Harken Derm

Comanche: The Fast Fat Bottomed Girl

Published on July 30th, 2016

comanche 2

Nic Douglass

Nic Douglass files this report following the successful bid by Comanche, the 100-footer owned by Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark, to set a new monohull transatlantic record of 5 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes 25 seconds…

The last time I was waiting for the 100-foot Comanche to arrive after achieving a goal that they had set out to achieve was a very different scene to the empty dock at Williams Shipping in Southampton, UK on July 28, 2016, with four shore crew and myself.

The setting had been Hobart, and Comanche was on their way to winning the Rolex Sydney Hobart on line honours. The crowds were thick on the water to follow the “fat bottomed girl” up the Derwent River to her victory, and to blast her so aptly matched Queen theme song on arrival to Constitution Dock. See video.

But this time, another 160 nm past where the record was broken off the Lizard, the team were just happy to see land. “Trans-Atlantic’s are brutal,” said Stan Honey, the Comanche navigator of the team’s journey, even though they seemingly smashed the Mari Cha record by 1D 3H 31M 14S over the 2880nm.

“It was a terrific program,” Honey continued. “Jim and Kristy have done a wonderful job getting us a wonderful piece of equipment, a terrific crew, and then we got lucky. The weather got better and better as we went along. There’s only two windows a year on average where a monohull can stay in a southwesterly the whole way, and we were lucky enough to get one of them.”

You can hear more from Stan in the early hours of this morning on how he chose the window for breaking the record, how the very difficult project was managed, and just how they managed to break the thirteen year old record by over a day. In his seven Trans-Atlantic record attempts, he recalled this to be his “second or third, depending on how you score it.” Unbelievable. The crew did hit a few objects, but there was absolutely no damage to the boat, which is incredible given the speeds that the team were averaging.

I also spoke to Robert Greenhalgh who sailed with Mapfre on the Volvo Ocean Race, and is currently sailing with Phaedo 3 (among other things), and used to sail with Mari Cha, the now former Trans-Atlantic record holder, in her hey day.

“I was on for the race record in 2005,” noted Greenhalgh. “We were very lucky with the weather. For sure we could probably look back at that trip and say there is another twelve hours to be had. Certainly the boat has got plenty in it, there were times there where we were itching for more wind. We were trucking along at twenty to thirty knots the whole time. The boat is impeccable.”

From on the dock in Southampton, we leap to a few months ago when I was in Saint-Barth and lucky enough to sail on board the “fat bottomed girl”. Plenty of on board action so you can see just how amazing this boat is from the crew’s perspective.

I also spoke to Richard Clarke (who was a watch captain for this record attempt) about the boat and what the crew are all about. Like many of the sailing diehards among us (myself included), he said that the crew “are so excited to come and sail this thing every chance we get. She likes to stretch her legs and get going, and we are manually powered… but it’s fun,” he said back in April, and he wasn’t wrong. Though it is no wonder the boys were so tired when you stop and think about a manually powered TransAt.

Many of the crew thought that there was no way the boat would attempt the record when it did as Comanche’s skipper, Ken Read would be otherwise engaged at the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth. But Kenny knows more than anyone that the boat was built to break records and to “help sailing”.

In my interview in Saint-Barth he simply said, “this is what we do on this boat, we go ripping around.” And where will the “fat bottomed girl” be ripping to next? Well, it isn’t confirmed, yet. A lot of the team are keen on one very big ocean race south just after Christmas, and I am personally hoping to see this awesome boat in Sydney very soon for another go at the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Here’s hoping!

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