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Mike Slade & Niklas Zennstrom join forces to smash Atlantic racing record

by Louay Habib 5 Dec 2012 09:23 GMT 26 November - 4 December 2012
Rán Leopard claims line honours in Transatlantic Superyacht & Maxi Regatta © OnEdition

Rán-Leopard takes Line Honours in the International Maxi Association Transatlantic Race, in a record time of: 7 days 
8 hours 
59 minutes 
12 seconds.

Mike Slade's 30-metre canting keel maxi ICAP Leopard, chartered to Niklas Zennström's Team Rán has smashed the course record for the 2,800 nautical mile IMA Transatlantic Race, beating the record set in 2011 by the 66-metre superyacht, Hetairos by over 25 hours.

Hooking into a low pressure system mid Atlantic, Rán-Leopard maintained an average boat speed of 19 knots to power into Virgin Gorda, BVI with the nearest competitor over 500 miles behind. Niklas and Catherine Zennström have longed to race across the Atlantic and the experience was everything they wished for as Niklas Zennström explained, shortly after finishing the race.

"The conditions were pretty unusual, we didn't expect so much wind for the entire race and that is how we could maintain such a good average speed. We had some amazing top speeds especially surfing big Atlantic rollers, at times exceeding 30 knots, it was incredibly exciting. On deck, it was extremely wet all the time, we didn't have much sunshine but it was really fantastic sailing, the race exceeded all our expectations.

We did contemplate making the crossing in our 72' Mini Maxi Rán 2, but a trip like this would have taken longer with a lot of discomfort. However with Leopard, we have chartered a superb offshore boat, which is very comfortable. We have enjoyed hot showers and cooked meals with homemade bread, which would not have been possible in our own boat.

Many of the Rán crew have raced on Leopard before, which was a big advantage. So many of the team know the boat, sail handling and driving was very familiar to them and I think Boat Captain, Chris Sherlock could relax a bit because he had complete confidence with the Rán crew. Perhaps that is why we could push relatively hard.

For me, taking the helm on Leopard is very different sailing experience; Leopard is a much bigger and powerful boat than anything I have driven before but with the twin rudder set up, there is excellent grip and she stays in the groove. Feeling the power as we took off, surfing down the waves was pure exhilaration.

Finishing the race was a very special moment for my wife, Catherine and myself. When you're in sight of land after being one week at sea, it is a fantastic feeling to come to the finish and savour the moment. Normally, we fly across the Atlantic by plane and I guess that is the only way we could have got here any quicker! This has been on our 'to do list' for some time and it has been the perfect adventure."

Leopard's owner Mike Slade was unable to join the race due to work commitments but one of the sport's biggest characters was beaming from ear to ear when he got the news about the record run.

"Isn't it fantastic! Leopard hasn't lost any of her pace, even though we have added a couple of tons with a full interior, in fact the extra weight of five cabins forward may well have improved her in certain conditions. She looks magnificent and is far more comfortable. Sadly I couldn't take time away from the office, I found it quite ironic putting in the hours whilst the crew were having such a great time!"

"I spoke to Chris Sherlock straight after they finished and I pulled his leg, saying that we better get the Rán crew in for all our races but to be fair about two thirds of Niklas' team have sailed with us before, it was almost like an old school reunion. We even had Olivier, our former chef back on board. The crew had gorgeous food every day and the Rán-Leopard combination has obviously been devastatingly successful."

"I have been following their amazing progress with some envy. However, I am fully committed to the next race, ICAP Leopard will be back competing in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February and we should have a great battle with Hetairos for Line Honours."

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