The J Class yachts Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart make a welcome return to Cornish waters.


J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

The sight of a J Class yacht sailing never fails to take your breath away. But time can dull even the grandest impressions. It has been three years since the Js last raced in UK waters, so it is both refreshing and magnificent to get up close to three of them again in Falmouth – and to be reminded of their imposing grace.

Velsheda, one of the three original Js still sailing, and replicas Ranger and Lionheart are competing in Falmouth all this week, with the final race due to take place on Saturday 27 June. To see them square up to each other, to watch their army of crews work the narrow, exposed decks, and to hear the reverberating groan of a highly loaded Dyneema sheet being eased off a winch drum, is captivating. And then there are the stats…

“Their mainsheets are 100m long – which would reach as high as the top of Big Ben. Their genoas are typically 400m2, so would cover the 25m Truro swimming pool three times…” local sailor and dentist Donal O’Halloran shot round after round of statistics like this off during his commentary today. He was aboard the press boat with me, and his enlightening commentary continues during racing on VHF Channel 68 all week.

Also onboard the rather luxurious Cockwells motor launch was Anna Varle from the BBC Spotlight team. You can catch her round up that went out live this evening on iPlayer by clicking here: Spotlight  {the J Class footage is between 18 and 21 minutes into the programme.}

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Our press boat spoiling the shot of Velsheda’s spinnaker hoist

There are two official J Class events this year, and they are both in the UK. That the owners of Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart have chosen to return to Falmouth just three years after last sailing here, shows how much they enjoyed sailing in the green waters of the westcountry.

Indeed following the race today, comments were made about the welcome received and the amount of support vessels on the water – more than at any Med event reportedly. “There was a Firefly, an A-Class cat and a Shrimper out there – fantastic!” said J Class Secretary Louise Morton, referencing the sheer variety of spectator vessels alone.

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Lionheart’s bowman Juan Pablo Marcus checks on rival Ranger

The day belonged to Lionheart. Despite a poor start, where she was muscled onto port by Ranger, Lionheart soon showed her speed in the light airs (Or was it the local knowledge? Lionheart has five Falmouth sailors aboard). She sailed through Velsheda and Ranger on the first beat and could not be touched thereafter.

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Velsheda Bowman Jeff Reynolds prepares for a hoist as Lionheart leads downwind

The finish saw youngest first across the line, with two minutes separating each J. The 2010 built Lionheart, followed by the first replica built, Ranger (2003) and finally the 82-year old Velsheda.

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Lionheart, with five local sailors aboard, wins the first day at Falmouth

It marked a gentle start to a five-day regatta – a light breeze, warm sunshine and flat waters – perfect for the 30-strong J crews to ease into the racing.

The Royal Cornwall YC planned to run two races each day, but this morning’s race was cancelled due to light winds, leaving just one windward-leeward race in the afternoon. Winds averaged just 6 knots (5.7 knots to be precise), according to the measurements taken from a wind wand on the committee boat. It is interesting to learn however that the average was more like 8–9 knots when taken from the 55m/178ft tall masthead of a J.

Racing on Wednesday is scheduled to be a three hours coastal course for the Kings Hundred Guinea Cup. The wind is expected to gradually increase towards the end of the week, so Saturday could prove a real spectacle.

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Velsheda’s foredeck crew in action

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Ranger picks the pin end of the start and forces Lionheart off to port

J Class Racing in Falmouth 2015

Ranger and Velsheda cross in the opening race of the J Class Regatta in Falmouth



All photos by Graham Snook And Emma Jones

For more on the J Class, the yachts, history, news, pictures and video – go to the dedicated section of our website here


Here is the offical report from the race today:

Lionheart started the 2015 J Class racing year in the same way they did their 2014 season, with a win. But as they crossed the finish line off Falmouth’s picture postcard Pendennis Castle to take the first winning gun of the J Class Falmouth Regatta it partly atoned for a disappointing finale to last year in Saint Tropez and also marked the first race victory since Olympic medalist John Cutler joined as tactician.

In the light 6-8kts S’ly breeze Cutler, in concert with new navigator Aksel Magdahl (Nor), called the first two miles windward leg to perfection, rounding the top mark already with a small lead over Ranger. They made their key gain during the final third of the first beat, extending away after a close call when they close tacked only just ahead of Ranger. Their move was green flagged by the on-the-water umpire, a new initiative for the class regattas this season, and for the remainder of the two upwind, two downwinds course in the shifting breeze, Lionheart were not challenged.

The start to race 1 was delayed until 1400hrs until the light breeze settled in. Velsheda, with Tom Dodson calling tactics, made the best timed start on port tack, heading inshore in to the bay. Lionheart was not quite as fleet footed off the line while Ranger worked the early left, offshore.

Around the course Lionheart proved slightly quicker in the light wind pressure, Cutler and Magdahl soon identified the extra breeze offshore on the upwind, a tactic which Murray Jones recognised early on Ranger. But Lionheart, as is often the case in the gentler airs, proved to be faster and could extend progressively, winning by 1 minute and 24 seconds on corrected time.

Velsheda rolled in to challenge Ranger for second a couple of times but the St Tropez regatta runaway victors had to settle for second as Cutler delivered his first win on Lionheart. He paid tribute to the Lionheart team and the team at Falmouth’s Pendennis Shipyard where the boat was refitted through the winter. That it came out from the yard in perfect, ready to race condition gained them three good, essential days of training before this regatta. Cutler commented on the dock: “The boat is going really fast. The Owner was really locked in today and did a great job. And the boat is just out of Pendennis where it has been for six months.”
And to take the first winning gun of the season means a lot: “It feels good. We struggled a lot in St Tropez and so it was good today to be going pretty fast, to be going the right way. It was nice. I did the Falmouth regatta on Ranger in 2012. Then it was foggy, raining and cold but it is a great place to go racing, really pretty, such a beautiful part of the world.”
Second placed Ranger’s skipper-helm Erle Williams concluded: “It was a good race. It was a bit light for Ranger and Lionheart is a lighter boat. We had a good start and were going well, but Lionheart just had the legs on us on the first beat. We need 10-11-12kts. It was just on the light side. We were not bad but Lionheart just had the legs on both of us. We were close with Velsheda, they came into us a few times. We have a lot of crew changes – 14 since the last regatta – and we have some guys doing the Volvo and so on – but we had three really good training days and the crew sailed really well today. Lionheart is very hard to beat in these conditions.”

Racing on Wednesday is scheduled to be a three hours coastal course for the Kings Hundred Guinea Cup.

Result Race 1 (Corrected Times)
1 Lionheart 1hr 21m 19s
2 Ranger 1hr 22m 43s
3 Velsheda 1hr 24m 33s

Live tracking can be followed on