Falmouth basks in 1930s glamour

They are the boats that time forgot. With 180ft masts – taller than a cross-channel ferry – and needing a crew of 30 to sail, J Class yachts were designed for the most decadent sailors of the Thirties.

Since then, the remaining few have largely been left to rot in shipyards, too cumbersome and impractical for the modern age. But yesterday four of the enormous vessels took to the water again in Cornwall, to race in Falmouth's annual regatta. Three – Ranger, Rainbow and Lionheart – were replicas built in the past decade. One, Velsheda – first owned by the former head of Woolworths, W L Stephenson – was rescued from its mud berth in the Eighties, refitted with a new steel mast and prepared for competition.

Ranger, a replica of the boat that won the America's Cup in 1937, took first place yesterday and won the week's series.

Among the largest sailing yachts in the world, the J Class was first designed in 1929 and can weigh as much as 200 tons and reach more than 140ft in length. In their heyday, they were the model against which all other yachts were measured, with owners including King George V, Sir Thomas Lipton, owner of the tea chain, and US railroad baron Harold Vanderbilt.