It is often said that the lion is king of the jungle.
Apparently, they rule the waves too if Lionheart’s triumph in the America’s Cup J Class Regatta is anything to go by.
The 43.4 metre racing yacht, built 75 years after she was conceived on the drawing boards, won the inaugural regatta to complete a remarkable hat-trick of titles in local waters, having also secured class and overall honours in the preceding America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta.
“Every regatta you win is a nice one but here this is the one, with the America’s Cup going on and a record fleet of seven J Class yachts, it has been magic,” Bouwe Bekking, the Lionheart tactician, commented.
“As soon as Bermuda was announced, we just said that’s the one we’d like to win.”
Lionheart started the final day of racing at Murray’s Anchorage trailing leaders Hanuman by a solitary point.
Victory in the fourth race, their second of the regatta, saw Lionheart leapfrog Hanuman at the top of the leaderboard and carry a one-point advantage into the final race.
A poor start off the line seemed to have given Hanuman the title. However, Lionheart’s crew refused to roll over, playing the wind shifts to their advantage, to drag themselves back into contention.
The battle for bragging rights then took another dramatic turn when Hanuman was hit with a penalty for infringement laying to the weather buoy for the last time — and Lionheart took full advantage.
Lionheart covered Hanuman on the final run to protect their overall lead and clinch the series, reduced to five races after the first day of the regatta was postponed because of a lack of wind.
“You just have to keep fighting, I think that’s one of the things with this crew,” Bekking said. “The boat is doing a nice job for us as well, but I think the crew work has been really good.
“That atmosphere on board that you are still able to claw back from maybe an impossible position like today, that’s what makes the difference.”
Ken Read, the Hanuman skipper/helmsman, admitted his team’s mistake ultimately lost them the regatta.
“We made a mistake today,” he acknowledged. “But that is life, that is sailing, and Lionheart deserved to win.”
The J Class yacht Velsheda won the fifth race, which allowed her to pip Hanuman into second place.
“We were punching above our weight in that light stuff, so we are delighted,” Tom Dodson, the Velsheda tactician, said.
The J Class yachts featured in the America’s Cup in the 1930s and are still regarded by many as some of the most majestic and famous yachts afloat.