Lionheart Wins the J Class Worlds

Race Day 5 – (J Class Worlds) Congratulations to JH1 Lionheart on winning the 1st ever J Class World Championship! 2nd is JK6 Hanuman and 3rd J5 Ranger. JH1 also will the Kohler Cup by North Sails, a season long cumulative points championship, again a 1st for this class. And the Corinthian King’s Cup for the first boat with an owner driver. Congratulation to all! …more to follow

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Photo credit: J Class Carlo Borlenghi


Race Day 5 – Lionheart are the Toast of Newport


J Class Yacht Association

Sunday August 27, 2017 – On the same Newport, Rhode Island waters where the legendary Ranger cleaned up 4-0 in 1937, the last time ever that the mighty J Class raced for the America’s Cup, the first J Class World Champions are Lionheart, the owner driven Dutch-flagged modern day Ranger descendant.

Displaying solid consistency across all seven races sailed by the six boat inaugural world championship fleet, Lionheart won the world title by three clear points when they crossed the finish line second today, behind nearest rivals Hanuman.

Low risk strategies employed on a fast, fully optimised, well travelled owner driven J Class sailed by a well drilled close-knit crew which have mostly been together since 2011 prevailed. They finished no worse than third and only won one race, but they eclipsed the highly fancied Hanuman which only returned to J Class racing this season after a three year hiatus.

The shiny, black hulled Lionheart, JH1, was built 75 years after the original design was made as part of a family of designs by Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens for Ranger, the so called Super J which dominated in Newport. Over recent years the Palma, Mallorca based Lionheart has probably sailed at more regattas than her rivals, J Class and otherwise, in the pursuit of improvement, training and optimising religiously. “It is a special title, one for the owner who gives us so much confidence in ourselves and who gives us carte blanche in how we set the boat up and how we sail. It is great for him now that he lifts the trophy today.” Enthused Bekking who heads directly to Europe to rejoin his Team Brunel Volvo Ocean Race programme where he will compete for the eighth time pursuing his first overall win.

Hanuman, the US flagged team which is skippered and steered by Newport’s Kenny Read won three races from seven, including today’s afternoon showcase finale in front of a huge crowd, but their aggregate for second place overall is too heavily ballasted by a fifth place on Thursday which was the result of a penalty, and their sixth on Friday. Ultimately that was the outcome after a sub standard start and subsequently being held to the wrong side of the course by a rival. Their penalty proved costly, just as one also did in Bermuda where they then missed out to Lionheart for the America’s Cup J Class Regatta title.

Kenny Read said: “Congratulations to Lionheart, they sailed better than us this week. We left too many points out there on the race course. We are ticked off about that. At the end of the day winners win and Lionheart did a good job.” Of their world title winning conservative philosophy Lionheart’s tactician Bekking smiled, “I said before the championship that if we could finish top three in every race we would most likely win and it has worked out. We always started clean and we could always – except in one race – could sail our own course. I think we did a nice job of letting the boat work for us and letting our excellent crew work prevail. We just keep it simple.”

“We made the boat a little heavier after Bermuda, a little too heavy, maybe but we were expecting stronger sea breezes. We were a little sticky downwind. All in all we were going just nice.” “One of the key points is that Harold the owner has come such a long way, even this season, we have made steps.” Bekking explains, “Everybody has their responsibilities, their own jobs to do and there are no rock stars, no prima donnas. We just believe in each other. That may be a little bit the Dutch style but mostly it comes from our owners, that is the way they like it.”

Lionheart also win the Terry Kohler Trophy, as the 2017 J Class season champions, a new trophy which aggregates the results of the St Barth’s Bucket, the America’s Cup J Class Regatta and this first ever J Class World Championship. “We started out five years ago, a little bit low key and the owner said ‘I want to race and I don’t want to make a fool of myself. Five years later this is the result.” Lionheart’s superyacht expert Nigel Ingram recalls, “I think the strongest thing we have is the crew, I don’t think we have changed a single crew position in the last year and a half. The boat is fast, the sail programme is good. We look after all the small details, we work very hard on making sure the bottom of the boat is good, it is vital in these big boats, we work hard at optimising the displacement and righting moment for the different conditions we sail in.”

Hanuman, winners in Saint Barth’s in the spring finish runners up here and in the season championship. Appropriately Ranger complete the World Championship podium, finishing third today to clinch third overall. They had a close match with the newer Topaz, both vying for third.

“Going into today we were fighting for third and today it was a bit sticky for us, but we have a great team and we are sailing the boat well. Murray Jones did a great job with Matty Mitchell on the bow in getting us off the start line.” Said Ranger’s skipper-helm Erle Williams.

The world championship concluded with the prize giving at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court. Hanuman skipper-helm Read praised the show and spectacle the J Class had put on in Newport, “This has been a great event, a chance for sailing to come back to the front and centre in the world again for sail handling and crew work and for majestic boats to really put on a show and I think all the teams here this week did an amazing job, every team had their day. It was so much fun and on behalf of the Hanuman team it has been an honour and privelege to be involved in it. I can’t wait to do it again.”

J Class World Championship, Newport RI
Race 7 1 Hanuman 2 Lionheart 3 Ranger 4 Topaz 5 Svea 6 Velsheda

Overall after seven races

  1. Lionheart 17pts (3,3,3,1,3,2,2)
  2. Hanuman 20pts (1,4,1,2,5,6,1)
  3. Ranger 24pts (5,6,4,3,2,1,3)
  4. Topaz 27pts (4,1,6,5,1,5,5)
  5. Svea 29pts (2,5,5,4,4,3,6)
  6. Velsheda 30pts (6,2,2,6,6,4,4)

Terry Kohler Trophy for the 2017 J Class season – Lionheart
Corinthian Kings Cup – Lionheart


J Class Worlds – Photo credit – Onne van der Wal


Race Day 4 – Patience Rewarded


J Class Worlds

Friday August 25, 2017 – Patience Rewarded As Seconds Separate J Class Contenders
The long, five and a half hour wait for the Newport sea breeze to arrive proved to be well worth it as the six J Class World Championship teams were rewarded with their closest race yet.

Ranger put their first win of the regatta on their fast improving scoreline, but their delta over second placed Lionheart was down to only one second. And the margin between Svea in third and fourth placed Velsheda was also one tiny second.

With Lionheart crossing in second and Hanuman languishing in sixth, unable to come back from a poor start and being manacled to what proved to be the less favoured right by Topaz, it is the Dutch flagged Lionheart which goes into the final day of this inaugural world championship event with a lead of four points over the US team Hanuman skippered by Newport’s Ken Read.

Lionheart now have put themselves in a strong position to become the first J Class World Champions and to add to their wins in Bermuda at June’s America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta and the America’s Cup J Class Regatta.

“Tomorrow it is all on.” Lionheart’s mainsheet trimmer Mike Mottl affirms, “We will treat it like the beginning of the regatta. We have two races and the points are still such that any boat can win it. We have to believe there will be two races and just go out and do well. We know that we can do it. We just have to go out there and do it.”

Principal Race Officer Tom Duggan and his New York Yacht Club race committee made the call to hold the fleet ashore whilst there was still a seemingly decent northerly gradient breeze blowing. After going to sea a little after 1330hrs hopes were waning until at the breeze filled for a 1630hrs start and the historic six boat fleet got away in 8-9kts of breeze from the south west.

“It was a long, long wait but it was rewarded by a very, very good race. It was a difficult day. Once you have made that call not to go out early then you own it and you just hope that it works out. It worked out today. We got lucky.”

Ranger, with multiple America’s Cup winner Murray Jones on tactics and Erle Williams skipper-helm, read the first beat best, holding to the left after starting fast and clean as the leftmost boat, clear of the cluster at the signal boat end of the line where the perceived logic seemed to be that the ‘usual’ right would pay.

Hanuman was held late at the boat end and then had to live to leeward, in check by Topaz while the middle left yielded a solid shift in wind direction to the left. While Ranger neatly leebowed Lionheart to lead around the top mark, early challengers Svea were penalised for tacking too close to Ranger on the final approach to the turn.

With title rivals Hanuman being boxed out to the right Lionheart sailed a solid, smart, safe beat to round second at the first top turn. They separated slightly to the left of the run and made a small gain on the leaders, but the white hulled 2003 built Ranger prevailed across the finish line.

“We are sailing a lot better and building a bit of momentum. The smoother water is better for us. We blew out the light medium which was a very deep sail, so we have the new heavy number one (headsail) and it is just fast. We are able to compete. Murray Jones has been doing a great job for us.” Ranger’s Erle William commented, “We got off the line well and the others were bunched up, we got away nicely with Lionheart and we sailed a good race. It was nice to be able to lee bow Lionheart at the windward mark and get our nose in front. Then they got back on the run, we were able to leebow them again at the top of the second beat and stay ahead. With it down to just one second it just shows how close this racing is. Tomorrow is another day, but give us 12kts and flat water, that would be nice!”

Ranger have now gone 3,2,1 from the last three races – equalled only by title favourites Lionheart – to stake a claim to third, meantime.

In contrast Hanuman’s title challenge has been derailed by a fifth yesterday and now a sixth. With a four points deficit, the hugely talented Hanuman team may face a tough test to win overall but it is well within their reach, particularly if two races are sailed.

An early start time of 1000hrs is scheduled for Saturday. Two races are planned with a final race deadline of 1400hrs after which no further starts can be made.

A thrilling, fitting finale is on the cards and a huge spectator crowd is anticipated. Ranger are only two points behind Hanuman and the ‘newcomers’ Topaz and Svea are only one and two points respectively off the podium. As Lionheart’s Mottl succinctly summarises, it is ‘all on’.

J Class World Championship, Newport RI (Race 6)

  1. Ranger
  2. Lionheart
  3. Svea
  4. Velsheda
  5. Topaz
  6. Hanumnan

Standings after six races

  1. Lionheart 15pts (3, 3, 3, 1, 3 2)
  2. Hanuman 19pts (1,4,1,2,5,6)
  3. Ranger 21pts(5,6,4,3,2,1)
  4. Topaz 22pts (4,1,6,5,1,5)
  5. Svea 23pts (2,5,5,4,4,3)
  6. Velsheda 26pts (6,2,2,6,6,4)


J Class Worlds – Photo credit – Onne van der Wal


Race Day 3 – Draws Level With World Championship Leader Hanuman


J Class Worlds

Thursday August 24, 2017 – The sizeable spectator fleet on the waters off Newport, Rhode Island were treated to another pair of engaging, exciting races at the inaugural J Class World Championship, witnessing the return of one of the pre-regatta title favourites, Lionheart.

Already counting three third places Lionheart were prowling, poised only three points behind regatta leaders Hanuman going into today’s Races 4 and 5 of the championship. The team lead by Bouwe Bekking won the first windward-leeward and then battled to third place in a second race which saw Hanuman, skippered and steered by Kenny Read, dramatically penalised during the top mark approach of the second beat.

Hanuman’s resulting fifth costs them their clear overall lead in the no-discard championship series which completes Saturday and it now sees them tied on 13 points with Lionheart, winners of both significant J Class regattas during the America’s Cup in Bermuda in June.

With the owner driven Lionheart winning today’s first contest and Topaz the second, half of the six boat fleet have now scored a race win so far. With local Newport ace Tony Rey aiding Ross MacDonald with big picture strategy, Topaz’s second race victory of the regatta promotes them to third overall, four points off the lead.

Patience and conservatism are proven, necessary virtues of the Lionheart afterguard, often contributing to their numerous regatta titles. Even so their patience was slightly tested by their arch-rivals on the first beat of the second race. On a right favoured upwind Bouwe Bekking and the Lionheart crew had to sit pinned by Hanuman until both title rivals lost out significantly to the pack on the right, Lionheart rounding the top mark in sixth. But Lionheart’s opportunity came around when Hanuman fouled. Taking full advantage of their place gain they pressed hard and smart down the last run, pipping Svea to third on the approach to the finish.

“It’s all on now, isn’t it.” Smiled Lionheart’s Bekking as he hosed down the black hull of Lionheart back at the dock in the Newport Shipyard. Of their inherently low risk philosophy which sometimes contrasts with the gambles taken by the pro driven teams, the seven times round the world racer considers:

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J Class Worlds – Photo credit: Alison Becker


Race Day 2 – Hanuman Extends Their World Championship Lead in Newport.


J Class Worlds

Wednesday August 23, 2017 – After winning Tuesday’s 20 nautical miles opening race, Hanuman paired an initial fourth place to victory in the second of the two windward-leeward races today. They open up their leading margin at the J Class Worlds in Newport RI to three points ahead of the consistent Lionheart which has scored now three third places.

Although Hanuman lead across the finish line at the conclusion of a thrillingly tight first windward-leeward of the day, so closely were the chasing pack snapping at their heels that they dropped to fourth on corrected time. Topaz won their first race ever when they held off Velsheda by just seven seconds, while Lionheart’s margin for third over Hanuman was just two seconds.

There was not as much doubt in the second contest. After breaking clear of Velsheda which were overlapped with them at the first windward mark they gradually eked out their lead to finish one minute and 17 seconds ahead of the championship’s sole ‘original’ J Class.

The SW breeze came in on cue at between nine and 14kts, the second race starting at 1535hrs was the windier of the two. There were more than enough shifts in wind direction and pressure to keep the contests tight and even. Topaz battled back from sixth at the top mark in the first race to make a wholesale gain on the right, west side of the second upwind leg, tailgating Hanuman around the final turn, a gain orchestrated by local Newport ace Tony Rey in concert with tactician Ross McDonald.

While Hanuman carried on to the right after a conventional bear away, a nicely executed gybe set cashed in Topaz’s gain against a frustrating small error by Hanuman. But the hugely experienced Hanuman team, lead by skipper-helm Kenny Read, sailed smart and clean for their victory in the second race.

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J Class Worlds – Photo credit – Onne van der Wal


Race Day 1 – Welcome Home


J Class Worlds

Tuesday August 22, 2017 – Hanuman, skippered and steered by local ace Ken Read with his brother Brad among the afterguard, stole the show on a spectacular opening day of the first ever J Class Worlds Championship on the waters of Newport, Rhode Island where J Class yachts made their America’s Cup debut way back in 1930 and where the Reads cut their teeth in competitive sailing.

Hanuman lead from the first mark around a 20 nautical miles ‘Navigators Course’. When challenged by the newest J Class yacht in the fleet Svea, which is guided by wily America’s Cup Stars & Stripes veterans Peter Isler and Tom Whidden, Hanuman fought back downwind with smooth, well executed manoeuvres. When they took their well earned winning gun, Hanuman were extending into the mist, stepping clear of a spirited scrap over places second to sixth,

“That was one of the very coolest sailboat races I have ever been in my entire life.” Newport born and bred Ken Read enthused, “Honestly, it had everything. Home town. Gybing and tacking around all the little nooks and crannies, such a great crowd of boats out there watching. That is what we always hoped this regatta would show, how special this can be. And I am sure it did just that.”

“It was fun and special having my brother Brad on board. This whole team has been working for this for years and also to see the smile on Jim and Kristy’s faces today. It was just great.”

The opening race of the inaugural J Class Worlds delivered it all, spectacle, majesty, close competition over a decent length course and just enough drama. The New York Yacht Club race team took full advantage of the forecast for a building, pre frontal breezes to sail a spectacular, tight coastal course up and back under the Newport-Jamestown bridge, checking off in turn historical local landmarks made famous over the dozen editions of the America’s Cup raced here, entrancing the huge spectator fleet and treating the viewers who crowded the headlands and car parks that fringed the course to the close, spectacular competition they turned out for.

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J Class Worlds – Photo credit – Onne van der Wal


Practice Race- Six Shooting for the Title


J Class Association

Monday August 21, 2017 – Crews of the six yachts – Velsheda (1933), Ranger (2003), Hanuman (2009), Lionheart (2010), Topaz (2015) and Svea (2017) – have been training on the Bay over recent days, building up to Monday’s official Practice Race before racing starts Tuesday. A flexible programme of five days of racing – three of windward-leeward contests, usually two per day, and two days of Navigator Races, middle distance coastal races using a variety of fixed navigation marks – should prove a fitting challenge. Forecasters suggest normal sea breeze conditions for the opening days, some stronger winds midweek tapering to lighter airs for the final races. The choice of racing format for each day will be decided the previous evening.

All of the competing yachts raced in June’s America’s Cup J Class Regatta in Bermuda where Lionheart only clinched the overall win on the last run of the final race and Velsheda finished second. And Hanuman, which is steered by Newport’s Ken Read, will be looking for a world championship win as a salve to memories of losing out to Lionheart in Bermuda.

“Look, any one boat could win this here. It will be super, super competitive.” Emphasizes Murray Jones unequivocally. The six times America’s Cup winning Kiwi returns as tactician on Ranger after missing the Bermuda J regatta due his commitment as a performance coach with the Cup winning Emirates Team New Zealand but is back in the hot seat on Ranger.

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