Ken Read: Jumping in the deep end

Published on December 23rd, 2014

Ken Read has never done the 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but when the race starts December 26, he’ll be jumping in the deep end of the pool as the skipper of the new 100-foot supermaxi Comanche. However, just getting to the start line has been a race. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Christopher Clarey of The International New York Times …

You chose a French design team, VPLP-Verdier.

I’ve never done a project with them before, which was slightly risky, I guess, but they came highly recommended by several colleagues. So once I met them and we discussed the project, it became clear that they were our guys. It’s a young group. They think outside the box. They’ve done a lot of multihulls. This actually has a lot of a multihull feel to it rather than a monohull, and they didn’t rest on what’s been done in the past.

How does it feel like a multihull?

It’s so wide. With a multihull you have two hulls in the water and you sail it until one hull comes out of the water and you’re flying a hull. This boat you sail the same way. You heel it over quite a bit but it feels like you pop most of the boat out of the water and you’re just on a tiny little piece of hull that’s in the water. So it really feels like you’re flying a hull like a multihull.

You’re used to tight deadlines. How does this rank as a challenge?

Far and away the craziest timeline we’ve ever tried to deal with, mainly because a month of its preparation was taken up by having to be on a ship to get here. Realistically we had about seven days of sailing up in the northeast. As carefully as you put a boat like this together, there’s always issues. It’s similar to Formula One, where someone spends millions and millions to build a new race car and it blows the engine out on its first lap. This is all new. This is all custom, and you’re only as good as your weakest link. So you go out sailing for a couple days. You come in and have a work list a mile long. We’re still building it, really. We still have four builders here who are working on parts and pieces and putting it all together.

You have a late arrival named Spithill on board – the helmsman who has twice won the America’s Cup. What does he bring to the team?

Actually Jimmy came to me, he reached out and said: ‘I do this other stuff all the time, and this boat looks fantastic. And I want to learn more about offshore stuff and you guys have been doing it pretty well.’ I’ve sailed against Jimmy for what seems like 100 years, and it’s nice to be sailing with him for a change. I guess that’s the bottom line.

Complete interviewComanche storiesRolex Sydney Hobart Race

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