Just over one hundred years on from the advent of the Universal Rule, to which they were originally built, the J Class will this year get to race its first ever World Championship.
The J Class Association has recently become an affiliate member of the International Maxi Association (IMA). The IMA administers the International Maxi Class, recognised by the sport’s governing body, World Sailing. This status permits the IMA to stage annual World Championships for maxi boats, notably the Maxi 72 World Championship, held every September in Porto Cervo, Sardinia and now it's second, the J Class World Championship.
For the magnificent Js, their first World Championship will conclude a heavily America’s Cup-orientated 2017 season, following the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta and the America’s Cup J Class Regatta. Both will be held in Bermuda in June, the latter coinciding with the first two days of the 35th America’s Cup.
From Bermuda, the world’s most magnificent sailing yachts, famous for their slender lines and extreme 40ft long overhangs, will return to their spiritual home of Newport, Rhode Island on the US East Coast. Here at the J Class World Championship over 21-26th August, the boats will once again get to compete on the same waters as they did in their heyday in the 1930s when American yachts, led by the likes of Harold S. Vanderbilt, of the US railroad dynasty, mounted successful defences against strong British challenges from grocery chain and tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton and aviation pioneer Sir Tom Sopwith.
This landmark year for the Js coincides with the class having never been stronger, J Class Association secretary Louise Morton observes: "With the launch of Svea/JS1 last month, the J Class fleet now has nine yachts afloat - the largest number in our history. As the JCA continues to grow and welcome new launches to the fleet, we are really excited to be holding our first J Class World Championship in Newport this summer.
“Hosted by New York Yacht Club in collaboration with the JCA and the IMA, at least six Js are expected to grace the start line at this inaugural edition. We have long enjoyed a positive racing relationship with IMA members and are delighted now to be part of its supportive, global community.”
Already signed up for the event are Velsheda, Ranger, Lionheart, Svea, Hanuman and Topaz, which will be based in Newport Shipyard.
The J Class is the latest in the ever-expanding International Maxi Association, that also has the Maxi 72 grand prix racers and the stylish Wally class as affiliate members.
IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine, who spent nearly two years bringing the relationship with the J Class Association to fruition, commented: "We are delighted with our new affiliation with the JCA. It is a project we worked hard on, and seeing it finalised is deeply satisfying. The IMA’s two World Championships for 2017 will therefore be for the Maxi 72s in Porto Cervo, and the other for these iconic vessels in August off Newport, Rhode Island. Because of this affiliation, as many as six J Class owners are becoming IMA members. It will also further our partnership with the New York Yacht Club following on from the Maxi 72 North American Championship which we held in Newport in conjunction with the NYYC last year. To return a year later with the J Class is a great achievement.”
Following his club’s lengthy association with the America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club Commodore Philip A. Lotz added: "It makes perfect sense for the J Class to return to its spiritual home in Newport to contest its first World Championship, and the New York Yacht Club, at Harbour Court, is extremely proud to host this historic International Maxi Association World Championship. Nearly three decades ago, the duel between Shamrock and Endeavour on Narragansett Bay captivated the sailing world. We anticipate this event to generate a similar, if not more enthusiastic, response, and we’re excited to play our part.”