A fleet of the most stylish racing yachts ever built will be visiting Cornish waters this summer for a spectacular display of sailing speed and chic.
Known simply as the “J Class”, this will be the first time six of the huge classic boats have been seen together.
At 140 feet in length and weighing around 200 tons, each gigantic yacht requires a crew of around 30 when racing.
J Class yachts were developed during the 1930s and are still regarded as the greatest sail-racing vessels of all time. Just 10 yachts were constructed, six in the USA and four in the UK. Prohibitively exclusive and expensive, there were never more than four J Class yachts racing together, which makes the Falmouth regatta the largest gathering to date.
David Pitman, secretary of the J Class Association, said: “We chose Falmouth for the first 2012 regatta because of its great deep water bay, its superior onshore services and support from the extremely experienced Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. The waters around the bay offer the opportunity of great courses for both the competitors and spectators, who will be able to view the spectacle from several headlands.
“Spectators in Cornwall will be the first in the UK to see this wonderful fleet. Enthusiasts from around the world will be coming to Falmouth to view the yachts and watch the racing, which will be broadcast live around the world.
“What spectators can expect to see is sIx of the most beautiful historic yachts in the world – the first time ever that six J Class boats have been seen together. Each one is either a 1930s original or a replica based on the original shape. This is maritime history in the making and it’s going to be a yachting event not to be missed.”
Only three original J Class boats survived the Second World War – Shamrock V, Endeavour and Velsheda. All three were left to rot in mud berths for decades until a group of enthusiasts began to renovate them, with a view to relaunching the fleet as 21st century racing super-yachts.
“With the formation of the J Class Association in 2000, the possibility existed for replicas to be built,” said Mr Pitman. “New yachts have now been launched and there are others under construction. Most of these projects are expected to be completed in time for the regatta, creating a fleet of the biggest, finest racing yachts the world has ever seen.”
The vessels last raced in Falmouth in 1936, after which one local historian suggested that the J Class era was finished and “never again shall we witness the thrilling sight of watching them race”. He was right in a sense because it has taken a full seventy-six years for the spectacular luxury boats to return.
Royal Cornwall Yacht Club commodore Peter Collett, who will be helping to co-ordinate the June event, said: “The J Class before the war were the yachts the general public idolised, particularly as King George V was a regular competitor in Britannia. The restoration of the originals and the construction of new full-sized replicas represents the rebirth of a largely forgotten class. We hope that in future years they will make a huge impact on the yachting calendar.
“Everyone locally should be particularly proud that Falmouth has been chosen to host the first regatta of J Class yachts in UK waters since the 1930s and we will ensure the event benefits the club, Falmouth, and the wider community in Cornwall.”