The first thing you notice about ICAP Leopard is the shear size of this beast of a yacht. ICAP Leopard is a Maxi, in every sense of the word. At over 30 metres long and 7 metres wide, she is a truly magnificent racing yacht capable of awesome power and pace that can leave speedboats in her wake. In light winds, the yacht has amazing grace and can glide along in just a zephyr but when the breeze picks up, it rouses the beast. Capable of a mind-boggling 35 knots, the ride is a wild wet rollercoaster. In her sweet spot this gigantic yacht can sail faster than even the wind.
Owned by Mike Slade and raced by an all-star crew, ICAP Leopard holds five world sailing speed records and numerous course records, including the RORC Caribbean 600 and the historic Rolex Fastnet Race. The sleek grey hull takes centre stage at regattas all over the world and is one of the most famous racing yachts afloat today.
Her latest outing on the race track was the Rolex Middle Sea Race, a 600 mile yacht race starting and finishing in Malta. The majority of the race was in light airs, and ICAP Leopard was on the prowl down the west coast of Sicily, chasing down her prey. Unfortunately the gazelle-like, lightweight Maxi, Esimit Europa 2 won the battle for line honors this time around. But it wasn't for lack of a great all-star team on ICAP Leopard.
Chris Sherlock is more than just the boat captain; he has been Mike Slade’s right hand-man for twenty years. A tough character originally from Australia, Sherlock gets through a tremendous work load running one of the busiest racing yachts in the world. Preparing a boat like ICAP Leopard to race is a complex operation involving a virtual kaleidoscope of skills, from mechanical engineer to diplomat.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” laughs Sherlock, “Sometimes the schedule gets a bit hectic but I take a lot of satisfaction in meeting the challenge and Mike is the best boss in the world, a real character and a great motivator to the team. The kind of guy who will go that extra yard for you. After Malta we are straight to Antigua, to prepare the boat for the Caribbean season.”
Mike Slade fell in love with sailing at an early age, as he explains:
“I first started sailing at Rock, in Cornwall when I was about nine years of age, it is a beautiful estuary, it just seemed the natural thing to do. I sailed a variety of high performance boats, right through to my early twenties. Until marriage got in the way!
“I have always thought that running a race boat should be a worthwhile business venture, not just a way of satisfying my passion for racing. My first venture was an Ocean 80, with four equally enormous cabins and we started a charter business. We competed in the historic round the Isle of Wight Race and broke the record. Buoyed by the success, we had a sound business from day one.”
Today, ICAP Leopard competes in Grand Prix yachting events around the world, funded by sponsorship and race charter income. The profile of the yacht and its sponsors reach global audiences including; Europe, USA, the Far East and Australia.
“We take over a thousand people on board and probably half are in the property business, bankers, investors or partners in my business ventures. I am not always on the boat, as often, a company takes ICAP Leopard for a day and it is a terrific business tool.”
As far as racing goes, Mike Slade continues to race ICAP Leopard in high profile events and to fund the racing by income from charter. He has won a huge number of world class races but the man is just as impressive as his yacht’s racing records. Immaculately well spoken, with a devastating repartee of anecdotes and one-liners, Slade is one of the real characters of the sport.
ICAP Leopard is unique, a world record race boat and the ultimate charter boat. This is a leopard that can change its spots.