The New Heyday of the J Class

Published on April 4th, 2017

Toby Hodges reports for Yachting World why this illustrious class is now more popular than ever.


The nine current Js have all been redesigned by Dutch design firms, most have been built or rebuilt in Dutch shipyards at some stage and multiple owners are or have been Dutch.

Jeroen de Vos from top design firm Dykstra has been kept very busy recently updating their existing fleet of J Class – which is basically all bar the three modern Hoek Design reconfigured yachts.

“We look at what we can tweak before every regatta. We just did major jobs on Hanuman, Ranger and Shamrock,” said de Vos.

Those in the current racing fleet are all looking at rating and the best way to close the gap on the others. “Do you want to come out with a clean start, or do you want a low rating?”

De Vos makes the point that, as the fleet increases in size, it becomes harder to get a good start. “When you start on a J you pick your lane and you are committed – you can’t throw it around like a Laser. And who wins the start and clean air often wins.”

Dykstra helped develop the rule of the class for the AC Jubilee in 2001. Now it’s in the hands of the rating experts at Southampton University’s Wolfson Unit, who, together with the J Class Association, ensure the class rule is continually developed to ensure close racing.

“You want to make sure that yesterday’s boat can still win tomorrow,” says de Vos. “That’s the key to the longevity of the class.” That, he says, and ensuring that owners don’t have to cut their boats apart to stay competitive.

The lengths owners are prepared to go to optimise the boats today is no less than any race boat programme, it’s just on an astronomically different scale. From constant sail, rigging, hardware and hydraulic upgrades down to fairing the hull, some have even gone to the extent of 3D mapping the hull to check it’s symmetrical before wet sanding beneath the waterline!

Full report… click here.

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