Mike Slade's soon to launch Leopard3 could be up for a new record in 2008

A big launch in the UK next year will be Mike Slade’s new 98ft Leopard3 which is destined to be a multi-role race boat with a big offshore potential. So big that top City businessman Slade, managing director of property business Helical Bar, is hinting at a shot at the fully crewed monohull non-stop round the world record in 2008.
If, like us, you are scratching your head about who currently holds that record, you might be surprised to hear that the answer is – nobody. With all the attention being paid to single handed and outright speed attempts in multihulls and Open 60s, this interesting record appears to have been overlooked.

John Reid secretary of the World Sailing Speed Record Council, told Yachting World with a barely disguised hint of surprise that: “There is no record under our rules.”
With this fact now out in the open will Mike Slade and his long serving skipper Chris ‘Shirley’ Sherlock be beaten to it? After shipping from builders McConaghy Boats in Australia in April and an official launch in the UK in May, Slade is up for a full season of UK-based corporate racing and charter this and next summer. Between the two will be a Sydney Hobart (Boxing Day 2007). He’ll get back from Australia via a Caribbean season in the winter of 2008 to continue the corporate programme in the Solent and then prepare for his round the world attempt leaving, possibly, in December that year.

Slade will be racing against the clock but he could do worse than keep Vincent Riou’s Open 60 Vendee record of 87d 10h set in 2005 in his sights. He should be able to blow that away with ease.

His new Leopard certainly looks as though she will have very long legs especially offshore and Farr Yacht Design confirmed that Slade has called for a yacht that will threaten line honours in distance races. But the yacht will also have to perform strongly as a charter platform, much like his Reichel Pugh 98, now sold, which clocked up 52 days of charter in the UK and earned more than US$1.5 something which Slade would want to better with L3.

The design evolution for the new yacht is proof that Slade intends to remain on the pace for as long as possible. His switch of loyalty from Reichel Pugh to Farr brought him more volume, which suits his charter needs. In fact there’s 30 per cent more volume than the last Reichel Pugh Leopard but the new yacht will weigh 1 ton less. She’ll tip the scales at 36 tons compared with 28 for the likes of Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats who she’ll face up against in the Rolex Fastnet this August and the Maxi Rolex Regatta in Sardinia. The chances of beating these 30-knot machines round the cans are slim but offshore is a different matter.

All sorts of appendage configurations were considered and the final version was settled during the VOR when Mike Sanderson’s Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed ABN Amro One took the fleet apart. So a chine has been built into Leopard’s flanks, 4.5 tons of water ballast can be taken aboard aft to keep to bow up in big downwind blasts and there’s a 15ft (!) built in bowsprit to take very big A sails.

Sanderson has been employed to develop the sail programme at North Auckland while he’s in NZ overseeing the build of his own Open 60, and he’s included a big fathead main in the inventory. Whether he is part of the race programme personnel is still a matter on conjecture.

There are some other interesting developments. The twin daggerboards will be operated not by tackles, which are rarely powerful enough to shift them when there is any appreciable sideload, but by hydraulics driving rollers which will move the boards up and down under load. It’s a heavier system but more effective.

Ken Freivokh has been retained (his did the last Leopard) to design a very modern interior in a two-phase programme. The first will have minimal accommodation although the big, full beam, deck saloon will be luxuriously appointed and there will be a comfortable seating area on deck for guests. Phase two sees more accommodation but this won’t be built in until the yard’s serious racing is done.
Mike Slade told Yachting World that his is hoping to attract back some of his old sailing mates like Neal MacDonald, Andy Hemming, Jason Carrington and Paul Standbridge once they are free from America’s Cup duties.

Slade, who confided that he is always seasick when he goes offshore, is nonetheless clearly looking forward to some offshore blasts. He realises he has a very potent machine beneath him “We need to be quickly up to 90 per cent capability if we are to have any chance offshore against the big maxis,” he told Yachting World.
See Yachting World January issue, out early December, for more pictures and details. Also www.leopardoflondon.co.uk for charter details.