Shamrock V, legendary J-Class, finally returns to sailing.

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Shamrock V (1930), the Queen of the J-Class

Sir Thomas Lipton is a name of some note in the sailing world. More specifically, in the world of the America’s Cup. For as many as 31 years he was the “best of losers,” the one who, continuously, from 1899 to 1930, challenged the American giant, without winning a single time (the Cup would be lost by the U.S. for the first time in 1983, after 132 years, to Australia II). But his persistence should be celebrated, not only because it earned him enormous publicity (he is the Lipton of tea), but because he gave us outstanding hulls. And now, the last of these creatures of his, the legendary J-Class Shamrock V (1930), is coming back to life .

Shamrock V, Sir Lipton’s J-Class reborn.

Let’s start from the beginning. From 1893 to 1903 every hull destined for theAmerica’s Cup had to comply with a specific rule based solely on waterline length and sail area: the Sewanhaka Rule. The limit, which was almost nonexistent, led to the development of extremely stretched hulls, culminating in a creature that was extreme even by today’s standards: the Reliance (1903), an exalted hull, but exceedingly exaggerated as well as dangerous. It was the designer himself, the brilliant Herreshoff, who proposed a new rating. Thus was born the Universal Rule, and hence the J-Classes, which came into effect in 1930. Shamrock V was the first British challenger and the first J-Class ever. And now he sails again. Here is his story.

The Reliance in regatta (1903). In addition to having immense momentum that increased its critical speed at heeled boat, it boasted 1500 sq. m. of sails….

Shamrock V – Restroscena

It is Monday, May 20, 2024, and Shamrock V touches the water again. Charles Ernest Nicholson’s grandiose creature, is launched again, the “Queen of the J-Classes,” is finally back on the water… To understand the excitement, however, some details are needed. Not only was Shamrock V the first ever J-Class, but it was also the only one made entirely of wood, and the only one that never fell into neglect during its existence. Only two other Js besides her have survived to this day, Endeavour and Velsheda, now sailing but basically rebuilt to new.

Shamrock V
Shamrock V

The other 7 J-Classes in the world, are replicas. Why? Very simple: the three British hulls, first of all, were much more solid. In fact, by regulation, they had to be able to reach the race course by sailing independently, and then arrive in America by crossing the Atlantic. A requirement that poses considerable difference. Another key component, demolition: the 7 American hulls, from the Weetamoe (’30) to the Ranger (’37), were immediately sold and scrapped. All details that, fundamentally, make the Shamrock V uniquely unique.

Shamrock V
Shamrock V

The Restoration

Shamrock V was never abandoned, never left to rot. But even so, in 2017 it was damaged in regatta (America’s Cup J Class regatta, Bermuda), suffering deep structural damage and taking on no small amount of water. Brought back to Europe, it was put up for sale for 6 million pounds, still entirely to be saved. Only in 2022, the new owner, will be able to gain possession.

Shamrock V
Shamrock V

After a long and intensive restoration, which basically saw among the best experts in the world get their hands on the Queen of the Js, Shamrock V is resurrected. In fact, under the leadership of Paul Spooner and Feargus Bryan, the J was completely redone within 2 years, with more than 30 people constantly at work amounting to about 100,000 man-hours. All in a specially set up tent that is the equivalent of about 3 stories high. A magical shed, basically, capable of breathing life back into a 94-year-old masterpiece. An immense and philological process that even saw the use of some of those same hand tools used in the original construction of the Shamrock V in 1930!

Shamrock V

A resounding effort, but more than welcome. In the process, to give you an example of the amount of work, more than 95 percent of the teak (installed in 1970, undergoing restoration) was removed, reconditioned and re-installed, and the same is true for 62 percent of the original keel iron and madiers and 70 percent of the shipboard mechanical systems. The mammoth renovation was then complemented by an update related to structural, crew and environmental safety standards, an achievement that earned her the first 5-star Superyacht Eco Index certificate ever issued.

An overall huge, laboriously complicated and very expensive work. An immense task, perhaps, but one that will allow us, in October, to see Shamrock V on the water again at the J Class America’s Cup regatta in Barcelona.


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