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January 7th 2013. By Diane Byrne.

Rainbow, Newest J-Class Sailing Yacht

The latest from HJB deftly mixes classic design with cutting-edge technology.

The J-Class yachts have been captivating yachtsmen and landlubbers alike for decades, and HJB’s Rainbow continues that tradition. She’s a replica of the same-named America’s Cup winner from 1934, and the 131-footer stays true to her original design, the work of Starling Burgess. But the new Rainbow also incorporates several striking departures, not the least of which is her aluminium construction. She was also intended for both racing and chartering, so modern-day classification and safety regulations came into play. And, perhaps most notably of all, Rainbow features a diesel-electric propulsion system devised by HJB and WhisperPower, a Holland-based developer and manufacturer of hybrid systems for yachts and commercial vessels.

The owner of Rainbow approached the naval-architecture firm Dykstra & Partners in 2007 to recreate Burgess’ design. The firm has been involved with most of the Js. Like the original, Rainbow has a mahogany deckhouse, but an aluminium hull. She also has carbon fibre spars and rigging. To put her profile into perspective, her air draft is over 53 metres. In addition, her impressive spinnaker measures a little more than 950 square metres.


Rainbow 2

Thanks to HJB and WhisperPower, Rainbow is the first full hybrid pleasure sailing yacht. Rainbow’s incredibly compact engine room features a battery bank and 50-kW genset (termed a Genverter by WhisperPower because of its generator and inverter functions). They supply the same power as two gensets aboard other Js, which also have larger engine rooms. They also in turn are connected to a flywheel genset that acts as an electric motor.


Rainbow 3

Still on the subject of the hybrid system, Rainbow’s batteries can reportedly charge while she’s sailing. She loses 1.5 knots of speed, but she also gains efficiency. Rainbow was further designed to race in battery-only mode for up to three hours. When racing, such as was needed this summer in the historic J Class Regattas in the Solent, Rainbow carries a crew of 25 to 28. When chartering, a crew of just seven run her.


As you would expect of a proper J-Class yacht, Rainbow has a traditional mahogany-paneled interior. It’s easy to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, due to the Art Deco details. The overall effect is simple without being simplistic. Dykstra & Partners collaborated with deVosdeVries design to outfit Rainbow accordingly.


When you consider that the original Js lacked interiors, and certainly luxury, Rainbow’s intimate relaxation rooms are all the more appreciated. The need to adhere to the original lines penned by Burgess meant a finite amount of space could be developed. Even with that, no one is made to feel slighted in the lounging areas.


Whether the owner is hosting family and friends, or charter guests are aboard, the formal dining area comes into play. Because Rainbow holds true to Burgess’ clean, working-deck design, you won’t find an alfresco dining table. Certainly, guests can enjoy the cockpit on pleasure cruises, but meals are more suitable inside.


The owner of Rainbow wanted to have peace and quiet overnight in the master suite as well as all guest areas, so the battery bank that HJB and WhisperPower designed is quite helpful. The sleeping spaces are aft, with the master suite being fully aft. It also spans the six metre beam.


Each of the two guest staterooms aboard Rainbow have Pullman berths. This allows a total of eight people to be accommodated on overnight voyages. The same raised and fielded mahogany joinery, nicely contrasted by white panels and overheads, that is found throughout the other relaxation areas adorns the bulkheads and custom furnishings.

Specifications: LOA: 40 metres • Beam: 6.32 metres • Draft: 4.9 metres • Displacement: 160 tonnes • Fuel capacity: 7,500 litres (approx.)

Rainbow’s owner didn’t waste a minute this year getting her ready for racing action. Four months after hand over, she competed against Lionheart, Ranger, and Velsheda in J-Class-only regattas in Falmouth and the Solent. She sailed as JH2. While she didn’t end up winning either race, Rainbow did prove her mettle with competitive times.

Surely, Rainbow will race again, whether only against her fellow Js or alongside other classic and modern sailing yachts. When she does, her owner and her crew would be wise to keep the story of the original Rainbow in mind. Commissioned by Harold Vanderbilt, Rainbow was named in anticipation of a brighter future, given the effects of the Great Depression.

For more information and specs on this incredible sailing machine, read Rainbow Rides Again or contact HJB.

Diane M. Byrne is the founder and editor of the daily updated website Megayacht News. A longtime yachting writer, she also contributes to Yachts International, Boat Exclusive, and other magazines. She is additionally a member of the International Superyacht Society Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the U.S. Superyacht Association.