Lord Irvine Laidlaw

Lord Irvine  Laidlaw is actively involved in sailing locally in South Africa. He campaigns Cape Fling (R/P 52) in the Cape waters, and races a R/P 82 and a new Swan 115 in key major international regattas.

He very nearly didn't progress beyond his first experience of sailing – aboard a sailing school yacht in the English Channel during a gale. Lord Laidlaw remembers it as “rough, cold and a bit scary!” but it taught him that sailing was sufficiently demanding to be of interest, while it had the added benefit of forcing his mind off his demanding job.

A year later, he and a partner bought an unfinished Varne 27 that was languishing on wasteland near Tower Bridge in London. It took another year to get the yacht ready for launch, but in 1976 Tower Maid splashed into the Thames and was soon cruising the south coast of England. It wasn’t too long before he caught the racing bug, and the Varne 27 was followed by two fully owned Westerlys: a GK29 and GK34, the latter becoming the first of his now internationally famous series of Highland Fling yachts.

Moving to Hong Kong and then Singapore didn’t mean his racing career suffered – far from it. He competed in the 1981 Admiral’s Cup, and placed second in the 1985 One Ton Cup with his third Highland Fling. He later captained Singapore’s Admiral’s Cup team and was a member of the winning British team at Sydney’s Southern Cross event. A second visit to the Southern Cross in 1987 was less successful, but still notable: while there he married his wife, Christine. 

A move into Swans meant he could still compete and drive his own boats, and a long association with the brand began. His Swans crept upwards in size from the 14 metre Highland Fling No. 4 to the 35 metre Highland Fling No. 15 as he raced at every Swan event and most of the world’s “serious but fun” regattas. A foray into the Wally Class saw him racing a 24.4 metre Farr design, after which he built the Reichel/Pugh 82, Highland Fling No. 11 – the incredibly fast sailboat that he currently owns, along with a Reichel/Pugh IRC 52 that he keeps and races in Cape Town. He is currently building a racing version of the Spirit 52, a modern classic.

This sailing history would mark anyone as a dedicated yachtsman, however he also has a tandem history with motor yachts. By the 1990s he had started working his way through a series of motor yachts, from a modest 23 footer to a magnificent 68 metre super-yacht.

Apart from supporting many other sailing events, Lord Laidlaw is also a Board Director and one of the major contributors to Land Rover BAR, the British team currently trying to win the America’s Cup.

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