I was lucky to see a little of the J Boat regatta. J boats are amazing! In truth, I do not find any of them lovely – the ultra-flat sheer lines and wildly long overhangs look distorted and harsh to me, but they are seriously impressive. When one of them steams by you at 12 knots, rail down, bow wave foaming, you feel the immense power of a J Boat.
I walked down the docks where they were berthed at Newport Shipyard, and I was impressed by the incredible detail work and maintenance of these insane relic replicas – the teak work, custom fittings and bright work are perfection.
I’m unsure how the J Boat class has become so popular among the 1% of the 1% — there are now 7 of these extraordinary vessels afloat, five of them are new-builds that adhere more or less to hull lines drawn decades ago for some built and some unbuilt challengers. Two are re-builds of nearly defunct J Boats, that ended up being almost complete new boats. The J Boat class holds regattas all over the place, in the Med, the Caribbean and here. Well-known helmsman Ken Read said that competing in one of these of pretty hairy – they have no lifelines, massive forces from the huge sails, and I bet they get pretty squirrely given their extreme sail area. I assume they sail much more slowly than a new maxi boat built to roughly the same dimensions, since the J Boats suffer from massive wetted surface, antique sail plans and high-drag underbodies. But, for sure they are fun to watch.