'Shamrock V' trailing 'Endeavour' and 'Velsheda' in the 1999 Antigua Classic Week Regatta signed 'J.Steven Dews' (lower left), inscribed on reverse oil on canvas 101.6 x 152.4cm.(40 x 60in.)
Ian Dear, the yachting historian, encapsulated the sheer glamour of the J-Class yachts perhaps better than any other contemporary author when he wrote the following in 1977:-
Only ten J-Class yachts were ever built and they raced for the Americas Cup and other trophies in British and American waters for a mere eight seasons between 1930 and 1937. There have been many yachts that have been larger and still others that have been faster but no one sailing class has ever gripped the imagination of the public at large as much as the Js did In fact the Js were unique for their combination of size and speed, and for their owners and the social ambience in which they flowered and died so quickly. They dominated the yachting scene on both sides of the Atlantic for less than a decade before their fantastic cost, the death of Englands Sailor King and the approach of World War II banished them for ever.
Of the ten original yachts, three miraculously have somehow survived and were invited to participate in the Antigua Classic Week Regatta in April 1999. Together on the start-line for the first time in over sixty years, the magnificent Shamrock V, Velsheda and Endeavour came together to compete for the Velsheda Trophy over three days of racing during which an average breeze of twenty-five knots gave each crew the challenge of a lifetime. All three races brimmed over with excitement and in this work Dews has captured the moment in the first race when Endeavour managed to slip past Velsheda thanks to the latters faulty tactics. Although in excellent condition, Shamrock V had not had the benefit of a recent major refit like the other two and so was staying out of trouble by not overstraining her rig in attempting to win. Nevertheless, after the three days of competition were concluded, it was Shamrock V which carried home the trophy, won on handicap, and the three giants were left to fight it out again at the Americas Cup Jubilee Regatta at Cowes in 2001.
All three surviving J-Class yachts had been built for the yachting moguls who dominated the 1930s racing scene Shamrock V (in 1930) for Sir Thomas Liptons fifth and final challenge for the elusive Americas Cup; Velsheda (1933) for Mr. W.F. Stephenson, the Chairman of Woolworths in Britain; and Endeavour (1934) for Sir T.O.M. Tommy Sopwith, the aeroplane manufacturer.
The Antigua Regatta of 1999 was an important event for the artist as it not only took him to the Caribbean for the first time but also allowed him the unique opportunity of observing the surviving J-Class yachts in real competition. He was so impressed with what he saw that it inspired him to create three outstanding paintings by way of commemoration, the first of which is offered in this catalogue and each of which captures the thrill of the event in spectacular fashion.
For a second painting from this trio, see A Cloud of Sail; Maritime Paintings by J. Steven Dews, Louise A. Felstead, 2001, pp. 76-77.