Ranger's faster than Velsheda now but her owner John Williams has put her up for sale and might be out of J racing altogether


For those of you interested in the latest performance of the two most competitive J Class yachts currently on the circuit, Velsheda and Ranger, it may come as a surprise to learn that John Williams appears to have pulled the plug on the Ranger programme.

The yacht is seriously for sale along with his support vessel Vita. Williams will sail this summer in Europe including the Superyacht Cup in Palma and at the Maxi Rolex regatta in Sardinia but that could be the end of the campaign for the iconic barrel-bowed J. Any takers??

Whether Williams goes for a replacement J remains to be seen but the word on the dock at the Antigua Classic Regatta is that he wants to build something seriously fast, possibly a sled of some sort. Who knows, maybe he’ll go for both?

After extensive mods to lighten and re-distribute weight in Ranger, Williams has a yacht that over a windward leeward course is now faster than Velsheda. At Antigua, where the courses comprise predominantly reaching legs Velsheda hung on well and if she hadn’t made an odd tactical error on the final beat of the second race she could have beaten Ranger on elapsed as well as corrected time.

For reasons known only to themselves Velsheda’s afterguard failed to cover Ranger on the final leg when she had a three to four boat length advantage, something she’d held from the start. Perhaps she knew Ranger would get to her anyway and that a flier was in order. When I was a lad I was always told to keep between the opposition and the weathermark/finish to keep your victim safely tucked away. Velsheda handed them the keys by taking a long tack to seaward and into oblivion while Ranger worked the well known lifts on the shore and came back to the big blue boat tacking beneath her and beating her to the line by six seconds. Cracking finish, sweet result for Williams and some glum faces back at the dock aboard Velsheda.

Despite these improvements to Ranger Williams has put her up for sale. With two more Js building, Endeavour 11 (which will not be her eventual name incidentally) and Lionheart, and another just ordered – I understand Chris Gongriep who has sold Windrose of Amsterdam has signed on the dotted line for a modern version of Rainbow – the class is in rude health but it will in many ways be sad to see Williams moving on to pastures new.

In the meantime Velsheda will be in the UK this summer for a bit of racing including the JP Morgan Round the Island Race and will have her new Southern Spars carbon rig stepped at Pendennis in Falmouth. No doubt she will also have her hydraulics sorted out too. In the last race at Classics the electronic control panel’s brain went missing. Velsheda had to ship a whole bunch of guys aboard who were stationed below decks to manually operate each hydraulic valve for every manoeuvre. VHF and straightforward shouting through hatches somehow enabled them to operate everything from outhauls, pole lifts and halyards to their enormous drum sheet winches. It was scary stuff but she got round the track two minutes adrift of Ranger.
Next year’s J Class scene is going to be one to watch.

Picture above shows Ranger – is the J Class scene just too slow for Team Williams?