On lay day in St Tropez we take the Shipman 80 out in a Mistral and get more than we bargained for


Yesterday may have been lay day at Les Voiles de St Tropez but when the Mistral got into its stride in the afternoon the temptation to go for another blast was too much for some. Yachting World in the form of your author and freelance photographer Richard Langdon nipped along the coast to Juan le Pins to join Bill and Lisa Bailey aboard the first Shipman 80.

She’s an all carbon supercruiser, the latest in a line of impressive boats to come out the Seaway Shipman plant in Slovenia where the brothers Jakopin and Jakopin – that’s Jernej and Japec – continue to expand at an extraordinary rate. They are about to launch 100, 130 and 150ft versions of a marque which started with the award winning 50 (now discontinued due to a fire which destroyed the moulds) and has already progressed to a 63 and 72.

But it was the 80 Mike Reardon of Shipman was keen for us to get our hands on. The day started quietly enough and with a big Code sail up it didn’t take long for the big carbon boat, which weighs only 38 tons, to crank up to 11 knots plus in 10 knots of breeze. And this is a luxuriously appointed yacht with all the whistles and bells?

Weight reduction is the key to success in this boat so the Hall Spars carbon rig is stayed with Future Fibres PBO, the interior is ultra lightweight, Harken winches are carbon and the owner has be encouraged to leave as much as possible – particularly the kitchen sink – at home.

So we finish with the plain sail and as the chopper turns up for a photoshoot Mike Reardon and Bill eye the conditions for a rather large, pink (what is it about pink this week..? see the Nano story) A sail. It’s gusting 25 but we go for it. And by gum it was worth it! We charge off towards Cap d’Antibes and we’re sitting on 16 knots without a care in the world. The twin rudders make this a controllable boat but the sea’s flat and the breeze reasonable steady. The cameraman in the Robinson chopper must be having a field day.

Then it gets up a bit – we see more than 30 knots true – the seas picks up and we hit 17 then 17.6 which is our top speed for the day. This is a cruising boat remember and there are just three people on deck (admittedly there’s a whole bunch more below keeping out of the way of the video cameraman hovering like some demented bee just off our foam streaked stern?), but essentially the whole thing is very easy to control. It is extremely exciting, high speed?errr, cruising!

Then we come to get the big pink thing down. Which we do without a hitch. Just when we thought we had the whole thing (literally) in the bag with the sail fully snuffed, a series of small things go wrong. It was breezy, plenty of breaking water, you couldn’t hear quite what was being said, but somehow the halyard eased prematurely, the tack line got an ease too and the snuffer line hadn’t been made off properly. Result – foot of the ‘pink one’ goes for a swim, we roll heavily to leeward and suddenly we are trawling. Most of it is under the boat impossible to haul aboard.

Suffice to say we ended up having to cut half the kite away, the bottom half ending up gift wrapping the keel and twin rudders (must have looked nice in pink?). We sail (slowly) back and aim to drop the hook in the lee of Cap d’Antibes so that Bill can dive to clear the mess before we press the engine start button.

In the end it’s cleared and we head home tails slightly between legs. Funny how at the end of a fun day, a series of small mistakes can roll into one big headache. All I can say is that before the incident it had been one impressive and exciting sail and luckily the helicopter had disappeared over the horizon thus avoiding our difficult moment.

Check out an upcoming issue of Yachting World for a full report and some stunning pictures of the impressive Shipman 80.