provided by John Hanks J Class Sec.
A HISTORY OF THE AMYA J CLASS
The AMYA J Class began life in 1974 around a 1/20th (5/8" equals 1 foot) semi scale fiberglass model of the J Class yacht "Whirlwind" produced by Vanguard Products in Pewaukee, WI. As near as I can find out from the material that I have, the driving force behind the "Whirlwind" model was Chuck Millican. By early 1975 there was enough interest in the Js that a provisional class was formed with Rod Carr as the first Class Secretary. When the class was officially recognized in mid year 1975 John Nobel had become the Class Secretary. The first ACCR (Association Class Championship Regatta now called a National Championship Regatta) was held on September 13 and 14, 1975 in Milwaukee, WI. Nine boats, all of them "Whirlwinds", competed in the race with Chuck Millican winning the event.
The models of "Whirlwind" were big by model boat standards. The hulls were seven and a half feet long with eight foot masts. The boats carried about 2,500 square inches of sail with a main boom that was three feet long and the boats weighed about sixty five pounds ready to go in the water. This limited their appeal to modelers but there was enough interest for the class to grow.
The class grew with 49 boat owners on the rolls by the end of 1976. That same year Chuck left Vanguard and moved to New Hampshire. The model manufacturing business went with him and he began producing models under the Whirlwind Model Yachts banner. By the end of 1976 there had been more than 180 Whirlwind models sold by both of the manufacturers.
The class rules were still being formulated in 1976. Most of the sailing activity at that time was in the Midwest with some growth in the Northeast. Class activity began to decline by the end of 1976 and by 1977 the class registrations had dwindled to just 14. John Noble decided to leave as the Class Secretary and Whirlwind Model Yacht adds no longer appeared in the AMYA Quarterly news letter. The class stayed dormant until 1978.
John Garbarino took over as the J Class Secretary in 1978 and rejuvenated the class. By this time most of the sailing activity was taking place in the Northeast with some interest beginning to develop in the West. John held the first ACCR in several years at Mystic, CT and had 5 boats participate. Also at about this time a new model appeared. It was a fiberglass hulled model of the "Enterprise".
John also completed and published the first class specifications. Those specs were based on a 1/16th (3/4 inch to 1 foot) stand off scale model of any of the ten J class yachts that raced for the America’s Cup in the 1930s. The rules allowed a two inch extension of the keel and rudder to improve the sailing quality of the model and restricted the mast height to 8 feet. With the advent of a second hull and class rules the class began to grow again.
At this point things are a bit fuzzy concerning the class rules. The class was formed around a 1/20th semi scale model but the class rules specified the scale to be 1/16th. I have never been able to find out for sure why the scale was changed in the final rules but I have heard rumors that it was due to a typo in the draft. That is why there is a difference in size between the original "Whirlwind" J hulls and the later J hulls. The "Whirlwinds" are grand fathered into the class because they were the boats that the class was originally formed around and there are still a lot of them that are actively sailed.
Things progressed nicely with the class with ACCRs being held at various locations around the Northeast until the mid 1980s when again the class began to falter. The interest in the Northeast had dissipated and the center of activity had moved to the West. New boats had been built in the Reno, San Jose and San Diego areas. Most of these were scratch built and were models of boats other than "Whirlwind" and "Enterprise". They included "Ranger", "Yankee", "Rainbow" and "Shamrock V".
In 1988 under the new Class Secretary Don Bronson, the class rules were changed to allow a scale mast not to exceed ten feet above the deck. The main booms also took on a more scale size, growing to about four feet in length. Several of the models that were built then used a scale mast and boom that allowed the model to carry up to around 4,200 square inches of sail. The decks of the boats also began to take on a more scale appearance with wheels, deckhouses, winches and spinnaker poles being added to the models.
The class grew slowly through the mid 1980s and into the early 1990s maintaining an ownership level of 25 to 30 registered boat owners. The ACCRs during this time were rotated between Reno, San Jose and San Diego. During this period the Js inspired two other model manufacturers to produce fiberglass hulls, this time it was "Shamrock V" by George Rebiero Products in San Jose and "Ranger" by Jim Terry in Florida.
By the end of 1995 Don was unable to continue as the Class Secretary. The class again began to decline under the auspices of two caretaker Class Secretaries. John Hanks took over as the Class Secretary in 1998 and the membership began to respond when articles about the Js once again began to appear in the AMYA news letter, Model Yachting magazine. The class began growing again with centers of interest located along the east coast as well as on the west coast. There was also some interest being generated in the Phoenix, AZ area with a model of "Endeavour" sailing there.
In 2000, the J Class National Championship Regatta was held in Mystic, CT with twelve boats participating. This NCR was the largest gathering of J models since the ACCR held in 1984 when 11 boats participated. In 2001 an Eastern Regional Championship was held with 10 boats attending. In 2002 the J NCR was held July 30 thru August 4 back in Mystic, CT at the Mystic Seaport Museum with 9 boats in attendance. This event generated a lot of interest in the past with the mold for "Enterprise" having been brought out of retirement and with new molds for "Rainbow" and "Ranger" being built.
In 2006 the NCR was held in New Bern N.C.
This year the event will travel to yet another new untried venue in South Central Texas just outside San Antonio. The event is scheduled for Oct. 26,27, and 28 of 2007 hosted by AMYA #224 Randolph Area Model Yacht Association.
What is the future of the J Class? At this time I would say that it is good. The class is unique in that it is the only class in AMYA that is based on a full sized yacht. At the same time the class is not a one design class but rather it is a developmental class. This allows the builders a great deal of latitude when building their models. The only fairly tight restrictions are that the hull need to be of a full size J while the sail plan and rig design are pretty much left to the builder. There has been two fairly distinct groups emerge within the class in the last couple of years. One group has opted for a purely racing machine with no scale detail while the other group likes to dress up their models with scale deck houses, winches and the like and make their models look as much like the full size boat as possible. The added detail does not appear to have any effect on the sailing quality of the models. Just like any model sail boat the fastest boat will be the one that has the best tuned rig and is sailed the best by her skipper.
New molds continue to be developed for the different boats, Ranger was the newest 2 years ago for the 2005 NCR in New Bern. Since then an Endeavour (the first, smaller boat...not E-II) has begun producing hulls along with a new 1/16th scale plug of Whirlwind nearing completion at this time, and should begin producing hulls this Winter. All this coupled with the recent availability of 1 piece 10' aluminum masts and fittings has caused a surge J class boat construction the likes of which have not been seen before.
While the J class will never be the largest class in AMYA owing to the size of the models and the difficulties that the size generates, the class fills a unique niche in the AMYA. With proper stewardship the class can continue to remain viable and active. Coupled with the increase of manufacturers and builders along with the internet providing almost limitless access to information on building and supplies, the future for the class appears brighter than ever.