For the first time since the world was last at war, Falmouth will see the return of a class of vast sailing yachts this month.
The “J Class” was established in 1929 and serves as a rating for large sailing yachts designed between 1930 and 1937.
Measuring as much as 140 feet in length and weighing up to 200 tons, there were only ever ten of these elegant giants built during the design’s heyday – mostly because of the immense expense involved in their construction and maintenance.
Now, after years of the original yachts laying largely forgotten - rotting away in mud berths or being broken up for scrap - four of the J Class will make a triumphant return at a specially designed five day regatta in Falmouth from June 26-30.
Commodore Peter Collet from the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club (RCYC), which is hosting the event, said: “We feel particularly privileged and we are very excited about it.
“The history of the J-Class is all around us here and there will be, in this club, an exhibition of memorabilia that will explain it all to the public during the event.”
David Pitman is secretary of the J Class Association, which was formed in 2000 to oversee the revival of the class and organise races.
He said: “The ‘J’ is probably one of the biggest sailing boats that you will see in the world. They need 30 crew and have more than 10,000 feet of sail.
“The last race we had they sailed for four hours and finished within 15 seconds of each other, so it’s very, very close racing and this is a wonderful opportunity to see them in UK waters.
“Once you see the boats close up, you will realise just how special they are,” he added.
The four yachts to feature in the Falmouth regatta will be “Velsheda”, which was originally built in 1933, “Ranger”, which is a replica of the last J Class to successfully defend the America’s Cup, “Lionheart”, based on an original design from 1937 and the recently launched “Rainbow”, which is a replica of a 1934 yacht of the same name.
Races are billed to start at 12 noon and will last for approximately three to four hours. Although the starting point is dependent upon wind direction, the finish line is envisaged as taking the four sailing yachts between Pendennis Point and the Black Rock marker at the mouth of the Carrick Roads.
John Pickup, principal race officer for the RCYC, said: “That means if you are stood on Castle Drive around about four o’clock in the afternoon you will see these boats coming in at speed and quite close together. It will be quite a sight.”
Spectators are encouraged to go out on the water and see the “J’s” up close, but must not manoeuvre in front of the boats and should try to avoid the starting “box,” that will be marked out by boats flying “J” flags at each corner.
Mr Pickup said: “People who go out there have to understand that this is a great sport to watch, but these are massive lumps of material that can’t turn easily and certainly can’t stop.
“We are really desperately keen that spectators should get out there and see what’s going on, but while all four boats are managed by professional skippers, who are very experienced and know the rules, they will find it completely impossible to deal with two boats converging on their bow.”
Race commentary will be available on Channel 69 VHF. For more information, contact the RCYC on 312126.