June 26th 2012. By Dieter Loibner.

Rainbow Rides Again

The J-Class yachts once were at the cutting edge of yacht design. Today these boats look like beautiful pieces of nostalgia, but quite a few also bristle with high tech.

From the original Js that ruled the oceans in the 1930s, only Shamrock V, Velsheda, and Endeavour survive as restored vessels. For quite some time they’ve sailed against each other, upholding longstanding rivalries. But at the beginning of the new millennium, J-Class yachting became en vogue, so much so that several replicas have come online since, including the likes of Ranger, Hanuman, which was inspired by Endeavour II , or Lionheart, another replica of the Starling Burgess-designed Ranger.

The new Rainbow, designed by Dykstra & Partners in Holland. Photo: Marloes van der Haagen.

The latest addition to the resurgent J-Class fleet is a replica of Rainbow, which was designed by the Dutch firm of Dykstra & Partners in 2007 and built by Holland Jachtbouw in Zaandam. The original Rainbow was designed by Burgess and won the 1934 America’s Cup for Harold Vanderbilt. Three years later Vanderbilt came back to defend the Cup, but did so with a new boat, Ranger, which had defeated Rainbow in the US trials. While Ranger went on to trounce Endeavour II in the 1937 Cup, the defeated Rainbow was headed for the scrap heap.

Unlike the original Rainbow, which was built from steel by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, Rhode Island, the modern version has an aluminum hull with a wooden deckhouse. Other updates for the 21st century include a carbon mast, North 3D-sails, and a 350-kW  diesel-electric propulsion system. A permanent crew of seven grows to 25 or 28 when sailing in racing mode, since she carries nearly 1,500 square meters of cloth that need to be tamed.

To further enhance competition, the class association has developed a new racing rule which includes a handicap system based on velocity prediciton programs (VPP), so older vessles like Shamrock V, Velsheda or Endeavour, which are kept closer to their original configuration, stand a fighting chance against their modern cousins.

Read more about J Class sailing

For more information, visit the Rainbow website.

Dieter Loibner

Rainbow Specifications

  • LOA: 40 m
  • LWL: 27.10 m
  • Beam: 6.37 m
  • Draft.: 4.80 m
  • Mast height: 53.66 m
  • DSPL.: approx. 175 t
  • Sail Area (upwind/downwind): 950/1500 sq. m.


Dieter Loibner