Saturday morning in the Solent brought the warm as well as sunny weather conditions for the J Class Solent Regatta – Hundred Guinea Cup race. This popular event is based on the original America’s Cup course, heading east around the Isle of Wight.
Light Easterly wind was due to give way to just a whisper of Southerly breeze in the day, and the prospect of a shortened course looked likely. Nothing could have dampened the enthusiasm of the spectator fleet though, as hundreds of them joined the Js at the start line, anticipating a race to rival the glory days of the 1930′s America’s Cups.
Luxury yacht Rainbow sensibly withdrew from Saturday’s racing for safety reasons after a small technical issue. The remaining three, superyacht Velsheda, charter yacht Ranger, and luxury yacht Lionheart were a fantastic spectacle as they hoisted their 16,000 square feet of mainsail and genoa, and began circling on the RYS line area, North of Cowes.
As if sensing the importance of the occasion, as the start time approached, the Easterly wind unexpectedly picked up strength. With hundreds of boats and thousands of spectators watching, the three boats crossed the line on Starboard, benefiting from the last of the flood tide. After the start, the sea erupted with the acceleration of hundreds of powerboats and RIBs following the three boat fleet.
The yachts pressed on in the light wind out to the Nab Tower. Lionheart rounded first, setting her 10,000 square foot spinnaker.
Lionheart superyacht held the lead at St Catherine’s Point with sailing yacht Velsheda a short distance behind, and Ranger close by. Even after three quarters of the course, only seconds split the fleet.
Luxury yacht Lionheart held her lead and rounded the Needles first, to the delight of hundreds of spectators on beaches and headlands from Hurst Castle to Christchurch.
By the time the boats reached Fort Albert, it had become apparent that the strong adverse tide through Hurst and patchy winds up the Solent were going to make finishing the round the island almost impossible, and the Race Committee took the decision to shorten the course retrospectively, as agreed in the sailing instructions. The course was finished at the Needles, where times had been taken. The results (including Time Correction Factors) were calculated but kept a secret from the Js until the prizegiving, where all the crew and owners assembled that evening.
Lionheart’s position at The Needles won her the King’s Hundred Guinea Cup. This was a fantastic achievement for Lionheart superyacht and her owner, competing in their first J Class regatta, and well-deserved as Lionheart has performed consistently well at each regatta and taken line-honours twice, narrowly losing out on first place each race on corrected time.
Superyacht Velsheda rounded about two minutes behind, and charter yacht Ranger a further five minutes behind.
Because of her great results in the Solent, two wins and one second, Velsheda was awarded the Corinthian King’s Cup for the regatta’s best amateur helmsman. Originally presented by King George V, the Corinthian King’s Cup, dating from 1914, will be presented each year as a perpetual trophy “for friendly competition between J Class yachts, each sailed by an amateur owner”.
The Kings Hundred Guinea Cup was originally presented by King George VI at the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club in 1937. Both trophies were kindly donated by Jan Hart; associate member of the JCA, keen supporter of the fleet, and owner of the building copyright for JS1 Svea.
Saturday was a great day for those watching from the mainland, as the Js were seen by thousands of spectators around the island from every possible vantage point; from Cowes, Lee-on-Solent, Hayling Island, Bembridge, Ventnor, Christchurch Bay, and Hurst.
The Hundred Guinea Cup was another great race by the competitive J Class yachts, providing a spectacle that will live in yachting memory for a very long time.
On Saturday night, crew, owners, and organisers enjoyed a prize-giving party at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, jointly sponsored by Pantaenius, and Dykstra and Partners Naval Architects. Everybody attended the event in great spirits, still buzzing from four days of wonderful sailing.
Superyachts Lionheart and Velsheda’s prize-winning owners made speeches enthusiastically thanking the Royal Southampton Yacht Club for their excellent race-management, as they received their cups.
Both the Falmouth and Solent Regattas were the inspiration of David Pitman, who has been class secretary for more than twelve years. He worked hard, together with Mike Beggs, the class measurer, to bring these two wonderful regattas to the UK this year. He was significantly responsible for the growth of the class from the original three yachts to a fleet of seven on the water, with three more projects underway. David says “It has been my pleasure to work and sail with the J Class fleet for more than fifteen years, creating an environment where the class can grow and flourish.”