Built at Chantiers L'Anitra in St. Valery sur Somme in Picardie, France in 1976, Leopard Normand III is one of the most strongly-built fibreglass yachts sailing the world today. Her hull was formed from a male mold of the 18-metre Whitbread round-the-world racer 'Criter' but Leopard Normand III is not a racing vessel, she is a cruising yacht. She has a ribcage, like a traditional wooden boat but this one is made of solid stainless steel!
The white hull with black top strip is a foam 'sandwich' construction, about twelve centimetres thick, with fibreglass inside and out and stainless steel mesh in between. The man who commissioned this magnificent yacht, Jack Grout, wanted to be certain that accidentally upsetting a whale could not cause the vessel to be sunk underneath him...
The hull shape is a 'fin and skeg' with a three-metre draught (depth) at the keel which contains seven tons of lead. The yacht weighed twenty-two tons before she was originally fitted out, fifty-three tons at her heaviest, when she still had the original cast-iron plumbing and other unnecessary weight, in 1998 and thirty-six tons at her last haulout, in June 2003.
The aluminium masts were custom-made for the boat and pass right through the boat into the hull. If there were no rigging, those masts would stand up on their own without any trouble, but this vessel is a 'belt and braces' construction - the rigging would not be out of place on a yacht twice the length of Leopard Normand III!
The masts are relatively short for a boat of this length, making her much more stable than most modern yachts and much more comfortable under sail. Speed is sacrificed in exchange for comfort and safety but that doesn't mean that the Leopard doesn't pick up her skirts and fly along in a most exhilarating fashion when she is asked to do so in the right weather conditions!
The original bowsprit was very short and has been replaced twice in the past five years. The new bowsprit, built in 2001, is two metres long and made of steel. The roller furling makes the headsail easy to deploy and extinguish and the three booms (one on each mast and one on the baby stay) are 'club-footed', so the yacht is virtually self-tacking.
What that means is that a competent sailor can manage her single-handed - imagine being able to sail an 18-metre boat as though it were a dinghy... When you include her bowsprit (as some marinas do) Leopard Normand III is 22 metres in length and yet one person can sail her unaided!
The decks are clad with two-centimetre teak planking and the centre cockpit seats eight people comfortably, although twelve have been known to sit close together around the table.
The steering, by means of a lovely spoked wheel taken from a century-old packet steamer that was being broken up at the yard where Leopard Normand III was built, is hydraulic.
You can move the door-sized rudder with one finger (or toe) in most weathers, if you have to steer at all, and the compass sits in a handsome binnacle taken from the same vessel. Read more about Leopard Normand - her rig, her new bowsprit and more...