#tbt Rothmans Whitbread Maxi
— 23 Jun 2021
Designing a Whitbread Maxi was a racing yacht designer’s pinnacle project in the Eighties and Nineties, and even though the Rothmans commission came late into the 1989/90 race cycle it was a great campaign to be involved with. It was a fairly frenzied period of design work, with no opportunity in the early programme for tank testing, though a bit of that came later (one of the models is currently on display at St Barbes museum here in Lymington).
The boat was skippered by Lawrie Smith, and much of the crew was drawn from the Solent area. Following not long after our successful One Tonners Jade and Juno, Rothmans had some of that DNA built into the design, but with even more emphasis on downwind capability, thinking Southern Ocean in particular where she was particularly strong.
The ‘89 Fastnet was a bit of a warm-up, with Rob on board, co-navigating with Vincent Geake. The start day went well with a light south westerly allowing Rothmans to build a good lead out of the Solent. The first night was a bit of a defining moment for the Whitbread itself; going off watch Rob felt fairly comfortable but four hours later and back at the nav table another boat had somehow jumped ahead in the variable conditions and was more than holding its distance on the radar. Of course it was going to be the year of the ketches, well studied and crafted by Bruce Farr, especially Steinlager which turned out to be the obstinate blob on Rob’s radar screen that night.
The sloops were effectively in the second tier, and Rothmans had a great battle with Farr’s sloop Merit. Particularly memorable was Lawrie’s full-blown match race with Merit into Fremantle, which the former duly won.
Rothmans went on to win the Sydney Hobart but the crew disqualified themselves from the official scoreboard by flying their branded kite, the race preceding any loosening of advertising.
Rothmans was extensively refitted in 2011 and joined the Legends regatta later that year in Alicante with both Rob & Tom onboard.