J Class Lionheart Wins the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta 2017


Lionheart won the highly competitive six strong J Class at the second America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta and so lifted the Boat International Superyacht Regatta Trophy for the best performance at the regatta.

Although Lionheart started their regatta on the back foot, left behind when the breeze faded on their side of the first leg of Race 1, they sailed consistently and smartly thereafter, winning Wednesday’s Race 2 and chasing Svea across the line today for second. They win the class by three points from Ranger and Velsheda both tied on ten points.

The record sized J Class fleet was the centre of attention amidst the 20 superyacht crews mustered in Bermuda to enjoy competing against each other and to share in the mounting excitement as the 35th America’s Cup draws to its finale.

Lionheart lift the Boat International America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta Trophy. The historic sterling silver two handed cup dates back to 1872 and was first presented to the winner of the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta in San Francisco in 2013. It is inscribed with the words’

‘Cuore forte rompe cattiva sorte’
‘Nothing is impossible to the willing heart.’

As an elegant counterpoint to the high speed, short, sprint matches for the foiling multihulls of this 35th America’s Cup, the sheer power, grace and beauty of the 38m-44m (138-143ft) J Class have been a timely reminder of their historic heyday when they raced for the Americas Cup in the early 1930s.

Lionheart, which has seven times round the world racer Bouwe Bekking as its long time tactician reaped the rewards of their solid, consistent sailing – finishing second today – to win the class which contains dozens of past America’s Cup winners among the crews competing in Bermuda.

“It is always good to win the tune up regatta.” Tactician Bekking quipped on the dock at the Hamilton Princess Marina where there are currently eight of the world’s nine J Class yachts berthed.

“We are delighted. We want to win all the races we ever do. That’s why we do it, isn’t it.” Bekking smiled, “And the boat is going well in the conditions that we have prepared her for.”

“When we learned we were going to Bermuda where potentially there are very light airs, we had to look and see how we can make the boat as good as it can be. That was the first thing.” Bekking remarked, “And then when we are doing our training it is very intensive. I am sure we have done more manoeuvres in practice than anyone else. And of course our Owner has done a fantastic job driving the ‘bus’. He has come a long way and is beating some of the good pro drivers, and of course there are other great owner-drivers in this class.”

Ranger lead into the final day after two second places, but dropped to a disappointing sixth place finish today, caught in a zone of quieter winds on the final downwind. While this was something close to the nightmare outcome for skipper Erle Willliams and the Ranger crew, the debuting Svea made a bold call down the last run and earned their first J Class victory in only their second race with the fleet.

Tactician Charlie Ogletree, project manager of Svea, said:

“I think today the key to this was just keeping an open mind because there was a lot of things going on the racecourse, it was shift and puffy and there was some lucky breaks and some bad breaks for some of the teams. But we were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.”

“But this for us has been a two year race to be here and so that was the real race that we won. Thanks to the owner for pushing us hard and for giving us all the opportunities to complete this project for him and to launch it in January and to be here in Bermuda in June. Winning is the icing on the cake for sure”

Record Seven J Class Yachts Will Compete at the J Class America’s Cup Regatta

With the addition of Shamrock, the first J Class yacht ever to be built in 1930 for the America’s Cup, there will be a new record of seven J Class yachts taking the start lines for the three day America’s Cup J Class Regatta which starts Friday. Never before have seven J Class yachts raced in one fleet in any regatta.

“I have to thank the owners for their enthusiasm and support in making this happen here in Bermuda. Having a record seven J Class yachts racing together during the 35th America’s Cup is a reflection of the strength of a class which is driven by the passion of our owners. The America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta which concluded today has once again shown how close racing is with different yachts winning each day. I think we can be certain this will be an historic event. “
Louise Morton, the J Class secretary commented.

Shamrock has had just two days of training in Bermuda under helm Stu Bannatyne and tactician Chris Nicholson. As the smallest, lightest, oldest J Class yacht – commissioned in 1929 – their aspirations are modest considering they lack sail power and length compared with their more modern counterparts.

But Bannatyne – a three times winner of the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race – is delighted to be sailing the most storied J Class yacht an America’s Cup.

And while they may be racing the most historic J Class yacht, the team includes two sailors who are set to enjoy a real change of pace, stepping straight from the foiling America’s Cup cats to experience J Class racing, Andy McLean (BAR) and Ben Lamb (SoftBank Team Japan) and BAR’s meteorologist Jess Sweeney joining the Shamrock team

Bannatyne commented: “Today we had our second ever practice day on the mighty Shamrock. We put the team together fairly last minute so it’s been really nice to have a good couple practice days out there on the nice flat water.”

“I think its incredible that all the J’s are here, but especially this boat being the only original one and a cup competitor back in the day.”

“Realistically we just want to acquit ourselves respectably, to start nicely and get around the course without any problems. If we could pick up a midfleet result we would be very happy.”

Lionheart laid down a marker by winning the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta but with seven boats racing around six windward-leeward courses over Friday, Monday and Tuesday it will be a completely different test for the crews.

Against the backdrop of the 35th America’s Cup match between Team New Zealand and Team USA starting Saturday, there are many proud past America’s Cup winners in the fleet inspired to raise their game over coming days.

Velsheda’s Kiwi tactician Tom Dodson noted, “We’re pretty proud of our Team New Zealand guys and think they look good going into the match. It’s hard to get any kind of reference but it does inspire us a bit, they’ve raised their game and its up to us to do the same.”

Of the high level expected at this regatta Dodson explains:

“I think the intensity and the effort going into the new J Class boats is pretty impressive. There are not any mistakes going on in the fleet anymore. But here we are, we should remember also that we want people to love looking at the Js racing. Really we probably shouldn’t be that psyched up about who’s first and who’s not, as long as we’re sailing safely and showing the boats off. That the game really. Let’s enjoy it.”