22 August 2019
J Class Velsheda prepares for Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup showdown
There was just one point in it when class winners J8 Topaz got the better of K7 Velsheda last year on Sardinia's famous Costa Smeralda at the annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. With less than two weeks until the famous J Class yacht duo meet again (1 to 7 September), the Velsheda crew are plotting to avenge last year's loss against their most regular rivals who they most recently won against at this summer's Superyacht Cup in Palma.
The J Class pair are looking forwards to the season's pinnacle event which is a regular feature on their calendar, both knowing that time spent in full racing mode will serve them well as they look ahead to the 2021 J Class regatta in Auckland, New Zealand which will form part of the 36th America's Cup celebrations. The prospect of the New Zealand event is re-awakening interest in the J Class and five boats are expected to compete there in March 2021.
"We love racing on the Costa Smeralda and have had great competition with Topaz this year, but equally we are happy to go and race against some of the big superyachts and maxis like we do there. As a crew, as you know, we don't really look to peak for specific events or whatever, we just like to be racing Velsheda together and every time, no matter what it is, we go out to win," explains long time tactician Tom Dodson. "We are always critical of ourselves, Ronald (Velsheda owner) criticises us if we mess up, but he always criticises himself too if he feels he has not done well enough on the helm. We are always trying to do better, even after all these years sailing Velsheda."
The two J Class yachts will race in the Supermaxi division under IRC handicap.
"It does not worry us especially to go between the different rules on Velsheda, we seem to be competitive if we sail well. We maybe lose a little in terms of competitiveness when the wind is up-range and we have to fight hard to beat Topaz which we were giving about 30 seconds in every race and often that was the difference between winning and losing," Dodson contends.
"Who doesn't love a good windy day racing up and down 'bomb alley' on the Costa Smeralda. A good set up there is really special."
One of the strengths of the Velsheda team is that they have sailed together so often and have been together for many years.
"If we are forced to make changes, and sometimes we are, then it is pretty much seamless but at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup we will be at full strength, looking to win."
The Velsheda owner, tactician Dodson and the crew are delighted to see a cohesive programme emerging for the class leading up to New Zealand, including class racing early next year in Antigua and Saint Barths.
"It is very good news to see that we should again have Velsheda, Topaz, Lionheart and Svea racing against each other again and hopefully more will join the fray. And, for me, this time I have a feeling it looks sustainable. Before, leading into Bermuda and Newport, it was maybe a bit like owners spending a lot of money just to win the titles and for me racing J Class is not about that, you have to be doing it for the right reasons. Now I am confident we have mature leadership and a mature group of owners driving the class forwards with the class' best interest at heart," Dodson explains. "And what, for me, is especially gratifying is the owner's families – sons and daughters – taking a real interest, enjoying the racing and learning, and that has to be good for the future."
Dodson, a proud Kiwi, cannot wait to host the J Class in Auckland. "We have never had class racing here so that will be a first. And almost as soon as the Cup was announced, people here were saying 'we need to have the J Class here' so I am sure there will be almost as much interest in the boats here as in anything else to do with the Cup," he concludes.