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Monday 18th October 2010

The biggest and newest J-Class yacht, Lionheart, was launched at the end of June 2010 and sea trials were conducted throughout July.  Lionheart was originally designed by Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens for the Ranger syndicate but Hoek Design revived and modernized the drawings and she was subsequently built by Claasen Jachtbouw in Holland.  At 44 metres in length, Lionheart is the largest J-Class yacht to date and she has been built to MCA standards making her the first J designed specifically for both cruising and racing.  With her cruising-optimized layout and two cockpits – a private one aft for the owner – Hoek had to dream up the mast position and her bow and stern because only the mid-section and keel were designed on the original drawings.  Lionheart’s bow is a cross between Ranger’s scoop and the usual J bow design.

Beautiful Lionheart at anchor.

Two young Antiguans, Roddy Grimes-Graeme and Martin Lammers, were fortunate to be able to join Lionheart on her Maiden voyage from Holland to Palma and here is their story . . .


I arrived in Zandam, Holland on the 16th of August where Lionheart was tied to a barge near Claasen Jachtbouw’s yard where she was built.  There were six permanent crew already on board – Captain Toby Brand, Chef Emily Brand, Engineer Warrick Lilley, Mate Jake Foale, Deckhand James Oliver and Deckhand Henry May.  With the addition of three delivery crew -  me, James Box, and Victor Weerens, Claasen’s project manager, we were ready for Lionheart’s maiden voyage.

The crew.

We left the barge on a sunny afternoon and motored through the miles of Dutch canals to the locks at the edge of the North Sea as Toby and Jake gave us the safety briefing.  In a very industrial area surrounded by factories, we passed a prison barge where one of the inmates knocked on the glass and gave me two thumbs up as we cruised by his tiny cell in the sunshine – what a contrast!  Along the way we passed the new super schooner, Athos, doing engine trials from the Holland Jachtbouw yard.  Watching 60 spectacular metres of yacht motoring at 14 knots through a Dutch canal was very impressive to say the least!

Roddy at the helm.  Photo by Henry May.

We tied up with other small cruising boats at the lock and a steady stream of onlookers came by to have a look and ask endless questions.  As the clouds moved in, the sun set and the winds built to the forecast Force 4 on the nose, we made our way out of the lock and onto the North Sea.  The trip was initially uneventful leading up to the crossing of the shipping lanes, among the world’s busiest, to the English side of the Channel. Seasickness had begun to consume me as the afternoon hours passed and finally on the dog watch it got the better of me and I was forced to throw up over the side.  The first two days are always tough for me while my body adjusts – and I wasn’t the only one in this condition!

We arrived at Dover the following afternoon and anchored to avoid more pounding in the Force 5 to 6 conditions.  The following day we picked up anchor and motored along the south coast, passing the massive abandoned power station at Dungeoness, all alone on a long shingle spit.  What a bleak place!  Enroute we saw only one yacht - a 30 foot trimaran cruising flat and gracefully downwind at sunset.  The forecast still varied from Force 4 to Force 7, always on the nose, with a very nasty short wind swell against the tide.  We were constantly pounding in the waves but the lovely full keel and sharp bow just cut through most of it like it wasn’t there!  With Lionheart’s low freeboard and gunwales lots of water washed down the deck with every big wave which sent me jumping onto the primary winch in an effort to keep my feet dry.  As we gently pounded into the sea at 6 knots, our massive Hall Spars mast would shake a bit on every hit but it is a reassuringly stout and solid rig that we had total confidence in.

Leaning over for a better view of the dolphins.

We finally arrived at East Cowes, the spiritual home of J-Class yachts, and despite the shockingly bad weather, every single yacht we saw came close for a look!  With the all-round windows in the main deckhouse, it was like being in a zoo.  We somehow found ourselves in the middle of the Admiral’s Cup race course and 40-footers kept using us as a pick to rub off competitors who couldn’t quite point high enough to pass above us!  There were rumours in town that we were actually Velsheda with a black mast.

The massive, elliptical low pressure system that had developed now stretched from the Baltic to northern Portugal and the forecast remained at Force 5 to 7 on the nose for four more days – not really the weather you want to cross the Bay of Biscay.  So we stayed at Cowes for four nights, occasionally dragging anchor and having to reset it.  James Box had to return to his own yacht job in Antibes so we found ourselves in need of another crew.  That is when we called Martin Lammers and he took over from James, bringing plenty of big sailboat experience with him!!


I joined Lionheart on the 22nd of August just before we left Cowes and headed out past the Needles in flat calm conditions.  The wind soon picked up on the nose so we continued to motor into the sea at 6 knots as we crossed the Bay of Biscay, while Lionheart scooped up the waves like a shovel before they rolled ferociously down the deck!

Martin on the helm.

Over the next 24 hours we experienced varying conditions until, to the south of Lagos, the wind started to fill in from astern so we hoisted the spinnaker and had a beautiful sail gybing down toward the Strait of Gibraltar with the wind slowly increasing.  Roddy took plenty of photos and we watched as he manoeuvred himself into a position hanging from a halyard to leeward, trying to get some shots from a different view!  While he was hanging there I pointed out what looked like a massive Mako shark of about 8 feet in length as it slid beneath him!  We were near the south tip of Portugal and saw three sharks that day.  Finally this beautiful yacht began to hint to everyone on board what her real potential may be – for this was the most sailing that Lionheart had done to date.

Panorama view taken while Roddy hangs to lee from the halyard.

We dropped the spinnaker and mainsail a few hours before sunset and once again motored, this time through the Strait of Gibraltar.  The following afternoon we had an amazing sail reaching with one reef in the main and two reefs in the roller furling headsail in 20 to 25 knots of breeze.  Lionheart is drier that the other Js because of her higher topsides and she has a beautifully balanced helm – so it was smiles all around and the crew was thrilled as she screamed along at 10 to 12 knots!  This was the hardest she had been pressed so far and everything felt solid and very well balanced, demonstrating the great job that had been done in the design office and in the yard on this spectacular yacht!

Screaming downwind under spinnaker.

On August 31st we were finally heading towards Palma with the wind once again on the nose as we motored into lumpy seas hugging the coast of Spain making our way east.  With deteriorating conditions we motored at only 3 knots for about 12 hours which made life much more comfortable and allowed everyone to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  We headed for the leeward side of Ibiza as the conditions began to calm and as we rounded Ibiza and headed for Palma, it calmed completely.  We arrived in Palma early on the morning of Friday, September 3rd, just in time for the boss to arrive the following day!  Over the course of 11 days at sea from Cowes to Palma, we managed to sail for only two days but, boy, were those two spectacular sailing days!!

All hands on deck.

Lionheart is a beautiful yacht with her impressive overhangs and towering black rig and she attracts a crowd wherever she goes.  As she is the only J-boat with a roller furling headsail she should be easier to cruise than some of the other Js.  She is beautifully balanced under sail and will have great potential to compete in the years to come.  It is wonderful to have another one of these fantastic yachts on the water for all to admire!

Sea life that Roddy, Martin and the crew were fortunate to see along the way included baby Sunfish jumping out of the water in the Mediterranean, a pod of whales in the Strait of Gibraltar and Common and Striped Dolphins everywhere!  On the other hand, an observation that left a lasting impression on them is how much trash there is in the oceans – it is never not there, especially bags and bits of plastic.  And there is virtually non-stop fishing on that route, mainly trawlers that do a lot of damage to the ocean floor as a lawn mower would to a flower garden.  The North Sea probably has some of the most intensely and industriously fished sea floor on the planet and the destruction is devastating.

For specifications and more information about the design and building of Lionheart, see:


Roddy Grimes-Graeme grew up in Antigua's beautiful waters giving him incredible experiences and views.  He was strongly driven to share them and when his father gave him a camera and taught him to use it he realized that was the way to share nature with others.  After earning a Marine Biology degree he returned to Antigua and went straight into photography for a living.  He was lucky enough to apprentice with the likes of Alexis Andrews, and as a result was exposed to years of experience, the world of yacht photography and the importance of standards in his work.  Roddy now works freelance and spends the winter months in Antigua and the summer months travelling with various jobs.  His photos can be viewed here: and his film work here:

Martin Lammers was born in Antigua and grew up racing and cruising in the Caribbean with his father and family.  At 18 Martin started working on luxury yachts such as Endeavour, Ranger and Windrose of Amsterdam.  Martin is currently studying yacht design and production at Southampton Solent University but he still sails at every possible opportunity!

Article written by Roddy Grimes-Graeme and Martin Lammers in conjunction with
Kathy Lammers, Editor of Antigua’s Yachting Insider.

Photos by Roddy Grimes-Graeme, except as noted above.

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