“So, who’s really faster ICAP Leopard 3 or Speedboat?” It seemed a perfectly logical question to ask. After all, two of the world’s fastest yachts were sitting nearly side by side at Newport Shipyard today, with Leopard preparing for an assault on the outright monohull transatlantic record of 6 days 17 hours 52 minutes set by Mari Cha IV in 2003 . “Well we were really hoping to find out in a few days, but Speedboat isn’t going for the record for a number of reasons” was the reply from Chris Sherlock, Leopard’s skipper and captain. As it turns our, getting the right crew was a major issue. “We have a crew list of around 40 guys for the program”, Sherlock continued, “but a bunch of the guys are in Sardinia (WSTA event) or Capri. Fortunately, we only need 17 and some Volvo guys (Green Dragon crew Freddie Shanks and Anthony Merrington) needed something to do, so we’re pretty set.” As we toured the boat, Sherlock seemed quietly confident about finally besting Mari Cha’s record. “Right now, the latest weather from Clouds (Roger Badham) has us finishing in less than 6 days. But to be totally honest with you, I’d be perfectly thrilled to just beat them. One of these days, either Speedboat or us will set a new benchmark, and I want it to be us!”

ICAP Leopard 3 has been gunning for records since her launch in 2007. Unlike other record breakers, though, she was designed with a second life as a fast cruiser from the start. That design tradeoff means that she is several thousand pounds heavier than her main rival, the Juan K 100 Speedboat. Once aboard, though, these tradeoffs seem worth it. Bright natural light fills the main saloon area from the panoramic windows. After being on other maxi yachts and Volvo 70’s, it was a really nice feeling to not be trapped in a carbon coffin. Leopard also features hydraulically operated daggarboards, which can be adjusted while sailing at up to 18 knots. “The hydraulic boards give us more precise control than Speedboat. They really have to slow up to adjust their boards. Plus, it will be great when this boat becomes the world’s fastest cruiser.” Sherlock said. With her wide 22 ft beam carried fully aft, the nav station and galley is downright palatial. Even loaded up for her record run, Leopard seemed roomy. Once in the nav station, Hugh Agnew ran over the theoretical record run. “We’ll be leaving New York around 2pm local time on Saturday. Even though we will be at less than record pace at the start, we need to hook into the front, and expect to be sailing over 25 knots within a few hours.” Agnew explained. “From there, the winds should build for most of the crossing, and we hope to stay in relatively flat seas, even when the wind pipes up to 40 knots. The finish also looks a little light, but it’s too far off to predict that right now.”

ICAP Leopard will be carrying a GPS tracker during her record attempt, allowing spectators to follow her progress online at www.leopard3.com, and we hope to have daily reports from Justin “Juggy” Clougher, as long as he finishes the Around Block Island Race in time to make it to Leopard. – Ryan O’ Grady – more pics here.