J-KZ1 Rainbow ready to return as for The Superyacht Cup Palma

Rainbow returns to J Class competition next week at The Superyacht Cup Palma, some ten years since the highly potent replica of the 1934 America’s Cup winner last sailed a race. She is now owned by the successful Sydney-based New Zealand sailor Neville Crichton who, after winning dozens of offshore classics such as the Transpac, Fastnet, Giraglia and Sydney Hobart, has turned his competitive zeal to the historic J Class, planning to compete at the J Class America’s Cup Regatta in Barcelona this Autumn. 

Crichton, who is reported to have commented how he has ‘always loved the classic look of the J Class yachts’, joked that he was ‘persuaded’ to buy the beautiful J. A major refit was commissioned which has run since 2022 and has seen an upgrade to the hydraulics, new paint, new decks, new winches, new mast, new sails and includes a full engineering refit.

Rainbow, which has been granted sail number J-KZ1 and races under the flag of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, is now ready to meet the newest yacht in the fleet, the 2017-launched Svea, and the 1933 original J, Velsheda, on the Bay of Palma. 

The original J-Class Rainbow was designed by Starling Burgess and was commissioned by New York magnate Harold Vanderbilt for the 1934 America’s Cup defence. Up against Sir T.O.M. Sopwith’s Endeavour, Rainbow lost the first two matches, but then won the next four to retain the America’s Cup for the New York Yacht Club. 

This Rainbow was launched in 2012 as a replica development by Dykstra Naval Architects. Lighter and smaller – two metres shorter than the bigger Js – not only is Rainbow widely acknowledged to be good in light airs, she is also said to be stable for her size and therefore goes well in the breeze too.  And so, there is considerable excitement and anticipation throughout the class to see how the refitted Rainbow will go when sailed by a hand-picked team which has a broad mix of J Class, America’s Cup and ocean racing successes to its credit. 

The Rainbow crew will be skippered by Erle Williams who has enjoyed many successes over the years with Neville Crichton on various boats.  He also skippered the J Class Ranger for many years.  Among the new Rainbow crew are The Ocean Race winning navigator Simon ‘SiFi’ Fisher, six times America’s Cup winner Murray Jones as tactician, as well as Justin Slattery, Simon Daubney, and Antonio ‘Neti’ Cuervas Mons.  They mustered in Palma on Monday ahead of the regatta and have been training on the Bay of Palma.  

“We are all excited and now just looking forwards to going sailing,” enthuses Rainbow’s Boat Captain Matthew Sweetman. “We have absolutely no idea how we will go against the other boats. We need to go out and learn the boat, see what our strengths and weaknesses are and enjoy it, making sure everything is as we hoped it would be with what we have done. I think we will all be quite close, though. If we can get up to speed quickly enough, then I think performance wise we should be close and have good racing.” 

The Superyacht Cup Palma takes place from the 19-22 June, and the J Class will do two days of windward leeward racing on the Wednesday and Friday and coastal courses Thursday and Saturday. They will race as a class for the first time under the new ORCj rule which has been under development since last October as a collaboration between the class Technical Group and ORC, based on the new ORCj VPP program specifically tailored to the widely different performance criteria of the J Class yachts. 

Svea won The Superyacht Cup the last time the Js raced as a class in 2022 when four boats competed. They have already used PalmaVela as a training regatta on Palma Bay in early May this year.

Svea’s Tim Powell comments, “We feel in good shape and are obviously competing to win. Rainbow was always deemed to be a fast boat when it raced last so we expect she will be very competitive from the off. In Neville they have a seasoned owner who knows how to put a team together, so I expect great racing. Velsheda will be as quick as always.”

Commenting on what it means to race in the J Class fleet, Powell continued: “The J Class boats were designed and built to go racing and they remain one of the most iconic and majestic yachts on the water even 100 years after their inception. It’s a privilege to sail them and you sometimes take it for granted but when you have 30+ crew working in harmony during difficult manoeuvres, it’s pretty awesome.”

And, as ever, Velsheda are keen to be back racing on the Bay of Palma after winning their class at the Saint Barth’s Bucket in the Spring. Tom Dodson, tactician on Velsheda, is under no illusions as to what is seen as Rainbow’s potential. “I think we are in good shape but we are now up against two good campaigners in Neville Crichton and Niklas Zennström. They have had great maxi campaigns. We have seen it with Svea and now expect Rainbow to come out fast and sailing well. We have to keep reinventing Velsheda and Palma will be a good build up for us to Barcelona. We are looking forwards to the two days of windward-leewards. Rainbow was more than competitive before! It was always quick and quick manoeuvring and as I remember it was also quick in the light, choppy weather of Porto Cervo. She was a rocket. We expect them to come out of the blocks pretty well and so we are figuring out how we answer that.”

Visit the J Class website, and follow on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news from The Superyacht Cup Palma.

The J Class has its roots in the oldest international sporting race in the world, The America’s Cup. The founding of the J Class Association (JCA) in 2000 to protect the interests of the Class, present and future, accelerated a real revival. Class Rules were established for the construction of replica rebuilds from original plans and several replicas and original designs were subsequently built.

The class, which today comprises 9 boats, now has an annual calendar highlighted by the Caribbean and Mediterranean sailing seasons.

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