Palma marina is awash with multi-million pound yachts owned by some of the world’s richest people. Crystal clear waters and a kindly breeze make the Mallorcan capital the perfect port for sea-faring billionaires to drop anchor.
The waterways between the pontoons here are a catwalk of sailing exotica – a flotilla of luxury vessels that vie for the best position to see and be seen. But among this fleet of mega motor cruisers with their jet skis and their helipads, there’s one boat that simply outshines everything else on show.
Rainbow is nautical design at its very finest. A stylish titan of the sea, this 140ft superyacht is a throwback to the golden age of sailing, when J Class-designed boats dominated the America’s Cup competition during the 1930s.
Now owned by billionaire enthusiasts from some of the world’s wealthiest families, ‘J boats’ as they were once affectionately known famously pushed the boundaries of sailing technology when they were first launched 90 years ago. Using new materials, designs and techniques, the America’s Cup was the Formula 1 of the era. With massive masts and a crew of 30 or more, beautiful vessels like Shamrock V and Ranger fought it out on the high seas for the coveted Auld Mug in the oldest international competition in any sport.
Remarkably, many of those steel-hulled leviathans were scrapped just a few years later to provide materials for the American war effort. Only three survived the cull but thankfully, a second generation of faithful reproductions has now helped to bolster the worldwide J Class fleet to nine yachts.
A replica of the original Rainbow, which won the 1934 America’s Cup, her beautiful hull and elegant lines are dominated by a vast area of sail
Among them is Rainbow, launched in 2012 by Holland Jachtbouw. A replica of the original Rainbow, which won the 1934 America’s Cup, her beautiful hull and elegant lines are dominated by a vast area of sail. Now just ten years old, this Rainbow has been put up for sale by her American owner for €6.95m. She’s also available for weekly charter from around €58,000 in low season if you want to try before you buy. So I’ve travelled to Mallorca to take the helm.
Owning a J Class is like joining the world’s most exclusive sailing club. The technology on board Rainbow would have been pure science fiction a century ago, with carbon rigging, massive winches and superyacht luxury both on deck and below. However, this is still no yacht for amateur sailors: “I’ve sailed all my life, but this is the first boat that requires the crew to actually think about their sailing,” explains skipper, Mathew Sweetman. “There isn’t a control panel with a rash of buttons to work the sails – the foresails are huge and manually operated. There’s no room for error.”
Rainbow is also the first J Class to feature an innovative, hybrid propulsion and power system, not dissimilar to a hybrid car. The design not only reduces emissions when you’re relying on the motor, but also provides exceptionally quiet cruising, without the usual waft of diesel fumes. She can also be sailed entirely on lithium-ion batteries, with a lightweight 50kW variable speed generator combining with the 50kW main diesel engine generator to provide power. The batteries are charged as the boat sails under wind.
The living accommodation is best described as classic and chic. Masses of mahogany panelling fills the cabin spaces, which includes a formal dining area for up to eight people and a large lounging sofa that’s bigger than my double bed.
Photo by Jeff Brown
Photo by Jeff Brown
Rainbow’s aft master cabin is fully equipped with an even bigger bed, shower and bathroom, plus acres of storage space. Black and white photographs of the original Rainbow being launched in 1930 adorn the walls. The only sound is the hum of the A/C.
The two guest cabins are relatively small, both containing a pair of single beds but even the sinks are cut from marble. A seven-strong crew – including the chef and stewardess – have to be experienced sailors so they can help out on deck when under sail. Even their roomy accommodation is upmarket compared to most modern yachts.
The interior may be a work of craftsmanship but it’s upstairs where Rainbow really sparkles. Passing through a solid mahogany deckhouse – the perfect place to soak up panoramic views on colder days – the retro aesthetic continues above.
A vast expanse of teak decking stretches from bow to aft. Even the winches and deck equipment have been bead-blasted to avoid the shiny stainless steel seen on most modern yachts. The attention to detail extends to the caulking between the teak planks – light grey instead of conventional white.
As we sail away from Palma, past the city’s great Gothic cathedral and watching holidaymakers, Rainbow’s slim hull starts to heel over in the breeze
As we sail away from Palma, past the city’s great Gothic cathedral and watching holidaymakers, Rainbow’s slim hull starts to heel over in the breeze. It’s a thrilling experience as ropes and mast gently creak under the strain of 20 knots of wind.
Stood at the helm, Rainbow feels comfortable at 13 knots. That’s less than 15mph but I doubt I ever experienced such pleasure travelling at this pace. “It’s a yacht you never tire of sailing,” says Sweetman.
“When you’re heading upwind in a decent blow, it’s easy to imagine being at the helm of an America’s Cup boat all those years ago. There’s spray, drama and excitement – Rainbow is simply the ultimate yacht, and there’s never a dull moment sailing her.”
Rainbow is exclusively for sale through Y.CO. 020 7584 1801; firstname.lastname@example.org. See more details and images of Rainbow at y.co