THEY are the ultimate millionaire’s plaything and the sleekest of racing machines.
Next month Southampton will host three elegant J Class yachts.
Ranger, Velsheda and Lionheart will be moored at Ocean Village Marina ahead of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron International Bicentenary Regatta from July 25-31.
The original J Class yachts were built in the 1930s to contest the Americas Cup. The first was Shamrock IV owned by tea magnate Thomas Lipton and the class has been revived in the 21s century.
Only one of this trio, Velsheda, is a pre-war original. She was built at the Nicholson yard in Gosport in 1933 for WL Stephenson, the chairman of Woolworths, and named after his three daughters Velma, Sheila and Daphne.
She was the only original J not built for the America’s Cup but, with her steel hull, aluminium masts and sails made from the new wonder fabric terylene, she was at the cutting edge of sailing technology.
Her sailing life was short. Between 1937 and 1984 she languished in a mud berth on the Hamble before scrap metal merchant Terry Brabant partially restored her.
In 1996 she was purchased by Dutch entrepreneur Ronald de Waal who paid Southampton Yacht Services to rebuild her. Since then de Waal has raced her extensively, always taking the helm himself, and she has become the only J to sail around the world.
Ranger is a Danish- built a replica of the J of the same name commissioned for the 1937 Americas Cup for a syndicate led by railroad heir Harold Vanderbilt.
Lionheart was built in aluminium by Bloemsma and Claasen Jachtbouw in Holland and launched in 2010. At 43.4 metres she is the longest J afloat. Her first owner’s business commitments forced him to sell her and she was purchased in mid-2011 by Dutchman Harold Goddijn, the founder of Tom Tom.
The yachts will join vessels from 25 UK sailing clubs in races to celebrate the 200-year history of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
The J Class will race as a fleet in the Solent. Spectators can view them from vantage points and at Ocean Village Marina. Tell them apart by the letters on their sails J K7, Velsheda, J5, Ranger, and JH1, Lionheart.
Debbie Burns, manager at MDL’s Ocean Village Marina, said: “We are excited and extremely proud to host these four magnificent yachts at the marina. Our deep waters and central location make Ocean Village the ideal location for these beautiful boats and we are highly experienced at catering for larger yachts. We were lucky to host three of the boats in 2012 for the J Class Solent Regatta and are thrilled that the boats will be returning.”