Neville Crichton’s J-Class Rainbow to Race under RNZYS Colours

 In America's Cup, International Events, Major Regattas, Member Interest, News

Story by Ivor Wilkin, and pictures by Carlo Borlenghi, courtesy of J-Class Association, show in the Breeze Magazine. Read the Breeze Magazine online here.

RNZYS Life Member Neville Crichton has purchased the magnificent J-Class yacht, Rainbow, and his first response to questions about this latest acquisition is to make jokes at his own expense.

“I never thought I would pay a great deal of money to go slow,” he chuckles, before adding: “I have always loved the classic look of the J-Class yachts, but felt it was best to leave it to others to own them.

“However, Rainbow came on the market and Erle Williams and Mark Hauser ganged up on me and persuaded me she would be a good one to buy.”

Sydney-based Crichton has owned and built a veritable fleet of yachts – from Ton Cup Admiral’s Cuppers to supermaxis to luxury superyachts – but over the past couple of years has been sitting out the racing scene.

With the purchase of Rainbow, however, his competitive juices are back in full flow and he is relishing the challenge of getting the boat race-ready in time for the 2024 J-Class racing season in Europe, the highlight of which will be their Barcelona regatta coinciding with the America’s Cup.

For Squadron members, there will be two yachts to root for at Barcelona – the Emirates Team New Zealand AC75 defending the America’s Cup and Crichton’s J-Class, Rainbow, both of which will sail under the RNZYS burgee.

“I have obtained special permission from the class association to carry the New Zealand sail number J-KZ1,” says Crichton. At 38.5m, Rainbow will be by far the largest race yacht ever to grace the Squadron lists.

She will also be the third Rainbow on the RNZYS register, joining the 1898 Logan classic Rainbow, jointly owned by Brad Butterworth, David Glen and Hamish Ross; and Rainbow II, registered under Life Member John Street’s name in the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust.

Designed by Starling Burgess, the original J-Class Rainbow was commissioned by New York magnate Harold Vanderbilt for the 1934 America’s Cup defence. Up against Sir T.O.M. Sopwith’s Endeavour, Rainbow lost the first two matches, but then won the next four to retain the trophy for the New York Yacht Club.

Under new ownership, Rainbow entered the trials to select a NYYC defender for the 1937 Cup series, but lost to Vanderbilt’s potent new yacht, Ranger. Rainbow was later scrapped and the materials used for the War Effort.

Under the J-Class Association rules, modern replica yachts can be built to the original lines of earlier models. The current Rainbow was built in Holland in 2012 and passed through several owners before Crichton secured her earlier this year.

Despite his jokes, he is thrilled with the purchase. “It is a really nice boat, which has not been raced” he says. “I am excited about it and looking forward to campaigning it. It is smaller and lighter than the other Js and with some tidying up and good crew, we feel it will be competitive.”

Rainbow has been put on the hard at Palma, Majorca, where a six-month refit is planned. “We are going to manage the refit ourselves with sub-contractors undertaking the various specialist projects.”

The refit will be extensive including fully fairing the hull below the waterline, particularly around the rudder area, a repaint, new decks and revised deck layouts with winches and sail tracks repositioned, and the hydraulic control systems upgraded. To come into racing compliance, the Southern Spars carbon mast will be shortened by 850mm and there will be a completely new wardrobe of racing sails.

“The plan is to have Rainbow back in the water in July,” Crichton says. “We will do no formal racing in 2023, but there are a number of Js based in Palma and we hope to establish a relationship with one or more of them to hook up for some tune-up sailing ahead of the 2024 season.”

Crichton says most of his key crew positions have already been allocated and he is talking to former crew from his supermaxi, Alfa Romeo, and others, including a number of Kiwi sailors.

“We definitely believe that with the refit work we are doing, the planned programme of training leading up to 2024 and with enough talent on board, we will be competitive,” he says. “I do like to race to win.”

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