Newport, Rhode Island is renowned for superb sailing conditions. If the weather forecast is any indication, the next several days should prove perfect. Two J Class yachts are competing head to head—or bow to bow—in the first of a series of historic races.
Specifically, Ranger and Velsheda, two of the six privately owned Js afloat, will race from June 15 to 19. They’ve actually faced each other before, but amid a variety of other sailing-yacht designs. This week’s race, the J Class Regatta Newport, is the first Js-only race since the days of the America’s Cup in the 1930s. Further adding to the historic significance, the J Class Regatta Newport is the first of at least three more races in the J Class global calendar through 2012.
Measuring 136 feet, Ranger was launched in 2003. She’s an exact replica of one of the most famous J Class yachts, also named Ranger. That Ranger was commissioned by Harold Vanderbilt, the successful railroad executive and award-winning yachtsman. The 129-foot Velsheda, meanwhile, is an original J Class yacht. She was delivered in 1933, designed by Charles Nicholson and built by UK-based Camper & Nicholson. W.L. Stephenson, the owner of the Woolworth five-and-dime store chain, named her for his daughters: Velma, Sheila, and Daphne.
When Ranger and Velsheda take to the water, the action will be overseen by Sail Newport. It’s a local organization known for its work teaching kids how to sail. Equally important, Sail Newport has managed major races. This week should be a welcome challenge, as Ranger and Velsheda have finished within seconds of each other in previous regattas.
If you’re interested in watching, head to the city’s Fort Adams State Park or Castle Hill Inn. Two additional locations in Jamestown will also offer good vantage points. These are Fort Wetherill State Park and Beavertail State Park.
Check back later this week for an update on and photos of the race. And for a taste of what's to come, watch this YouTube Video: Return of the J Class Yachts