Jim Clark’s Vision of J Class Racing

  • Mon, 19 Apr 2010

Following the withdrawal of his J Class yacht Hanuman from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, Jim Clark sends a further letter to to all J Class owners

Yacht Hanuman

Following the withdrawal of his J Class yacht Hanuman from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta on the grounds of excessive professionalism (read previous web story), Jim Clark has sent a further letter to to all J Class owners suggesting a way forward for the class. This is what he has to say:

There seems to quite a stir amongst the owners and the yachting press regarding my cancellation of Hanuman/Endeavour II participation in the races in Antigua. Let me explain my reasoning more fully and make a proposal for a J-Class event.

From the beginning, it has been my impression that for rule-conformance and safety, there were 4-6 professionals on each J-Class boat that is raced. This is the spirit of the J-Class rules that I was told, and everyone involved in my building of Endeavour II/Hanuman will attest to this.

As I slowly got drawn towards this Antigua event, I put together a team in this spirit, but I was adamant that I not spend a lot of money just to win a race. Then I heard for the first time that Ranger had 17 paid professionals, and I chose not to compete against a professional team.

The world of sail-boat racing can be quite fun, but spending obscene amounts of money to win a race, in the opinion of most reasonable people, is not a very worthy thing to do. It contributes to an elitist image of sailing, which I have never wanted to be a part of. As a result, I have never gotten involved in professional racing. No one begrudges the professionals who make their living doing this, but those of us who spend lavishly to win a race should at least contribute to the world in other ways.

Like all of you, I consider the J-Class boats the most spectacular and beautiful America's Cup boats ever made, and it would certainly be a major event to see them all racing together in a highly visible venue. But we have the opportunity to improve this sport for such an event by setting an example, rather than continuing to contribute to its elitist image, such as in the current America's Cup, where the spending has gotten completely out of control.

So I make the following proposal to the owners of the J-Boats:

For an event commensurate with the America's Cup in San Francisco, we all race with completely professional crews, and for safety reasons, the owners who choose to drive have a professional standing near the helm to take over when appropriate. If this venue cannot be arranged, or we think it's too far in the future, we agree on another venue such as the Olympics in England in 2012. But for maximum impact, it should be in a highly visible venue, and it should be a regular event, say every two or three years. So perhaps we do one event in 2012 and another in 2014 at the America's Cup venue.

As an entry fee, we each post $10 million dollars of our own money to a non-profit of our choice devoted to preserving the worlds marine environment. This must be a legitimate, registered non-profit, and we cannot have any controlling, board-member or similar affiliation with it.

We track what we spend, and it is audited and certified by professional auditors. Anyone can choose to spend what they want, but if any owner spends more than $5 million in preparation and competing for the event, that owner adds to his fund an amount equal to $2 for each dollar spent above the $5 million.

We can each have sponsors, but the sponsors' contributions must go to the respective non-profit fund as well. I believe that if we can have this event in San Francisco with the America's Cup, we will draw very large corporate sponsorship and thus greatly increase the contribution to the non-profits' funds, as this is a natural and highly visible sailing amphitheater.

We race according to traditional yacht-racing rules, with adjustments as agreed upon by us, and we have an agreed-upon handicapping system. Perhaps the J-Class Association rules would be appropriate for this, since they have been designed to make the boats as equally competitive as possible.

The main purpose of rules is safety. Ranger and Velsheda have collided twice in their years of racing. To insure against the possibility of this, prior to the race, each of us posts an amount we all agree upon to separate escrow accounts, the proceeds of which will be paid if needed by the offending owner to the damaged owner, as judged by a racing committee established or sanctioned by us in advance.

We can negotiate the amounts I've proposed and the other conditions, but for maximum impact on our sport, and the awareness of the world, the money must be a non-trivial amount. Each of the owners has spent at least $10 million for sails, crew, and boat improvements for the purpose of racing in the past. Now, we should set an example and show the world that at least some "yacht" owners are concerned about more than themselves. It's the only way I will engage in this type of competition.

I will volunteer to donate what is necessary to create a trophy, up to $500,000. The trophy will be held in a manner similar to the America's Cup. I suggest The Ocean's Cup, because I feel it should be about the marine environment.

I believe this could have a tremendous impact on our sport and show the world that "yacht" owners are not just ostentatious exhibitionists racing out of ego to win a trophy. And if enough money can be raised with sponsors, we can have a real impact on the world's oceanic environment.

Gentlemen, we diminish our own standing and the image of the sport of sailing when we brag about our boats or their sizes. Let's be bigger than that. We are each fortunate to have the money to spend owning these boats, and if we all do this in the spirit of friendship, dedication to the sport of sailing, and devotion to the oceans that they use, perhaps we can have an impact that makes our own indulgences worthwhile.

Regards,
Jim Clark

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