J Class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. © Studio Borlenghi / Francesco Ferri

J Class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. © Studio Borlenghi / Francesco Ferri

Super Swedes Svea are Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup J Class Champions


By J Class
09/09/2023 - 23:53

There was insufficient wind to sail the final scheduled races at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. Although the maxi fleets went afloat and the J Class started a short coastal race it had to be abandoned when the light wind died away. 

And so Svea's unbeaten run of six wins from six starts remains intact and the Swedish flagged team retain the J Class title which they won last year. They led four races through the finish line whilst Velsheda took two winning guns but lost out on corrected time. 

For Svea's Swedish co-owner Niklas Zennström this is his sixth Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 'worlds' title after winning in the Maxi72s in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013 and with Svea in the J Class last year. 

He enthused, "This is the big regatta of the season and so to win is fantastic. All the preparation, all the training we have done has paid off. I think we trained more than the others as with these big boats with 30 people a lot of things have to go right. For me, compared to last year the boat feels smaller, it is a big, heavy boat and you really have to anticipate what is going to happen well in advance. For example, when you get it wrong in a tack or a rounding you can lose ten or fifteen seconds, so this is the result of a lot of training too."

It has been an excellent week of racing for the three J Class contestants, the only time this season that they race as a fleet together under the J Class Association's own rating rule. 

But all the teams are looking forwards to an exciting, demanding 2024 season which will include an event in Mahon, Menorca 28th May-2nd June, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup this time next year and the proposed second J Class World Championship in Barcelona during the 37th America's Cup. New to the fleet will be Rainbow which is now owned by Neville Crichton which last raced here in Porto Cervo in 2014 but has a reputation for being a fast, light J Class.  

J Class Secretary Stuart Childerley said, "We've had a fantastic week here in Porto Cervo, great racing and lots of good comradery amongst the three teams. Svea have now set the standard for next season and it will be interesting to see how the other teams prepare for the events in 2024. It's an important year for the class in 2024, as we begin to gain a good momentum for the existing and new teams. I have my work cut out for me preparing to ensure we continue to have good racing and enjoyable events." 

J Class Topaz, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup final day. © Studio Borlenghi / Francesco Ferri

Summary quotes from the J Class dock: 

Niklas Zennström (SWE), Svea: "It is such a different thing to other boats. These boats are majestic, it is such privilege to sail these historic boats, but it is proper racing, it close. Sure, they don't go as fast, but it is all relative. There is a lot of pressure. 

One of the things we started with Svea as the only Swedish designed J Class was that we make it really Swedish. Half the crew is Swedish and they have evolved a lot as sailors. It is great set up with a few really experienced guys like Bouwe (Bekking), Jens (Dolmer), Tim (Powell) and Steve (Hayles) and Flipper (Paul Westlake) and others, and we have Swedish guys and girls who were good sailors, but they have been able to catch up with all the training we have done. But everyone has such a great attitude, we have a great team spirit, everyone is very happy and everyone helps everyone out because these boats are hard work."

Tom Dodson (NZL), tactician Velsheda: "All three boats are very well sailed, and it is has been good to be back together racing each other. We still don't think the rating rule is very accurate but hopefully that is a work in progress. But we are racing against two other Js which are sailing at the level that Topaz and Svea are. The level has gone up, and one good thing is that we have sailed for years, and years and we had gotten to a nice level of affordability and keeping people together and still getting good results. But with the new boats coming along and upping the ante and the new owners coming along, that has meant that Velsheda has had to put in more time and for our owner more money, but we all appreciate all this extra level of competition. 

We love these boats, everybody who gets into these boats loves them and says we wish we had done this more and earlier. Even the young fellas coming in from AC boats and SailGP guys - we have a few of them – we have some brilliant yachtsmen who can go and sail any boat – and they do and they love these boats. They come on here and work as hard and think as hard as they would on any boat. It is very easy on any boat to get a little complacent, so we appreciate that a lot. You can't take this for granted but this is a sweet little spot for the class."

Timmy Kröger, (GER), project manager Topaz: "We know that Svea has always been a fast boat and is now even quicker. We have got quicker as well with new sails and new crew. But it is hard to beat them. We need to look at the whole balance of our rating. The rating in the J Class is very, very special and it goes beyond what we know from the likes of IRC and ORC and so we have to look deeper into the boats as such. Maybe we have some disadvantage which is not properly accounted for in the rating rule. 

Honestly, we had one day which was a shocker, a minor problem which avalanched downhill and ended up in blood, sweat and tears but things like that happen on boats like this. I think we sailed well but we are always looking at ourselves and to what we can do better, how we can improve. But if one of the boats in this class - where we spent a lot of time and effort on our rating rule - is winning six straight, then that is something we maybe need to look into. That is not whinging and complaining but maybe we need to do some more adjustments. 

The enjoyment here is Porto Cervo is always good and basically now we are all looking to a big year next year with Mahon, here (Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup) and the racing round the America's Cup is all we are focusing on."

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