2017-08-31 / Front Page

HEAD OF THE J CLASS

Lionheart wins inaugural world title


The crew of Lionheart works on the sail while racing five rival J Class yachts during the inaugural world championship on Narragansett Bay. The Dutch boat, helmed by owner Harold Goddijn, captured the title by three points over Hanuman, the U.S.-flagged yacht driven by Newport skipper Ken Read. 
PHOTO BY DANIEL FORSTER The crew of Lionheart works on the sail while racing five rival J Class yachts during the inaugural world championship on Narragansett Bay. The Dutch boat, helmed by owner Harold Goddijn, captured the title by three points over Hanuman, the U.S.-flagged yacht driven by Newport skipper Ken Read. PHOTO BY DANIEL FORSTER On the same waters where the legendary Ranger swept the 1937 America’s Cup, its Dutch-flagged descendant, Lionheart, was crowned the inaugural world champion of the mighty and majestic J Class following a week of racing on Narragansett Bay.

Displaying solid consistency across seven races, Lionheart sailed to victory Saturday three points clear of runner-up Hanuman. Helmed by owner Harold Goddijn, the 142-footer prevailed in the six-boat fleet through low-risk strategies employed by a close-knit crew that has been together since 2011. It finished no worse than third in any race, eclipsing the highly fancied Hanuman, which returned to J Class racing this season after a three-year hiatus. Lionheart tactician Bouwe Bekking, who departs from Spain in October for his eighth Volvo Ocean Race, heralded the conservative philosophy.


The six-boat J Class fleet sails past the Dumplings en route to Newport. 
PHOTO BY ONNE VAN DER WAL The six-boat J Class fleet sails past the Dumplings en route to Newport. PHOTO BY ONNE VAN DER WAL “I said before the championship that if we could finish top three in every race we would most likely win,” said the Dutch skipper of Team Brunel. “It worked out.”

The shiny, black-hulled Lionheart, flying sail JH1, was built 75 years after the original design by Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens for Ranger, the so-called “Super J” that dominated on the water. The Dutch boat won 35 of 37 races it started and reached the maximum rating allowed for the class under the Universal Rule.

In recent years, the Palma de Mallorca-based Lionheart has sailed religiously at more regattas than its rivals, J Class and otherwise, in the pursuit of improvement, training and optimizing. Bekking credited Goddijn and the ownership team for their commitment.

“It is a special title, one for the owner who gives us so much confidence in ourselves and who gives us carte blanche in how we set the boat up and how we sail,” he said.

Its top rival, Hanuman, the U.S.-flagged team that was steered by legendary Newport skipper Kenny Read, won three of the seven races, including Saturday’s showcase finale in front of a huge crowd. Their aggregate, however, was too heavily ballasted by a fifth place last Thursday, which resulted from a penalty, and a sixth-place finish on Friday. Ultimately, that was the outcome after a sub-standard start and subsequently being held to the wrong side of the course. Reed’s penalty proved costly, just like in Bermuda, where they again were edged by Lionheart for the America’s Cup J Class title in June.

“They sailed better than us this week,” Read said. “We left too many points out there on the race course. We are ticked off about that. At the end of the day, winners win. Lionheart did a good job.”

With the win, Lionheart captured the Terry Kohler Trophy as 2017 season champions, an inaugural trophy that aggregates results at the St. Barth’s Bucket, the America’s Cup and the world championship.

“I think we did a nice job of letting the boat work for us and letting our excellent crew work prevail,” Bekking said. “We just keep it simple.”

Hanuman, the winner in St. Barth’s in the spring and runnerup in the other two races, finished second for the Kohler Trophy. Appropriately, Ranger, a replica of its namesake, clinched third overall.

The world championship ended with an awards ceremony at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court in Newport. “This has been a great event, a chance for sailing to come back to the front and center in the world,” Read said. “It has been an honor and privilege to be involved in it. I can’t wait to do it again.”

World championship results

1) Lionheart, 17 points (3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2, 2)

2) Hanuman, 20 (1, 4, 1, 2, 5, 6, 1)

3) Ranger, 24 (5, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3)

4) Topaz 27 (4, 1, 6, 5, 1, 5, 5)

5) Svea, 29 (2, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 6)

6) Velsheda, 30 (6, 2, 2, 6, 6, 4, 4)

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