the stem sweeping down to the keel in a very sweet line, and to a man who, like myself, believes that a pointed stern is a logical ending for all vessels, her stern is a joy to behold.” He predicted, “If the Yacht Racing Rules govern well and wisely, we shall see Whirlwind racing 50 years hence. If they do not she will probably be cruising then.” But Whirlwind met an early demise. Her building was delayed as she didn’t meet Lloyd’s A1 scantling rules and she wasn’t chosen to be the 1930s defender. She was often out-performed when close hauled, her steering gear making her difficult to steer. She was eventually scrapped along with Enterprise in 1935. However, her unusual double-headsail rig was later adopted by the rest of the Js.

The third American J, Yankee, was the best all-rounder. At 84ft on the waterline and 125ft length overall, she was solidly made of Tobin bronze and was extremely well balanced. Designed by Frank Paine , Yankee had an almost straight sheerline and easy lines. She was a powerful contender for defender, but not fine-tuned enough to succeed. She did, however, take part in the 1934 America’s Cup trials and with alterations to her rig, to carry more sail, and bow, which was lengthened and made more of a V-shape, she then proved more successful, especially in light winds.

The fourth of the American J’s was Weetamoe, which was designed by Clinton Crane and was the narrowest of the early four. Despite claims that Yankee was the best all-rounder, Weetamoe is said to have been the closest rival to Enterprise to be the Cup defender. Charles Nedwick, in Ian Dear’s book Enterprise to Endeavour, describes Weetamoe as having a profile “that is practically a triangle, with a straight line from the after end of the waterline to the bottom of the keel and thence a line which is slightly convex, and then slightly concave to the forward end of the waterline.” In an attempt to better performance and make her less tender, her profile below the water was radically altered in 1934 with a new contour and bulb keel. The alterations failed and not long afterwards were reversed. In common with the other J’s, she had about 43ft of overhang and her hull, Nicholson opined, “was the best of all the US Js”.

When Shamrock V and Enterprise eventually met off Newport, Rhode Island, later that year, the two J’s were well matched in hull profile, but differed significantly in rig. Enterprise’s rigging was lighter, she had the Park Avenue boom, which was so advantageous to windward, and had lots of winches on board. Shamrock V meanwhile, was under-winched and hard work to sail. She has since, however, proved her success in that she is still sailing today.


The sixth J-Class yacht to be built, and the second built on British soil was Velsheda . She was the only J not built as a contender for the America’s Cup. Her owner, WL Stephenson, who previously owned White Heather II, the 23-Metre converted to rate as a J-Class in 1930, had Velsheda built in steel in 1933 at the Camper & Nicholson yard. Velsheda was a great success. In 1935 she was significantly altered, her bow was snubbed around the waterline and her stern improved. The following season she won the King’s Cup at Cowes Week.

The fleet in 1934

In 1934, Sopwith challenged for the America’s Cup. His challenger was Endeavour . She was Charles Nicholson’s third J-Class design and he said of her “She will have quite a normal hull… because I have thought it right to suppress possible experimental form, which would be most interesting to try out, but which I have to leave to American designers.” He did, however, produce the most beautiful J-Class and her rig was innovative.

Sopwith experimented with new running backstay strain gauges, which controlled the trim of the mast and used electronic windspeed and direction indicators. It has since been suggested that part of the reason for her failure in the Cup was due to all the gadgets on board. She was matched 83ft 3in on the waterline against Rainbow ’s 82ft. However, despite being thought to be the best challenger Britain has ever built, she did not win the Cup. Rainbow, which was considered the inferior boat, beat her by four races to two.

Harold Vanderbilt's original Rainbow

Rainbow was designed by W Starling Burgess and launched in 1934 from the Herreshoff yard where she was built in just 100 days. The J stepped a pear-shaped duralumin mast, designed to take the strain of the double-headed jib – first used on Whirlwind – and she was originally rigged with a Park Avenue boom. This was later removed because it was considered too heavy.

The UK Class was depressed with the death of King George V and scuttling of his yacht “Britannia” off the South of the Isle of Wight, in accordance with his will.

Of the American Js, Yankee was the only one to sail in British waters when she was bought by Gerald Lambert and crossed the Atlantic in 1935. She was scrapped in 1941. Enterprise and Whirlwind were both scrapped in America.

1937 saw the building of the last two J’s on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Ranger and Endeavour II took the waterline length to its extreme, measuring 87ft  LWL . Ranger, the American boat, was built at Bath Ironworks in Maine and designed jointly by W Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens . It was a design combination, which produced the greatest J of the fleet – the ‘super J’ as she was later known. She was built, for the cost of the materials only, of flush riveted steel plating and soon after launching had an accident. The upper parts of her rod rigging which stayed her duralumin mast shook loose and her mast snapped “with a report like a cannon”.

Ranger’s success on the water was widespread. Of 37 starts she won 35. Owner-skipper Harold Vanderbilt described her as being “slower to turn and to pick up speed, but (she) held her way longer, and was perfectly balanced on the wind.” The challenger, Endeavour II, was designed by Nicholson again and built at the C&N yard. She too was steel, but flush-plated above and below the waterline. Sopwith towed her and Endeavour, plus an entourage of 100, to America where he worked on tuning her rig. Sadly, Ranger saw off the competition, easily winning four races, and dashing British hopes.

Although they became recognised the most beautiful yacht design in the world, only 10 J Class yachts were ever built – 6 in the  USA  and 4 in the UK. Most of these competed in trials for the America’s Cup, or competed in the Cup itself. Several existing large British yachts, ‘ Astra ’, ‘ Candida ’, ‘White Heather II’ and ‘Britannia’, the King’s yacht, were all converted to comply with the rule and raced alongside the J’s.

After the victory of Ranger over Endeavour II, Vanderbilt wondered whether the boat was so much faster than the competition that it might kill the class. History would show this was not the case as analysis of the Holm design shows that it would likely have been faster than Ranger.

1937 marked the end of an era – it was the last America’s Cup contest for 21 years and marked the end of Big Yacht racing. Shamrock V was sold to Mario Crespi, the Italian Senator and publisher, who converted her to a ketch rig and renamed her ‘Quadrifoglio’, with a literal translation giving her authentic name of ‘4 leaves’ in Italian. This was in accordance with an Italian law, which forbade foreign names.

Weetamoe was scrapped in this year, while at the end of the season Ranger was laid up, prior to being scrapped in 1941.

J Class


The Skippers had to be experienced in racing and their skill on the race circuit became a matter of pride. These mighty craft had no engines and they had to be handled with great precision to get into and out of ports. Often their experience came from sailing all types of small craft, including fishing boats, during the winter months, when the J Class yachts were laid up. The permanent racing crew in the early days was probably around 16 men thou this may have been augmented to around 30 for racing. When not required for sail changes, spare crew were often moved to below decks.

With the incredible loads on the rigging and systems it was a constant concern that J Class masts could collapse in winds above a Force 3.

Sailing small boats in often inhospitable waters gave them the skills to manage their J Class yachts. The same is true today. Skippers have to deliver their yachts across Oceans, and compete around the race course, using their skills and all the technical advantages that are available today.

It is now clear that there was another J Class Yacht under development in 1937. Several years ago, drawings for a J-Class boat by Swedish naval architect Tore Holm were discovered by Fred Meyer, (Société Nautique de Genève – the Defender of the 32nd America’s Cup).

Now known as the Holm Project, this was to be a Swedish yacht with an innovative design. Many of the hull plates were made – and exist to this day. The project was put on hold prior to the outbreak of War in 1939 and was forgotten for more than 60 years. Endeavour and Endeavour II (K6) were laid up at Camper & Nicholson’s yard in Gosport, England.

Rainbow was scrapped.
By the end of 1941, all the US yachts, which had been laid up were scrapped for their metal, with the last two being Yankee and Ranger. None survived. Yankee’s owner Gerard Lambert allegedly donated her scrap money from the yacht to Queen Mary to be used at her discretion in the London Hospital, in memory of the courtesies shown to Yankee by King George and the Queen herself.

Endeavour II was sold for scrap to Charles Kerridge Limited but her hulk remained until the late 1960s. Endeavour and Velsheda became houseboats in a mud berth on the River Hamble. This is where they stayed for more than 30 years, protected by the mud, which they had sunk into. Only Shamrock V was still sailing.

Endeavour II was broken up and scrapped in Southampton. Quadrifoglio (Shamrock V) had been hidden in Italy in a barn throughout the war years and following Crespi’s death in 1962 was sold to Piero Scanu, who saved her just two weeks before she was due to be broken up in Genoa.


During the 1970s Endeavour’s hulk was sold for £10 and restoration was started.

Quadrifoglio (Shamrock V) arrived from Italy and was refitted at Camper & Nicholson’s yard where she had been built, supervised by Paolo Scanu the naval architect, and son of the owner.

The large holes in Endeavour’s hull were plugged and she was towed to the old seaplane base at Calshot Spit on the Solent to start restoration.

Terry Brabant rescued Velsheda from her Hamble mud berth and gave her enough of a refit to get her chartering and, occasionally, racing again in events like the annual Round the Island Race, hosted by the Island Sailing Club in Cowes. Despite being in rather poor condition she still acquitted herself well and looked magnificent from a distance. Swiss plans to restore her came to nought and the old racing yacht was eventually laid up afloat in Gosport. Elizabeth Meyer took on the challenge to continue with the rebuild of Endeavour at Calshot.

Quadrifoglio (Shamrock V) was purchased in 1986 by the Thomas Lipton Company, and given back her original name of Shamrock V, when she became the property of the Newport Museum of Yachting. Endeavour was towed from Calshot, to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to have her fittings and rigging fitted. She was then taken on a barge to the Royal Huisman Shipyard in Holland to continue and complete the rebuild.

Endeavour was relaunched in Holland. Endeavour and Shamrock V match raced each other over the Old America’s Cup course in Newport, Rhode Island in August.

Velsheda was purchased from a bankrupt C&N boatyard and brought to Southampton Yacht Services to start her rebuild. She was relaunched in 1998 and started her programme of racing and cruising around the World.

Velsheda, Shamrock V and Endeavour raced against each other in Antigua Classic Week.

The Owners met in England and formed the J Class Association to protect the interests of the Class, present and future. Class Rules were established for the construction of Replica Rebuilds from original plans. Shamrock V came out of a major refit at Pendennis in Falmouth under the supervision of the Dykstra office.

Velsheda & Ranger

The first J Class Regatta is held in Christchurch Bay on England’s south coast over three days, followed by the Jubilee Regatta in Cowes.

Ranger replica was commissioned and construction started at Danish Yacht Shipyard.

Ranger was launched and started her racing programme.

Replicas of Endeavour II (Hanuman) and Ranger (Lionheart) are commissioned.

Replicas of Rainbow and Paine design (JH7) are commissioned.

Hanuman, replica of Endeavor II launched.


Lionheart launched.

Lionheart - Superyacht Cup 2011

Rainbow launched. Cheveyo commissioned from Sparkman & Stephens / Spirit Yachts.

Anthony-Morris Rainbow at Antigua Classics

Information courtesy of the J Class Association

j class yacht cost

Svea, Velsheda and Topaz at the St Barths Bucket, 2018.

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Built by the Dutch Masters at Holland Jachtbouw in 2012, RAINBOW is quite simply, the best of her breed.  One of the most recently launched J-Class reproductions, Dykstra Naval Architects developed RAINBOW from the original plans of this 1937 America’s Cup winner and smoothed her lines to modern hydrodynamic standards, optimized to the new J-Class Rule. Her engineering and construction created a modern classic, built with “cutting edge” technology, engineering and materials, from her “hybrid” diesel/electric drive and electrical system, to her high modulus spar, carbon rigging and electro-hydraulic sail and boat handling systems.

RAINBOW is a true “dual purpose” yacht, serving equally successfully as a “silver service” charter yacht for up to eight guests, or as a grand prix racing yacht of the highest caliber.  In cruising mode, the yacht has all attributes for easy operation; hydraulic sail handling, winches, thrusters, and a simple sail-plan. Her entertaining cockpit dresses for comfortable entertaining, lounging and dining, and her interior offers all amenities for gracious living aboard.  For racing, pulpits & lifelines are removed as all deck areas are stripped and streamlined for the efficiencies required at the absolute pinnacle of yacht racing.  RAINBOW’s record speaks for itself on both counts.


Could J Class yacht racing be the most expensive hobby on earth?

They may cost millions to maintain, but there are only nine of these vessels left on earth.

Words: Jonathan Wells

“The initial cost isn’t really that much,” I am told by a J Class yacht owner as we stand at the harbour of Hamilton, Bermuda. He clearly senses my scepticism, and is quick to clarify.

“I mean, maybe not as expensive as you may think. The base boat still obviously costs around $10 to 20 million. But the real costs start racking up when you have to pay for the upkeep, which can come in at anywhere up to $3 million every year.”

j class yacht racing

It’s a painful figure, but J Class yachts – a type of single-masted sailboat that must have either been built in the early 20th Century or produced meticulously to period plans – are beautiful to behold. As we stand, a glass of Cloudy Bay Pelorus sparkling away in our hands, six of these beautiful vessels bob happily next to each other in the harbour. And that’s quite a gathering – there are only nine left on earth.

The history of the awe-inspiring J Class is one as intricately linked with money as it is with engineering prowess and enormous egos. The first, Shamrock V , was built in 1929 by Camper & Nicholsons for Sir Thomas Lipton in his fifth and final attempt to win the America’s Cup – the world’s most famous boat race which was most recently contended by high tech foiling yachts in 2017.

Despite spending $2 million on the endeavour (around $29 million in today’s money), Lipton was unsuccessful. A year later, however, the introduction of the Universal Rule saw the formal formation of the J Class with Shamrock V as its blueprint. By 1937 nine more J Class yachts, including Harold Vanderbilt’s Rainbow, Enterprise and Ranger and Thomas Sopwith’s Endeavour , had been launched.

"The real costs start racking up when you have to pay for the upkeep, which can come in at anywhere up to $3 million every year."

But, despite their beauty, the J Class hey day was not to last. After the 1937 race, the America’s Cup was not held for another 21 years and, by the 1980s, there were just three of the original ten J Class yachts left. This could have been the end of their story, left to rot in remote shipyards, had it not been for Elizabeth Meyer and the International Yacht Restoration School.

Her work restoring the original Endeavour and Velsheda yachts led to the formation of the J Class Association – and it wasn’t long before a new cohort of uber wealthy yacht lovers set about recreating the rest from their original 1930s plans.

Now these majestic titans of sail tour the world competing in specialised races in which the stakes remain as high as ever. The week before my trip to Bermuda these boats competed in the Caribbean in an event which likely saw each individual owner shell out hundreds of thousands for equipment and extra crew. With almost every component of these yachts being custom made, should disaster strike – say your sail shreds during a race (it happens) – you’re looking at the bill the size of an average family home.

j class yacht racing

Although Lionheart may have taken the crown that time, two of the competitors – Shamrock V and Endeavour – are genuine 1930s boats which more than held their own. Exploring the vessels in the Princess Marina is incredibly exciting, with worn wooden decks and burnished brass fittings giving the yachts a truly antique feel.

But speaking to the owners is almost as awe-inspiring as stepping aboard the boats themselves. And it isn’t because of their passion for sailing – although they have that by the boatful – but rather their capacity for spending. Granted, these are rich men, dynastic heirs or titans of industry, but they don’t even seem to think twice about spending a million in a month on fixing up their boats.

Not only that, but the owners are more than happy to let this level of expenditure slip under the radar. Whereas most men wouldn’t even be able to buy a new car without posting a few choice snaps on Instagram, these sailors can splash substantial cash on these vessels without as much as sending out a single tweet.

j class yacht

And, while the owners are reticent to reveal too many details about the boats in the Cloudy Bay J Class , there are certain snippets that show just how pricey they can be. One vessel has an entirely mahogany-veneered interior (all taken from one tree), another has en suites tiled throughout in original black-and-white 1930s bathroom tiles and a third has a dedicated wine cellar stuffed – literally – to the gunnels with everything from Te Koko to Te Wahi .

So, next time you watch these 140ft kings of the sea set sail, remember: those base boats may be just a ‘drop in the ocean’, but it’s the decadence below decks which makes racing these superyachts the most expensive hobby on earth.

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j class yacht cost

A stunning superyacht showdown in Palma

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Superyacht Cup Palma: Fleet of Js set to race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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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 2022 season represents a strong foundation for the J Class future

The 2022 season represents a strong foundation for the J Class future

November 1, 2022

Image credit:

The 2022 season has seen the J Class gather considerable momentum. After five years marked by limited and sporadic racing at mixed fleet regattas, this season followed a consolidated, popular programme of class racing at three great events in the Caribbean and Europe. In many senses this season has been the perfect first steps on the course to 2024 when a very strong fleet of J Class yachts look set to muster in Barcelona to take centre stage at J Class World Championship during the 37 th America's Cup period.

New owners breathed new life into two J Class campaigns and were rewarded with regatta wins on their respective debuts. As class racing returned to the Saint Barth's Bucket in March where three boats enjoyed classic Caribbean trade winds conditions, Ranger, took the top award ahead of Hanuman and Velsheda.

For the new, younger generation owner of Ranger, for whom their first ever racing sailboat is the 2003 built J Class, a debut win might have been unexpected. It was, however, a well-earned result for a team which is full of talent, with offshore and ocean racing experience fired by great enthusiasm with America's Cup winners Ed Baird on the helm and John Kostecki as tactician.

The theme of debutant winners continued in June at the Superyacht Cup Palma where the J Class returned in numbers for the first time since 2014. During last winter a trio of well-known Swedish entrepreneurs - who are all accomplished and passionate sailors - acquired the Swedish designed Svea from the USA, looking to enjoy racing with the class under the Swedish flag for the first time.

Under J Class world champion tactician and round the world racing ace Bouwe Bekking, a Svea team comprising a mix of experienced offshore racers as well as young, inshore 40-footer racers - most of whom had never been on board a J Class yacht quickly transformed into a regatta winning outfit. In mainly light winds on the Bay of Palma, all the competing J Class teams Svea, Topaz, Ranger and Velsheda - won races, but the Swedish flagged crew prevailed.

All four J Class teams, Svea, Topaz, Ranger and Velsheda sought to raise their game and peak at September's weeklong Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, widely known as the 'maxi worlds'. The annual Porto Cervo, Sardinia showcase saw a glittering, diverse turnout of top maxis and crews and all were delighted to see the J Class back racing as a group, with their own starts, on the beautiful Costa Smeralda waters. There was a good mix of light to fresh conditions over the course of the event, the highlights, as ever, being close, boat on boat racing in the La Maddalena archipelago and up and down 'bomb alley'.

With one of the owners steering, Svea proved a cut above. They won four races from the five starts, Velsheda winning the other, to clinch their second major regatta title of the season and lay down a marker for the 2023 season and beyond.

In Porto Cervo one of Svea's owners a past Maxi World Championship winner - enthused, "The word is majestic. These boats are 180 tons, and it is tight racing. It is so different. You need to get used to the anticipation and a few more turns on the wheel, you really have to work hard. We did not have expectations, this year was a learning curve, we just wanted to learn to sail the boat and so here we have overachieved."

Svea also won the Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club Corinthian Cup for the top owner-driver in the J Class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

By taking second place in Porto Cervo and winning the Saint Barth's Bucket Ranger lift the 2022 season title, the Kohler Cup, topping off an auspicious debut. The delighted Ranger owner remarked "It is an amazing accomplishment for a boat which I don't think people expected to do so well. It is really gratifying. And that is entirely down to the team."

The season of class racing was contested under the latest version of the updated J Class rule which has reached a proven level of reliability, in no small part because of the comprehensive number of races sailed and the volume of data processed and analysed by J Class Technical Director Chris Todter, who has worked hard to refine the rule to take account as many of the speed and stability inducing factors as possible.

Appointed in April, J Class Secretary Stuart Childerley quickly appraised the position of the class and got to know the owners and teams and their respective objectives for the short, medium and long term. He has taken on the initiative to develop a sustainable, long-term programme of events, taking account of the downturn after a peak at the 2017 J Class World Championships in Newport USA.

Childerley, an international race officer, two times Olympian, (Volvo) Ocean Race sailor and international keelboat champion, is positive about the future of the class, which is set to see more boats racing in 2023 and beyond. "We are pleased to know Rainbow is starting an extensive refit in Palma, likely ready to race in late summer 2023, while Svea is planning to continue cruising and racing in 2023. Lionheart and Velsheda have recently commenced deck replacement projects and hope to sail in June 2023. Hanuman is expected to continue cruising on the NE coast of the USA. Endeavour, based in Palma, is sailed regularly, Shamrock continues her refurbishment programme in the UK and owner Hugh Morrison is looking forward to racing her in 2024. "

Rainbow has been bought by passionate New Zealand racer Neville Crichton, and boat captain Matthew Sweetman reports, "We aim to have the boat out of the water at the end of November and do a full refit to bring her up to 2023 J Class racing standards. That will involve new teak decks, new paint, some work on the hydraulics. We aim to be on the water next year and we will see how we go before brining some new sails online. We want to do some training with some of the other boats before we go racing."

Sweetman expects Rainbow to be back in the water in July next year and reports that Erle Williams, who has a strong J Class track record previously on the helm of Ranger, will play a key role.

"We are looking forwards to getting the boat back racing, it is what they were designed to do. Everyone tells us Rainbow is a quick boat, but we will see. She has not really raced since Porto Cervo 2014 and we are eight, soon to be nine years down the line. Things have changed dramatically with the class since then, so we will see how we go when we are back in the water next year to see what else we need to do. We have a decent understanding of the class. Everyone is doing the same to make the boats faster and we need to see. With the America's Cup in Barcelona and Neville Crichton being a proud New Zealander, he wants to be there in a good position to compete at the front end of the fleet and Neville wants to fly the New Zealand flag."

The J Class programme for 2023 looks set to focus on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, September 2023, and the Ibiza JoySail regatta, 28 September 1 October.

j class yacht cost

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J Class yacht: Lionheart

With the launch of the new J Class Lionheart the renaissance of this classic, 1930s racing class continues to deliver outstanding, elegant and powerful yachts. While the use of modern materials and new design technology is permitted with replica J Class yachts and strict rules are applied to the hull shape, each new design is subtly different and Lionheart successfully combines comfort and outstanding looks with breathtaking sailing.

A fundamental tenet of the modern J Class rule is the hull design, which must be based on one of the original 18 1930s J Class designs from the drawing boards of L Francis Herreshoff, Frank C Paine, Charles Nicholson, the American design duo of W Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens, and Swedish designer Tore Holm.

When the owner contacted the Hoek Design office in 2005, five of the 18 designs were already taken. Intensive research indicated that, potentially, the fastest hull design available was one of the five Burgess/Stephens designs submitted to Harold Vanderbilt for the original Ranger, but discarded. Quickly, the designs for Ranger 77F Model were reserved and the J Class Lionheart project moved a further step forward.

Construction of the yacht’s aluminium hull was undertaken at Bloemsma Aluminiumbouw in Makkum, northern Holland, before shipment south via barge to Claasen Jachtbouw for all interior work and system-fitting.

The yacht’s Burgess/Stephens-Ranger design-DNA is immediately apparent in the soft knuckle at the bow, unlike the ‘English’ Charles Nicholson Js with their uninterrupted sweep of the hull forward producing needle-sharp bows.

A second, striking impression is the double cockpit layout with a private owner’s cockpit and deckhouse aft of the wheel and a large guest cockpit leading to the main deckhouse and companionway forward of the wheel. While the J Class Association has strict rules for replica hull designs, the deck layout is a matter of personal choice as long as the overall appearance is in keeping with the original J Class style.

This layout overcomes the problems of an exposed helm position and cramped seating when the small, dayboat-style cockpit is used for sail storage when racing. Its benefits are clear with the exhilaration of standing behind the exquisite binnacle and helming unbounded by a cockpit combing, yet clear of the mainsheet and traveller and in close communication with crew or guests sitting in the large, forward cockpit.

The interior of J Class Lionheart is intentionally simple and practical, based on the owner’s belief that 90 per cent of the time on board is spent on deck. For the crew area forward of the mast additional sail storage space has been sacrificed for extra accommodation on the premise that a cramped crew is more likely to jump ship after the first cruise or regatta.

The guest accommodation consists of three twin cabins and the owner’s full-beam cabin furthest aft, each with an en suite head and shower. J Class rules forbid portholes, so the guest cabins have skylights, while the owner’s cabin is filled with light from the aft deckhouse, which also provides immensely comfortable interior seating or a pilot berth with views to the horizon from the large side windows.

Under sail, the experience is unlike any other breed of yacht. Although stanchions and guardrails can be fitted for cruising or offshore voyages, when removed, the lack of obstruction provides an incredible view along the sweep of the varnished toe rail to the uncluttered foredeck and aft across the enormous stern overhang.

Lionheart is an exceptional addition to the J Class fleet and has brought a new approach to many aspects of replica J Class design. How she will match up to the five existing Js on the race course is yet to be seen.

Photography by Ed Holt

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