A vast Dutch footprint on J-Class revival
“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” _ The Great Gatsby
EDAM _ F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1930s are coming back. Not in the umpteenth Great Gatsby movie but in a revival of J-Class yachts _ those stunning craft built for America’s Cup racing 80 or so years ago. Hopefully, today’s Js fare better than many of the originals.
There are 7 afloat today, replicas and rebuilds, of which 3 came off Dutch yards: Rainbow (Holland Jachtbouw), Lionheart (Claasen Shipyards) and Hanuman (Royal Huisman). Launches are expected of 2 more, including another Holland Jachtbouw launch. A Swedish J _ to be built in the Netherlands _ is on hold. But the UK-based J-Class Association says it is “working on some solid inquiries for new boats.”
With over 20 years of J-Class experience, the Amsterdam-based naval design studio of Dykstra & Partners is behind the rebuilds of Shamrock V, Velsheda and Endeavour, the refit of Ranger and the new build Endeavour II, now Hanuman.
The J revival began a few years back when the UK-based J-Class Association allowed aluminum hulls. That generated renewed interest in the building of Js and a new handicap system to let old and new Js race against each other. One important condition: new yachts must be built on existing 1930s designs, including ones never built.
“The J-Class yachts race as one fleet under their own handicap system,” says Louise Morton of the J-Class Association. “They are currently enjoying fleet racing within some of the world’s most prestigious super-yacht regattas.” Last winter, 5 _ Hanuman, Lionheart, Rainbow, Ranger and Velsheda _ raced at St. Barths in the Caribbean. Morton: “For 2013, the JCA has organized 4 regattas, 1 in the Caribbean and 3 in Europe. At St Barths, the race team organized a J-Class-only race on the 1st day and J-Class fleet racing for the remaining days. The formula is successful and the same will happen at Palma de Mallorca in a few weeks’ time. Three or four regattas a year works well.”
A J-Class (re)construction project costs $15 to $20 million, industry insiders say. The yachts _ all measuring about 40m _ are generally owned by individuals. Only 1 _ Shamrock V which dates back to 1930 _ is available for charter.
Life has not been kind to all Js. In all, 20 or have been made. But in the 1930s, well-heeled Britons and Americans _ among them tea tycoon Sir Thomas Lipton and Harold Vanderbilt, builder of American railroads _ had Js built that were scrapped only a few years later. Velsheda has been the luckiest of the lot. Built in 1933, she ended up in a mud berth on the River Hamble in 1937 where she became derelict _ at one point she housed regatta crews! _ until rescued in 1984 and refitted.
A prominent name in the J-Class revival is designer Andre Hoek. He helped develop the class’ handicap rules, worked on several J projects and analyzed 7 hull designs, done by naval architects working for the Vanderbilt syndicate in the 1930s. One is now Lionheart, 75 years after she was drawn. She was built at Claasen Shipyards. Its marketing manager, Anco Kok, credits Dutch input into the J-Class revival to the fact that “Dutch yards are strong, not just in designing classic yachts, but also in building them. We are a unique country in that sense. It’s not just a question of technique, of building a hull. Classic yachts require a finesse in finishing. Look at the detail in the woodwork!”
The J-Class has inspired Hoek to craft an F-Class, a modern racer that is somewhat smaller that a J-Class but with the same elegant lines. Lacking a cabin, an F-Class is basically a day sailer, at 25% of the cost of a J. So we put you down for 2 of those?