Thousands flood to the Solent to catch a sight of the Js racing around the Isle of Wight – with Lionheart first home

It was absolute mayhem on the Solent today! I have never seen so many boats in such a confined area of water as there were assembled at 1040 this morning to watch three J-Class yachts start off the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes. (It was only three Js not four unfortunately as the newly launched Rainbow suffered mast damage in yesterday’s final race of the Solent Regatta). A highly publicized and potentially spectacular event like the J-Class race around the island coinciding with the RYA’s ‘Get Afloat’ weekend, turned the Solent into a sea of wake and whitewater.

The forecast made many wonder whether a race could take place at all, but under sunny skies a light breeze from the SE greeted Velsheda, Ranger and Lionheart, allowing the race officers to get them away on time. The swarm of ribs and yachts all fought to get a close-up view, following the elegant giants up the eastern Solent, taking the original clockwise route around the Isle of Wight. I was aboard Ranger’s chase/safety boat, trying to take in the scene around me, attempting to avoid the huge potential for collision, while keeping one eye on the race.

Here’s how it unfolded in pictures:


The white-hulled Super J Ranger and original J Velsheda get off to perfect starts at the port-hand end of the Squadron line.

Lionheart crosses the line by the shore to the delight of the thousands of spectators lining Cowes’ waterfront, staying out of the tide to then gain an advantage over her adversaries.


Velsheda heads over to the mainland side and when Ranger also crosses over they engage in some cross tacks, leaving Lionheart free on the Island side to carry on taking advantage of clean air and less tide. Ranger heads over towards Ryde but Lionheart has now accumulated a healthy lead, and one they never gave up all the way around the back of the island.
Velsheda meanwhile kept right inshore towards Portsmouth, also pulling out a lead on the heavier Ranger.


Bob Fisher gives expert commentary and safety advice from the flybridge of Hugh Agnew’s Rum Jungle.

Lionheart has a two and a half minute lead over Velsheda by the Nab Tower, with Ranger a further minute behind. The two leading boats set reaching kites, while Ranger points higher with genoa and staysail.

The breeze begins to drop slightly but the fast and favourable current helps create apparent breeze in the asymmetric sails so the Js can keep doing 9-10 knots over the ground for the long reach from St Catherine’s to the Needles, with positions unchanged.

With Lionheart leading, the Js gybe and head through the Needles and Hurst narrows, but with a strong foul tide and light breeze hampering progress, the race is finished using the timings taken off the needles at around 1630.

All smiles on Lionheart’s afterguard after a long race and much deserved win.

Velsheda finished at the Needles under three minutes behind Lionheart, losing out on the Hundred Guinea Cup by being only 26 seconds behind the larger, newer J on corrected time. But the original J did walk away with the Corinthian King’s Cup for best owner-driver results over the series.