Ranger clinches thrilling overall J-Class win in spectacular racing conditions in front of a gallery of spectators
I am prone to getting excited about J-Class racing, admittedly, but I’m still going to put this out there – today saw one of the most spectacular yacht races ever. The thousands of spectators lining the Falmouth coastline and hundreds of those afloat on boats watching will, I’m sure vouch for it now and in years to come. Truly, truly magnificent – the perfect finish to such a high profile and highly anticipated, historic event.
After a week of unseasonable weather with light winds, fog and drizzle through to winds deemed too strong to race yesterday, the westcountry dealt up force six and bright sunshine conditions today for a deciding race to savour. The two battle-hardened rivals Velsheda and Ranger both set sail hoping for overall victory – the later needing to win to overhaul the points lead the only original J here had accumulated. Yesterday’s cancellation meant that each boat’s top three results would be taken from the four races – with the final race acting as the decider if points were tied.
In the end the J-Class regatta was won by an incredible 35 seconds. Although Lionheart took line-honours today, she had to beat second place Ranger by more than 50 seconds to win today corrected time – which would have handed overall victory to Velsheda. But after the 3hrs of full-bore racing, just 39s separated 1st and 2nd in a sprint leg finish – all under the noses of the hundreds of spectators lining Pendennis Point. With Velsheda an agonizingly close two minutes behind in third, Ranger sealed her victory.
Now that’s the sign of a clever, exciting and proven measurement rule – and the J-Class Association and Wolfson Unit warrant credit for the modern ratings they’ve designed for today’s Js. Ranger deserved to win this regatta after she was helmed (by Erle Williams, the only pro driver of the four Js) and crewed impeccably all week, and received just dues after yesterday’s abandonment (see yesterday’s story here https://www.yachtingworld.com/news/532025/j-class-racing-abandoned-but-should-it-have-been ). Despite near identical wind-strengths as yesterday, the Js showed today how they really thrive in a breeze and put on a show to remember. (I was onboard a beautiful 32ft classic motor launch driven and built by local Dave Cockwell, and although we could match the Js average speeds in the early teens, the race crews had a smoother drier ride than those fellow spectators afloat).
In the end three owners will be very happy – Lionheart‘s for driving his boat to their first line-honours win, Velsheda’s Ronald de Waal for lifting the Corinthian King’s Cup (for owner-driver) cup this evening, and Ranger’s John Williams for the overall win (pictured). The only pity was for the owner and crew of the brand new HJB-built Rainbow who retired halfway through the final race.
The four Js muscled around the starting area and hit the line on starboard with the iconic St Anthony’s Head lighthouse in the background. Rainbow got squeezed up and over early and had to wait to be spat out by Velsheda and Lionheart before returning to the line. Ranger hit the pin-end perfectly, but it was a story of Lionheart showing her pace and future potential today. Once she tacked inshore and put her head down in clear air she showed the legs, this, the largest J ever built, possesses. Combine that with good tactics and layline calls and efficient crew work (she blew up another spinnaker on the first hoist, yet still maintained the lead) – and her line-honours win was well-earned.
On that first mark-rounding Ranger, approaching the mark just to leeward of Velsheda, made a decisive move by luffing her rival almost to a standstill, gaining a vital couple of lengths that she then extended inch by inch for the rest of the race.
Rainbow didn’t have the best of days after she was early for the start (for the second time this week) and, following the second beat, while trying to hoist their spinnaker during the short spreader fetch, ended up trawling it in the water, losing so much ground in retrieving it that they retired. The consolation her experienced Dutch owner and team will take going forward is that, despite Rainbow being the smallest and lightest of the fleet, she looked seriously quick going both ways – and if they can iron out the glitches in the crew-work before the Solent regatta in three weeks, she will certainly be one to watch.
Seeing the three other Js absolutely smoking on the penultimate reaching leg back to the Old Walls mark SE of Falmouth entrance, carving enormous wakes and spraying crisp whitewater from their bows was simply mesmerizing. I don’t think I have ever used the word ‘spectacular’ so much in one week – I’m going to have to find some new superlatives for the Solent Regatta starting 18 July.
You won’t want to miss it…