The wiry Kiwi, the one who wore his miles at sea in the many lines on his face and the streaks of grey in his hair, put it best. "This boat," he said as we barreled upwind at 12 knots, making a near gale out of the light seabreeze, "she'll put the fear of God in you, she will."
It was more of a thank-God day last June when I went for a sail on Speedboat, Alex Jackson's 99-foot supermaxi, which has since been wrapped in red and renamed Virgin Money Speedboat through a sponsorship deal. The sun was shining and the breeze was just starting to kick up the chop offshore. But even in such benign conditions there was plenty to indicate that the veteran deckhand wasn't exaggerating one bit.
The phrase "blank slate" is often thrown around when it comes to custom craft. But rarely has it been applied more accurately than with the brief given to yacht designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, an Argentine who spends as much time thinking outside the box as in it.
"Alex was very clear at the beginning that he wanted a fast and fun boat that pushes the limits of what monohulls have been doing so far, but without reinventing the wheel," says Kouyoumdjian. "So he said, 'Can we collect everything you know from the Volvos and anything else without having to reinvent anything? Can we just collect it on a 100-footer and have fun?' I said, 'Yeah, I think we can do that.'"
The only real limit, the length, was set in part to meet entry requirements for such races as the Sydney Hobart, Transpac, and Newport to Bermuda. However, says Kouyoumdjian, had he been given the green light to go bigger, he probably wouldn't have.