When yacht designer William Starling Burgess developed new J-Class models and thoroughly tank-tested them at the University of Michigan in 1931, he found no immediate takers, certainly due to the bleak economic outlook following the Wall Street Crash. American J boats were laid up after the big 1930 season and were not put back into commission in following years, though yachting continued in the smaller M-class (for the wealthiest), the R-Class and the Herreshoff S Class. But Starling Burgess did find takers for his 1931 designs when a challenge for the America's Cup was announced by the Royal Yacht Squadron on behalf of Sir T.O.M. Sopwith on October 17th, 1933. A number of 23mR-to-J-Class conversions drove incentive to continue racing Big Class yachts in the United Kingdom, and British designer Charles Ernest Nicholson explained that his new challenger Endeavour would draw significantly from his latest J Velsheda (1933). An American syndicate of 18 owners joined Harold Stirling Vanderbilt and ordered a new defender from the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, to be designed by Burgess and to be christened Rainbow. In order to make up for the delay with the British, Rainbow was built to the existing 1931 Burgess design in a record 97 days and, according to historian John Leather, she had "fairer bilges, a fuller bow and a more restrained forward profile" than Burgess' previous J Enterprise. She also featured a number of firsts: she had a pear-sectioned duralumin mast and the "North Circular" boom (a flexible spar which featured lateral wire tensioners to trim the mainsail foot), and she introduced solid rod lenticular rigging. She featured a higher-aspect profile and higher-tensioned rig with double-headsails. Her sail inventory included the novel quadrangular jib (a quadrilateral with two clews) which Charles Sherman Hoyt had first spotted on Endeavour in her Solent trials and a perfected genoa: a sail rarely used in the British breeze, but setting well in the light Yankee airs. Simultaneously, both 1930 defence candidates Weetamoe and Yankee were significantly modified above and below the waterline to join the 1934 selection trials. Although these modifications proved extremely successful for Yankee, they were not for Weetamoe and her underbody was soon reverted close to her original lines. A re-rigged Vanitie (now officially rating in the I-Class) served them all well as a capable trial horse.
America's Cup defence selection trials concluded with the last race won by a second by Rainbow over Yankee. During the America's Cup races, Rainbow's older hull lines proved slower than Charles Ernest Nicholson's artful Endeavour, but her strength lay with Vanderbilt's excellent sense of leadership, with crew members assigned to numbers and tasks. Her afterguard was an exacting team, comprising Vanderbilt acting as skipper and upwind helmsman, downwind relief helmsman Charles Sherman Hoyt, mast nurse William Starling Burgess, parachute spinnaker expert Frank Cabot Paine, and navigator Zenas Bliss, each providing a useful input to the decision making process. Endeavour, with her partly-amateur crew, won the first two races, and only made a few mistakes in the following races, but Rainbow faultlessly capitalised on all of them, won every subsequent race and successfully defended the America's Cup. After the races, the two yacht designers traded each other's lines, and the very strengths of Charles Ernest Nicholson's artful Endeavour were yielded to the American opposition - a bad stage-setting for the next challenge.
The America's Cup defender which almost lost the trophy in 1934, has been rebuilt. She was ordered by the owner of the schooner Windrose of Amsterdam (Gerard Dijkstra design, Holland Jachtbouw, 2001) and re-designed by Dykstra & Parners, who have a wealth of experience in the J-Class. Gerard Dijkstra himself served as the main naval architect behind the Endeavour, Shamrock V and Velsheda J-Class refits. His firm was later sold to to his partner Thijs Nikkels, who carried out an extensive refit of the J replica Ranger after her first racing season in 2005 to improve the yacht's performance, and he served as the main architect on the J replica Hanuman, launched in 2009. So Rainbow is in effect the sixth J-Class project carried out by the firm. The boat's aluminium works themselves were built at Freddie Bloemsma's shipyard in Friesland; Joinery works and fitout have been completed at the Holland Jachtbouw shipyard in Noord Holland, where the boat is awaiting to be launched later this month. The new replica is slightly different from the original Rainbow, as the J-Class Association rules are different from the Universal Rule in effect in the 1930s. She will sit lower in the water (the 15ft maximum draught restriction has been lifted and she will draw 16ft) so the freeboard has been raised by one foot and the Designer's Waterline Length has been significantly increased. The lines themselves, although the same in essence, have been optimised. She is much heavier because her interiors are furnished for luxury charter, with the addition of a doghouse, whereas the original was very sparsely furnished. The original Universal Rule copied sail area variations directly into the boat's overall rating, but the new replica will carry a significantly larger rig and sailplan. Rainbow is also the fourth J built in aluminium, but this material was forbidden for the building of hulls in the 1930s.
The new Rainbow will be in trials until April before delivery to her owner, and she is expected at the summer J-Class regattas in Falmouth and Cowes. There she will meet with Endeavour, which during Rainbow's build, underwent an 18-month refit at the Yachting Developments shipyard in New Zealand and also supervised by Dykstra & Partners. Endeavour now features lighter interiors, a new deck layout with dorades removed, and completely new rig and sailplan, with entirely new load paths and fewer repositioned winches. Both boats have a lot of crew training to do, and excitingly, 2012 will reveal if Endeavour is still the faster boat, or if it is still all up to the crew.
|SPECIFICATIONS FROM HJB||Rainbow (1934)||Rainbow (2012)|
|naval architecture||William Starling Burgess||Dykstra & Partners|
|builder||Herreshoff Manufacturing Company||Bloemsma Aluminiumbouw, Holland Jachtbouw|
|sails||Ratsey & Lapthorn||North Sails|
|Length OverAll||129ft 4in (39.40m)||130ft 3in (39.72m)|
|Load Waterline Length||81ft 9in (24.90m)||89ft 3in (27.22m)|
|beam||20ft 9in (6.30m)||20ft 11in (6.37m)|
|draught||15ft (4.57m) with centerboard up||16ft, no centerboard|
|displacement||141 tons||178 tons|
|upwind sail area||7,530sqft (700m²)||10,005sqft (930m²)|
|rating||76ft, Universal Rule / J-Class||J-Class Association / Velocity Prediction Program|
|mast height||163ft (49.70m)||171ft 8in (52.33m)|
|boom length||66ft 2in (20.16m)||61ft 2in (18.65m)|
|ballast||lead, tobin bronze plated||lead, cased in aluminium hull|
Read the original yacht's full specifications at Jacques Taglang's AC-Clopaedia page and the new replica's at the official website. Mention of her hybrid propulsion systems are provided by the shipyard's press release. You can also follow Jan Kraak's beautiful model here, be sure to hit the next page link at the bottom.