Eighty years after Ranger cleaned up 4-0 in the 1937 America’s Cup off Newport, Rhode Island, the last time ever that the mighty J Class raced for the “Auld Mug,” the Dutch-flagged Lionheart, which is based on lines similar to those of Ranger, made some history of its own by winning the class’s first-ever world championship.
The boat and crew did so by displaying solid consistency across all seven races it sailed against the five other J’s taking part in the regatta, ultimately defeating runner-up, Hanuman, by just three points. Although Lionheart only took first one time, it also never once finished lower than third, which in the end proved sufficient to clinch the overall victory.
“It is a special title, [both] for the owner who gives us so much confidence in ourselves and who gives us carte blanche in how we set the boat up and how we sail,” said Lionheart tactician, Bouwe Bekking, who is currently competing in his eighth Volvo Ocean Race as skipper of Dutch-flagged Team Brunel.
Bekking added that key to his team’s victory was its having sailed together for so long. “Everybody has their responsibilities, their own jobs to do and there are no rock stars, no prima donnas. We just believe in each other. We always started clean, and we could always—except in one race— sail our own course. I think we did a nice job of letting the boat work for us and letting our excellent crew work prevail. We just keep it simple.”
In addition to bagging the class’s first-ever world championship, Lionheart also won the newly minted Terry Kohler Trophy in recognition of its overall points win for the class 2017 summer series, which included the St. Barth’s Bucket and the America’s Cup J Class Regatta.
Taking second in both the world championship regatta and season series was Hanuman, which recently came back from a three-year break from racing and was helmed by North Sails president Kenny Read.
“Congratulations to Lionheart, they sailed better than us this week. We left too many points out there on the racecourse. We are ticked off about that. At the end of the day, winners win and Lionheart did a good job,” Read said afterward, although it sounds like he still managed to have a pretty good time at the regatta.
“This has been a great event, a chance for sailing to come back to the front and center in the world again, for sail handling and crew work and for majestic boats to really put on a show. I think all the teams here this week did an amazing job, every team had its day,” Read said. “On behalf of the Hanuman team, it has been an honor and privilege to be involved in it. I can’t wait to do it again.”
For complete results and more on the J Class, visit jclassyachts.com.