Sue Pelling experiences a (small) taste of the action aboard Maximus - the 100ft super maxi that arrived the day after Antigua Sailing Week ended

Having been stuck on a broken down onion ship in the mid Pacific during Antigua Sailing Week see previous news story here , Maximus, the 100ft Greg Elliott-designed supermaxi owned by Charles St Clair Brown and Bill Buckley finally turned up at the regatta the day after everyone had gone home!

Covered in bits of onion and oil and grease from the stricken ship, the 20 or so Maximus crew – including the owners – spent most of the following day, early last week, scrubbing the decks in an attempt to make the 10-million dollar superyacht ready to take on the world.

Not surprisingly, Brown and Buckley were itching to get out on the water with their new machine and a spin around Antigua was on the cards. But like all well-laid plans however, things didn’t quite go as smoothly as the crew had hoped, and any chances they had of blasting off in the afternoon sun round the island diminished as the day wore on.

The key problem the crew faced was reattaching the 3m carbonfibre prodder. According to Buckley, during her shipping ordeal the bolts, exposed to salt and heat, had welded themselves together and there was simply not enough time to carry out the job and sail round the island that day.

Prodder-less she may have been but with a decent breeze building there was little to stop team Maximus leaving the stifling dockside heat at Falmouth Harbour and heading out on their debut tuning session off Antigua. And what a session it was; 10kts of wind doing 11kts of boat speed with just the mainsail up as we headed out of the harbour entrance gave an early indication of the way of things to come.

Basically, there’s nothing on this 100ft carbon-fibre supermaxi that’s not been designed to the extreme. Her retractable, 50 degree canting keel, which retracts neatly under the saloon floor into a centre case reduces her draft to 4m from a 6m maximum which Buckley who designed it says allows more flexibility when it comes to entering harbours and major ports around the world.

She also has a carbonfibre, rotating, 3ft wide wing-sectioned mast (rotates 60 degrees each way) which towers nearly 130ft above deck level giving her an extra 90sq m of sail area adding to the 500sq m (upwind) and 800sq m (downwind) overall sail area. “Not surprisingly,” says Buckley, “she does 4kts without any sail up at all.”

Chatting about the keel Buckley, who was behind the design, said: ‘We had the design parameter, we knew we had to get it down to six metres and up to 4 m, had to put a 12 ton bulb on [to keep the centre of gravity down as low as possible], and to get it to cant to 50 degrees. The keel retracts under the floorboards which are only 800mm from the bottom of the hull.”

Sailing around off Antigua on a five-hour rig tuning session hardly mimicked the sort of conditions Team Maximus are likely to expect when they set off on the Rolex Transatlantic Race later this month but for me it was amazing to experience a taste of her potential.

Designed as an all-round racing machine she has a narrow waterline and flared topsides and her extremely high aspect ratio rig, (similar shape to an ACC yacht) towering 128ft above deck gave plenty of power as we headed off shore towards Montserrat. A slightly choppy sea in the building breeze and fully powered-up main and jib top provided an instant adrenalin rush as the fiery beast flicked her tail and took off, reaching speeds of 18/19kts kts in 13kts of wind.

While this sort of boat speed in the moderate breeze experienced that day provided plenty of wow factor, what she’s like in a big breeze with the gennaker up I can’t begin to imagine. According to Buckley the fastest speed they’ve had from her so far is 27kts in 20kts of breeze. Something tells me the crew could be in for a fairly exciting ride on the Rolex Transatlantic Race when the wind is likely to really kick in.