80ft race boat with four (carbon fibre) heads

Xavier McCoy guides us through the 'Wally' 80 Highland Fling and shares his thoughts on why they aren't racing in the Wally class
Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling may have stunned the fleet at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup with her 26-28 knot bursts reaching off Porto Cervo yesterday, but this performance has come at a high price. The boat is technically a Wally, but last weekend was ousted from the Wally division and thus now finds herself racing in the strangely named ‘Racing Cruising and Racing’ class against the likes of Esimit Europa 2 (the former Alfa Romeo supermaxi), Danilo Salsi’s heavily campaigned Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments, Leonardo Ferragamo’s sistership Solleone and the new Russian-owned Bouwe Bekking-steered Lutra 80, Singularity. The latest Highland Fling, Laidlaw’s 11th, follows a canting keel Wally 80, a Swan 112, a 12m (used for the AC Jubilee), a Carroll Marine 60 and a succession of Swans. At a first glance the boat, a Reichel Pugh design, built mostly by Goetz in Rhode Island, resembles a VO70 but with a teak deck and a lot less offshore clutter. She is sleek and sexy, built from female moulds in order to accomplish her filler-free clear coat carbon fibre finish. Unlike a VO70 she has a fixed keel and being roughly 10ft erlong has a displacement of 25 knots of which 14 (the all-up weight of a VO70) is in the bulb. So what is the reason for this boat? “With the canting keel on the other boat [the Wally 80], when Wally adopted IRC we found there was no way we could be competitive,” states boat captain Xavier Mecoy. “The boat wasn’t a fast boat at the best of times and with a canting keel it was penalised way too much. If there was no way to win there was no point in keeping the boat, so then we decided to build something new. We had a chat with Wally and Reichel