The J Class has its roots in the oldest sporting race in the world, The America’s Cup.

The event was born from an annual race around the Isle of Wight, hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron and called the ‘100 Guinea Cup’. In 1851, an overseas yacht was allowed to participate for the first time. The yacht “America” was built to an innovative new design and had sailed to the Solent in search of racing. Initially excluded from racing against British yachts, she was finally allowed to enter the Round The Island Race for the ‘100 Guinea Cup’.

Although the race programme was advertised as rounding the Nab Buoy and then the Isle of Wight, leaving all to starboard, this was not what was printed by the RYS on the instruction cards and when the four leaders tacked away to round the Nab lightship, “America’s” skipper pressed on through the shallow area, missing the Nab Buoy and saving a very considerable distance. “America” took the lead and held it.

The trophy became known as the “America’s Cup” and was taken to the USA. Yachts were able to challenge to win back the cup and a series of larger and larger yachts were designed to compete. Before the J Class came into existence, yachts were designed to be bigger and bigger. The towering rigs of the Big Boat Class such as ‘Lulworth’ and ‘Britannia’ dwarfed everything else.

The J-class came into existence with the Universal Rule, outlined in 1901 at the request of a group of New York yachtsman who disliked the extreme nature of the yachts build to compete. Nathanael Greene Herreshoff suggested that a rational rule should recognise displacement and discourage excessive sail. In 1905 the Unirversal Rule was adopted under which the J-Class could develop.