“The original concept of a ‘maxi yacht’ was an 80-foot racing boat, but unfortunately now there is very little racing for that size and style of boat because racing has moved away from that,” reflects Lord Irvine Laidlaw. With his Wally 82, Highland Fling XI, Lord Laidlaw is a regular on the maxi yacht regatta scene, but is concerned with the decreasing size of the fleet. “I think it is a shame because the 80-foot racing boat is a fantastic size and you can do everything with those boats that you can do with larger boats.”

Lord Laidlaw believes that in the last ten years the racing trend has shifted from maxi yachts to either mini maxi yachts of 72 foot, TP 52s or Super 52s. “And at the other end to what used to be big cruisers – the over 100-foot superyachts,” he says. “That is a class that has grown enormously - starting originally with the Buckets in Newport and St Barths and now there are superyacht regattas all over the world.”

Lord Irvine Laidlaw (far right) with some of the Highland Fling crew at the 2014 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Image courtesy of the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

But for Lord Laidlaw, there is a key difference between today’s racing of maxi yachts and superyachts. “Maxis for me are 80 to 100-foot racing boats, which includes Swans and other racer-cruisers,” he explains. “But the pure racing end of those boats has actually shrunk, while there has been substantial growth in the racing market in the superyachts.” With a passion for regattas, Lord Laidlaw is currently building a bigger boat in order to be part of this growing superyacht racing movement.

Not wanting to neglect racing on Highland Fling, however, Lord Laidlaw is set on making a change in the maxi yacht racing world. “For the last three or four years the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, which should be the prime regatta for that size of boat, has struggled to make up four boats in the racing class,” he explains. “The racer-cruiser class has lots of entries but sometimes of course they don’t want to race against boats such as Highland Fling, Morning Glory and Rambler because we plane and they don’t. It is like racing apples against oranges.”

"For the last three or four years the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, which should be the prime regatta for that size of boat, has struggled to make up four boats in the racing class."

But if there are enough boats out there, why are regattas such as the Rolex Cup failing to attract the numbers? “I guess there are just an awful lot of events now,” Lord Laidlaw contemplates. “A lot of serious owners have moved to the mini maxis, which is of course a very competitive class - we are talking almost one-design boats.”

As a result, Lord Laidlaw has identified a gap in the market and is trying to resurrect more interest in the maxi yacht class by organising a series of regattas in the Caribbean for 2016. “I am just putting that together at the moment and it looks like it is all going to happen,” he says. “So let’s hope that comes off and we get enough interest from the owners. There are enough boats around, it is just a matter of drawing them together.”

In Issue 16 of The Superyacht Owner we speak to Lord Irvine Laidlaw about the Royal Thames Yacht Club and the members' involvement with the Highland Fling racing programme. Subscribers can read it here.

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