A Design Brief Fulfilled

March 8, 2005

Icon was a collaborative project that brought me together with owner Dick Robbins, professional skipper Jim Roser, and Halsey Lidgard sailmaker Doug Christie. All the members of this design team gathered for initial meetings at which we brainstormed what were actually competing concepts for Dick’s new boat.

Dick wanted a boat in which he could win any race, anywhere in the world, and then go off cruising with his wife, Bonnie. I say “competing concepts” because as we worked up the preliminary design, it was obvious that if we gave each voice in the project equal say, we were going to end up with a very high-powered boat with exotic systems and a deck plan to match. In this push-and-pull process, the features that insured race-winning speed potential would come to rule over comfort features required for carefree cruising. It seems so obvious now in hindsight.

As with every design commission, the boat changed as it went through its various stages of development. Though Icon was intended to race in the light airs of Puget Sound, before it was even launched, it was entered in the Sydney-Hobart race. I had in mind a light, slippery, low-prismatic hull with a large rig and plenty of draft that could be a rocket in fluky Pacific Northwest conditions. It was decided that to make the boat “cruisy,” we should give it a lifting keel so draft could be reduced. Icon’s “shoal” draft is eight feet eight inches; the extended draft is 13 feet eight inches. The resulting keel trunk needed to be incorporated in such a way that it wouldn’t impose on the interior layout.


Today’s raceboats have almost no interiors beyond a few pipe berths and a minimal galley and head. On the other hand, Icon has a very comfortable layout that’s cleverly installed to allow it to be converted to a racing configuration that saves weight and increases the number of off-watch berths. This was really the easiest part of the design. With Marten Marine’s detail work, the layout was beautifully executed, and I think it works very well. The galley is big, and there’s plenty of room for the crew to gather and enjoy meals together.

The deck presented its own set of problems. Racing considerations revolving around the traveler, mainsheet winch, and two pedestal winches dominated the deck design. We made full-size mock-ups of the cockpit to determine how much elbow room was needed for the coffee grinders. Still, the cockpit has coamings and proper seat backs, and the companionway is easy to negotiate. So while I find the cockpit to be busy, it’s also well suited for relaxed sailing.

The carbon rig is something else. To win races, you need horsepower, pure and simple, and that requires a high Sail Area/Displacement ratio. Icon’s SA/D is 33.25. Just for fun, consider that the venerable Cal 40, considered in its day to be a racing “machine,” has a SA/D of 18.38, and many docile cruising boats have SA/Ds down around 16.5. Then consider that this SA/D is based upon a boat’s I, J, E, and P measurements and no mainsail roach. There’s main roach and then there’s main roach, and Icon has about as much roach as you can physically put on a mainsail (the racing main overlaps the backstay by about 44 inches).


The goods news is that the jibs have minimal overlap. The bad news is that the towering carbon spar must be attended to carefully to keep it in column. You won’t cruise Icon with a beer in one hand and a sandwich in the other. In retrospect, we chose a huge rig for racing potency. The price we paid was losing the ability to nonchalantly cruise the boat with a couple. Icon is a handful even in benign conditions. Just furling the mainsail is a Herculean feat.

All in all, Icon was conceived as a very aggressive racer/cruiser. To date, the boat has raced all over the world and cruised to Alaska, along the coast of Australia, and in the South Pacific. I think our team delivered on our promise.

Bob Perry ( is one of the premier cruising-boat designers of this or any other era. His 65-foot Icon is currently for sale in Southern California. For details, contact Jim Roser (206-427-5690, [email protected]).


Icon Specs

LOA 65′ 9″ (20.04 m.)
LWL 56′ 10″ (17.32 m.)
Beam 14′ 10″ (4.52 m.)
Draft (keel up/down) 8′ 8″/13′ 8″ (2.64/4.17 m.)
Displacement 27,700 lb. (12,591 kg.)
Sail Area 1,906 sq. ft. (177.06 sq. m.)
D/L 68
SA/D 33.25


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