Being the New Kid on the Rock
Published on June 13th, 2017
When the America’s Cup J Class Regatta is held June 16, 19, and 20 on Bermuda, the newest launch in the class will be among the 7-boat fleet. Tom Siebel’s Svea is fresh from her sea trials in Spain, and with about dozen days of training on her, will soon learn how she measures up as she races for the first time.
The 143-foot Svea was built from designs drawn by Swedish naval architect and boat builder Tore Holm, a noted designer of Six and Eight Metre yachts. With the hull and deck of the 1937 design already built, Siebel’s team stepped in to finish the job at Vitters Shipyard in Holland.
The new J Class yacht was built in some 14 months. The fact that she has made it to Bermuda on time is a testament to a huge amount of work by a large, dedicated, and talented team of people.
“When we set out two years ago to be here, we knew the chances of making it were limited. In December of last year, I would say that those chances were halved,” grins Charlie Ogletree, the USA’s 2004 Olympic silver medallist, Svea’s program manager and tactician. “But our launch in January went well and the crew has come together.”
Svea plans to race with 29 crew, among the notables being Peter Isler, Vince Brun, Ross Halcrow, Tom Whidden, Francesco de Angelis, Andrew Taylor, Zan Drejes, Rodney Daniel, Hogan Beatie, Dean Harper, and Chris Hosking.
“Having always been in awe with the grace and beauty of the J Class, to sail this boat is another story,” Ogletree reports. “You need to roll up your sleeves and respect every square inch to successfully sail the boat. They weigh 180 tonnes each and so takes a bit of learning.
“A lot of our team are moving over from the MOD70 that we sail, and while there are dramatic differences between the two boats, both boats can make you look pretty silly pretty quickly if you are not ready. It doesn’t take much for a situation to spiral out of control.
“Everything on a J Class yacht is so heavily loaded that it can be frightening if you are not prepared. Just maneuvering such a huge and heavy yacht is a test, and when she gets rolling, stopping her is not an easy feat. The level of planning to compete on a buoy course will require coordination on the highest order.
“But there is no place better to learn than on the race course, and we will be out to learn as much as we can from the fabulous sailors who compete in the fleet, seeing how they do things, and simply getting comfortable being close to other J Class yachts.
“Getting a fleet of J Class yachts around the track in Bermuda will be a test that I seriously hope we all pass. From the outside, I am sure it will be an awesome sight. These boats are so amazing to look at, and the venue will offer an epic backdrop. But for those of us inside the lines, I can assure you we will be counting to see if we have all our fingers at the end of the day.”