2017-08-17 / Front Page

What it Takes to Hold the J Class World Championship

By Sam Crichton


See Topaz and the other Js racing starting Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Photo by Daniel Forser) See Topaz and the other Js racing starting Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Photo by Daniel Forser) In less than one week, the waters of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound will be busy with six J Class boats racing for the J Class World Championship title. These sailing thoroughbreds will begin five days of racing on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

It takes an army to organize and run events associated with the championship. During the week, a number of local organizations and venues will be involved, and their contribution is what makes Newport such a sailing Mecca.

The New York Yacht Club will host the regatta and provide the race management team, which is led by well-known principal race officer Tom Duggan.

"The New York Yacht Club is honored to host the inaugural J Class World Championship. We appreciate the trust placed in the club and its race committee by the individual owners and Louise Morton from the J Class Association. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and we're excited to play our role," said New York Yacht Club commodore Phil Lotz.


The smallest J in the Worlds fleet, Velsheda. 
(Photo credit DanielForster.com) The smallest J in the Worlds fleet, Velsheda. (Photo credit DanielForster.com) You will be able to see these iconic boats up close at the Newport Shipyard, where they will be docked during their stay in Newport. Home to some of the largest sailboats and motor boats that visit Newport each summer, the shipyard will provide first-class facilities for the J Class boats.

Keeping a close eye on the fleet during the competition will be a local team of water safety professionals. Marine Safety and Security, owned and operated by Donald Gunning and Billy Burke, will provide on-water safety service to the regatta.

Gunning, the onboard paramedic and registered nurse, and Burke, the boat captain/driver, will be joined by rescue swimmer Jeff Clark. Combined, the trio have more than 50 years of medical and rescue experience. "Being able to think outside the box when you are not working in the normal controlled work environment and utilizing our in-field paramedic experience gives our ‘customers’ some peace of mind while they are racing, " Gunning said.


Sam Crichton, a transplant from Australia, has worked in the sailing industry for more than 16 years both locally and internationally. Sam Crichton, a transplant from Australia, has worked in the sailing industry for more than 16 years both locally and internationally. Live commentary will be broadcast over VHF channel 85 by local sailing commentator Andy Green. No stranger to reporting on the action, Green started his broadcasting career in Newport in 2004, describing the Alinghi vs Oracle racing.

During recent weeks, we have been looking at the boats that are competing in the championship. Here is a detailed look at J8 Topaz and JK7 Velsheda.

J8 Topaz

The J8 Topaz was an unbuilt 1935 Frank C. Paine A design. Paine was the son of Gen. Charles J. Paine of Boston, the owner of the successful America’s Cup defenders for the New York Yacht Club, Puritan in 1885 (as part of a syndicate), Mayflower (1886) and Volunteer (1887).

The Hoek Design Office created the lines plans for Topaz and was also responsible for the complete optimization of the yacht and her art deco interior design. The rebuild of J8, with an overall length of 140 feet, was finished with the hull and deck built at Freddie Bloemsma Shipyard and fitted out at Holland Jachtbouw. She was launched in the summer of 2015.

JK7 Velsheda

Velsheda, built in 1933, is the only original J Class yacht racing at the world championship. The other five yachts were all built in the last 14 years. Designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson for W.L. Stephenson, owner of the Woolworth chain, Velsheda will be the smallest J racing at 129 feet. Velsheda was named after Stephenson’s three daughters, Velma, Sheila and Daphne.

Stephenson never planned to compete for the America’s Cup, but instead raced with the greatest names in classic yachting, including

Britannia, Endeavour and Shamrock, between 1933 and 1936. In her second season, Velsheda won more than 40 races.

Velsheda was rescued in 1984 by Terry Brabant, who refitted her for charter work with a new steel mast and limited interior. Still without an engine, she sailed regularly on charter along Great Britain’s South Coast.

Purchased in 1996 as a bare hull lying at mooring in Portsmouth Harbor, she was taken to Southampton Yacht Services, where a two-year comprehensive rebuild was completed to return her to immaculate racing condition. She was fitted with the tallest one-piece carbon mast in the world, and a comprehensive suit of racing sails was produced. Velsheda was relaunched in November 1997.

For information on the J5 Ranger and JS1 Svea see the Aug. 10 edition of Newport This Week. For information on the JK6 Hanuman and JH1 Lionheart see the Aug. 3 edition of Newport This Week.

Follow the Spectacle

Racing starts at 11 a.m. daily, to see the action up close, view from Brenton Point, Fort Adams, Jamestown and Beavertail. To hear live commentary, turn to VHF channel 85.

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