June 22nd 2011. By Diane Byrne.

J Class Regatta Newport: Days 1 and 2

With spectators lining both shores, Ranger and Velsheda have been battling on Narragansett Bay.

Editor’s Update: Velsheda beat Ranger by three seconds in the fifth and final race of the J Class regatta in Newport, but it was not enough to overcome Ranger‘s lead for the series. Stay tuned for a full feature on this exciting head-to-head match between the true giants of yachting.

While day one of the first-ever J Class Regatta had its moments, day two in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island, was more to the liking of both boats. This, despite Ranger beating Velsheda both days.

The preference came down to the conditions. Day one was certainly fine, with winds topping out at 10 knots. And once a time penalty was added to Ranger’s finish time for being helmed by a racing professional 80 percent of the day, she only beat Velsheda by one second. (The time penalty is 36 seconds per hour.)

Velsheda has finished behind Ranger in both races so far, which her tactician attributes to a few seconds' difference on the start line.

Day two was marked by constant 10- to 15-knot winds, right in the 12- to 22-knot range that members of both crews prefer.

Also making it more competitive: Ranger switched to sailing under amateur status on day two (meaning a professional can steer no more than 20 percent of the race). “On a course like this where there was quite a lot of straight-line reaching, it was very hard for us to stretch away,” said Earle Williams, navigator for Ranger. “In fact, Velsheda was going very well. She closed in on us on the runs, so it was probably a good decision on our part today.”

Closed in indeed: By the time the duo passed under the Newport Bridge, Ranger and Velsheda were nearly even. But things changed once they turned back north.

“We all knew that whoever turned the bottom mark first was going to win and quite easily pull out to a minute lead, because the boat behind is just in bad air,” explained Tom Dodson, tactician for Velsheda. On the last leg back upwind, Velsheda tacked off. “We had Ranger rolling forward on us and had to make the decision whether it was a better scenario to do two extra tacks or to have bad air all the way to the finish line,” Dodson says.

Despite the loss, Velsheda’s crew remains undaunted for the next three races. “It’s a few seconds on the start line that are turning into a bit more than that during the race,” Dodson says. “We’ll keep battling away on that area.”

Read Diane’s previous blog, J Class Regatta Set for Newport This Week

Visit the J Class Newport Regatta website

—Diane Byrne

Diane M. Byrne is the founder and editor of the daily updated website Megayacht News. A longtime yachting writer, she also contributes to Yachts International, Boat Exclusive, and other magazines. She is additionally a member of the International Superyacht Society Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the U.S. Superyacht Association.