Harken Derm

At last, Comanche nears liftoff

Published on October 6th, 2014

Ken Read, President of North Sails, will soon have his hands on the wheel of a very large, and breathtaking, record-seeking ocean racer. Here Ken provides an update on the project…

All involved with Comanche, especially Jim and Kristy Clark, are excited to announce that the build of this 100-foot monster is nearing completion. We have successfully towed the boat from Hodgdon Boat Yard in Maine down to Newport, RI. Mind you, this happened without a keel or mast; resulting in a 25+ hour trip that was a little dicey at times. The boat is now out of the water at Newport Shipyard on her keel and nearly ready to launch.

The effort put in by the design and build crew, the team at Hodgdon and now all of the support at Newport Shipyard is beyond anyone’s imagination. It’s been a Herculean effort to get this boat done on time.

As with any boat build, Comanche is the classic case of giving boat designers enough time to perfect the concept and design, balanced with a build cycle that allows the boat builders to put that concept into reality. The target for Comanche is to be on the start line for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2014. It looks like we have a reasonable chance of making it.

But…we aren’t there yet.

Why use one of the most notoriously brutal races in our sport as Comanche’s first real test? To start, Kristy (Hinze) Clark is from Australia and Jim and Kristy have spent the last several years celebrating Christmas there. And if you ask any Aussie, they will tell you that the Sydney Hobart Race could be a bigger event than Christmas itself Down Under!

Take tradition and mix in Jim’s friendships with guys like Neville Crichton who keep revving him up. Something along the lines of “Jim, when are you going to join the party down here for real and build yourself a hundred footer to play with the big boys?”

So here we are, one 100 footer later. We have a finite due date and the push is on to have Comanche race ready on December 26th.

Comanche was designed and built with two goals in mind for any sailing she will do: first, always try to take line honors and second, break a record when the weather cooperates. In fact, the design office, Verdier and VPLP, were told specifically by me that if this boat isn’t the worst rated boat in history (IRC or ORR) they have failed. Goal one, first to finish, comes down to the team onboard and hopefully the speed of the boat, something that is in our control. Goal two is weather dependent but that’s how sailing goes.

Comanche is going in the water this week pretty much ready to go. I know all the sailors are itching to get their hands on the boat. And I’m sure the shore team will be happy to tick this milestone off their work list. Mast in late in the day, continue putting in all the complicated systems, and then comes two days of stress tests with the engineering team.

I’m often asked how does one prepare to sail on a boat like Comanche. My answer is, “just like any other boat–just go sailing,” and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

But to quote many of our friends from Down Under…with a boat this big (fast) and complicated, “what could possible go wrong?”


Comanche was launched at Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay, Maine on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Video by Onne van der Wal.

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