Gracing the Cowes shoreline this year is one the most powerful monohulls in the world - 100ft super maxi ICAP Maximus.
Launched in February this year,ICAP Maximushas had an impressive début on the Grand Prix racing scene, taking line honours in the Round the Island and Channel races, and a win on corrected time in the Rolex Transatlantic.
That’s nothing like enough for co-owners Charles St Clair Brown and Bill Buckley – in fact, talking to Brown you get the impression of a man who does not include ‘enough’ in his vocabulary. On a July press day in the Solent after two hours creaming 12kts from 8kts true wind, he explained his dream: “I saw an emerging trend – people moving away from rating rules and yachts designed to win on handicap to boats of the maximum length overall which race to get the gun. We want to make the fastest yacht, use the latest technologies to make it as light as possible, with the largest sail area possible.” Clearly, line honours are the only results which matter toICAP Maximusand her crew – it’s perhaps best shown by her website, which credits the Rolex Transatlantic win to arch-rivalMari-Cha IV, who crossed the line with a healthy 5 hours 17 minutes 28 sec lead.
ICAP Maximus’ main competition this year is Grant Wharington’sSkandia Wild Thing, and Thursday’s race around the island at was merely a training ring for a much larger struggle between these leviathans – the Rolex Fastnet, which starts on Sunday. This will be the first time thatICAP Maximuswill meet the 98ftSkandia Wild Thinghead-to-head, and competition will be intense. Both boats have worked through major technological teething troubles to reach this stage, and both will be looking to top the IRC 0 class and put super maxi racing to the forefront of the yachting calendar.
The specifications of the yachts are very similar, with equivalent lengths, sail areas and canting keels.ICAP Maximus’ boasts a rotating wing mast and a retractable keel, reducing her 6m draught to 4m when entering harbour as compared toSkandia Wild Thing’s fixed 5.2m draught, but Brown freely admits the race will come down to tactics. More worrying for the crew is his belief that during the Rolex Transatlantic they were only racing at 80-85% of the yacht’s potential.
Questioned about the challenges posed by the Rolex Fastnet, Brown commented: “To win the Fastnet is a major goal for most yachtsmen. It’s a very technical race, with lots of shallows and currents. We’ll be hoping for nice conditions, butICAP Maximuswill be prepared for anything.” That includes Grant Wharington.