In August 2001, in Cowes, the birthplace of yachting and that 100 Guinea Cup which would later change its name to the America's Cup, a fleet gathered that told the entire history of yachting, from the mid-1800s to the beginning of the new millennium. In 2001, the 150th anniversary of the first America's Cup was celebrated in the Solent and during that Jubilee three sailing ships stood out in their magnificence: Endeavour, Shamrock V and Velsheda, the three surviving J Class yachts. These spectacular vessels, created in the 1930s to compete for the America's Cup, represent the charm of a bygone era of sailing in the collective imagination. The J Class had a short life, the rating rule was born in 1928 for competition in the America's Cup of 1930, which was followed by the editions of 1934 and 1937 but these colossuses of the sea, like many other works of art, fell victim to the Second World War. In the post-war recovery the International 12 Metre Class was preferred in fact, remaining the America's Cup boat until 1987 and of which our own Azzurra is one of the most beautiful examples. In their short decade of life, seven big boats of the Golden Age of Sail were converted into J Class yachts based on the Universal Rule, but only ten new J Class boats were launched ex novo - six American and four British, based on a total of twenty designs. Their names are: Enterprise, Whirlwind, Yankee, Weetamoe, Rainbow and Ranger (for which eight different design versions were produced) for the USA, and Shamrock V, Endeavour, Velsheda and Endeavour II for the United Kingdom. They were the most avant-garde yachts of their time, but they were also delicate, builds that pushed the limits of tensile strength: the hundreds of tons that the 50-metres mast unloaded onto the structures were among the causes, along with incredibly high management costs, of the premature dismantling of almost the entire fleet.
The J Class Association gives ship-owners and designers the opportunity to rebuild "lost" J Class boats and to use different materials from the originals, for both refits and builds from the old plans. The choice of permitting the construction of those hulls that were never built, whose designs date back prior to 1939, and the possibility of using aluminium alloys for the reconstructed hulls, has been a significant driver towards the birth of the largest fleet of J Class yachts of all time. Today, 90 years since the first launch, a total of 9 are sailing. And so seeing these designs that had never seen the light of day, or yachts that had been "lost", constructed and navigating, has a special kind of charm.