SYDNEY (AFP) – The sleek new 100-foot supermaxi Comanche may be the most anticipated yacht of this year’s Sydney to Hobart race, but accomplished American skipper Ken Read says it will be far from an ideal first voyage for the boat.
The incredible superyacht, built in Maine at a cost of millions of dollars for technology billionaire entrepreneur Jim Clark and his wife Kristy explicitly to break records, is broader than its class rivals and has a towering 150-foot mast set further back than most.
In the right conditions, the state-of the-art boat is expected to be tough to be beat. But the weather is everything in the Sydney to Hobart which can see yachts face mountainous seas and brutal gales – or left becalmed by a lack of wind.
Last year fellow supermaxi Perpetual Loyal was well ahead after the first day but was stalled by a lack of wind and left helpless as it was overtaken by eventual line honours winner Wild Oats XI.
“And I’ve told Jim and Kristy this – that we really couldn’t have chosen a worse race for its first race,” Read told AFP from onboard the Comanche in Sydney. “But it’s been the goal from the start.”
The 53-year-old Read is one of the world’s most decorated sailors. Twice named United States Yachtsman of the Year, Read has won nine world championships, been at the helm in America’s Cups and Volvo Ocean Races and has won the Admiral’s Cup. But he will sailing in uncharted waters in his first foray into the gruelling 628-nautical mile (1,163km) race down the east coast of Australia from Sydney Harbour to the Tasmania capital of Hobart, past the perilous Bass Strait.
“First of all, you can’t build a boat to be the best in all conditions, so you’ve got to pick and choose your conditions,” he said of Comanche, which will be competing for overall handicap and line honours among the supermaxis – the biggest and fastest class of yacht in the race.
“The boat’s real goal is to try to break some records eventually,” Read said.
“In all honesty, this boat isn’t really perfect for the Sydney to Hobart. But it is the best all-round option for all the rest of the stuff we want to do.”
The race begins on Boxing Day, December 26, and Read will spend Christmas in Sydney before making his debut in Australia’s most famous sailing race.
“Obviously I’ve followed it,” he said of the fabled event. “I know a lot about it – its history, the passion around here for it, but I’ve watched it on the Internet like most other people.”
The experienced yachtsman is also acutely aware of the dangers of the race, including the terrible events of 1998 when five yachts sank and six people died after the race was hit by wild weather.