The Incat 91 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran Incat 046 has been in the news recently having entered service for the Port Authority of Trinidad & Tobago on the seabridge linking the two Caribbean islands. Marketed as “The Lynx”, a title adopted from the vessel’s career in New Zealand, it seems the name is a popular one with Incat customers for this vessel is the seventh to carry the tag.
For the past three years Incat 046 has operated in New Zealand, across the notoriously rough waters of Cook Strait, on a service marketed as “The Lynx”. Operating on that route the registered name Incat 046 was rarely used with the highly visible brand name “The Lynx” taking priority instead and even following her across the Pacific to Trinidad & Tobago.
The predecessor of Incat 046 in New Zealand was also known as “The Lynx”. However unlike Incat 046 she was registered as The Lynx by Interisland Line. Today she operates on the English Channel for Brittany Ferries as Normandie Express.
In total there have been seven Incat-built high speed ferries identified by the title “Lynx”;
· Incat 046, marketed as “The Lynx” for Interisland Line, Incat hull 046, a 91 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· The Lynx, for Interisland Line, Incat hull 057, a 98 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· Condor Vitesse, marketed as “The Lynx” for Interisland Line, Incat hull 044, an 86 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· Condor 10, marketed as “The Lynx” for Interisland Line, Incat hull 030, a 74 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· Stena Lynx III, for Stena Line, Incat hull 040, an 81 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· Stena Lynx II, for Stena Line, Incat hull 033, a 78 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
· Stena Lynx, for Stena Line, Incat hull 031, a 74 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran.
The first Incat vessel to carry the name was Stena Sea Lynx, or Stena Lynx as she later became. The name was a clever play on her owner’s operating name, Stena Sealink Line, and as their first high speed ferry in a world of SeaCats Stena linked their vessel to the speed at which the animal can make astoundingly high jumps to catch its prey. Operating under a new “Sea Lynx” brand the 74 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran was an overnight success and during her first six months in service in 1993 the total market on the Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire service grew by over 200,000 passengers and 40,000 cars.
With the “Sea Lynx” brand firmly placed with the travelling public Stena introduced a larger 78 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran in 1994 and building on the earlier success simply named her Stena Sea Lynx II. When Stena Sealink Line was shortened to Stena Line in 1996, both vessels were renamed Stena Lynx and Stena Lynx II before a third vessel, Stena Lynx III, followed from Hobart.
Meanwhile, Channel Islands operator Condor Ferries had negotiated a southern hemisphere summer charter with New Zealand’s Tranz Rail (later Interisland Line) and their 74 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran Condor 10 left England for Wellington on November 20 1994. Retaining her registered name the vessel was marketed as “The Lynx” and such was the success of the service that the charter was repeated each summer for the next five years.
Condor 10 became the world’s most widely travelled fast ferry, having crossed the equator ten times and averaged a staggering 26,000 nautical miles on its annual pilgrimages to and from New Zealand. In fact, when Condor 10 returned to Hobart for refurbishment after seven years in service on both the English Channel and Cook Strait, the vessel was relieved of 15 tonnes of paint. With each relocation came a fresh application of her operator’s livery, and yet another layer of paint.
Coincidentally, Condor 10, still carrying Tranz Rail’s “The Lynx” logos on her hulls, found herself on charter to Stena Line for their “Lynx” service during the northern summer of 1996.
For the 1999/2000 summer season the larger 86 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran Condor Vitesse was sent to New Zealand, becoming the fifth Incat vessel to carry a Lynx brand. However it was to be a brief honour, for an even larger vessel destined for Tranz Rail, the new 98 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran officially registered as The Lynx.
When compared with previous “The Lynx” vessels on Cook Strait, the new 98 metre ship brought a huge increase in seakeeping abilities, a fact endorsed by the New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority who issued a permit to operate in 4 metres significant wave height, conditions which could be encountered on all headings on the passage between North and South Island. For three years the vessel provided a reliable year round service before being replaced by another “The Lynx”, Incat 046, as part of a fleet reorganisation programme.
“Lynx” certainly appears to be a popular choice of name amongst Incat customers!