Comanche Devours Newport-Bermuda

Comanche stormed across the St David’s Lighthouse finish line of the Newport Bermuda Race early on Sunday morning, smashing the race record.

© Barry Pickthall / PPL

At the Royal Bermuda YC docks last Sunday, the champagne flowed as freely as dark n’ stormies aboard Jim Clark’s Comanche. But it’s a safe guess that none of the crew were toasting Father’s Day. That could wait. The miles of smiles were all for the new course record set by the 100-ft maxi skiff in the 50th running of the Newport Bermuda Race.

The latest edition of the ‘thrash to the Onion Patch’ started on Friday. Comanche, skippered by Ken Read and with the Bay Area’s Stan Honey at the nav table, crossed the finish line off the St. David’s Lighthouse on Sunday at 4:22:53 EDT. Her provisional elapsed time for the 635-mile course is 34 hours, 42 minutes, 53 seconds. This beats the old record, set in 2012 by George David’s Rambler, by a bit more than four and a half hours.

“This boat is as good as it looks,” said Read. “We were averaging 28-29 knots and our highest speed was 32.” But he’s quick to credit Honey for the literal breakthrough that made the record run possible. A day or so before the start, a high had formed south of Newport that threatened to stall out the fleet. Stan found a chink in that high-pressure armor — two little highs that had separated from the big one — and Comanche managed to squeak through one of the resulting holes before it closed, effectively walling off the rest of the fleet. From there on, says Read, “The boat did its job.”

Owner Clark was not on board, but was the first to congratulate the crew by phone soon after the finish.

Designed by the French design firm of Guillaume Verdier, Comanche looks a lot like one of their IMOCA 60s that’s been pumping iron and eating lots of red meat. Nicknamed “the aircraft carrier” for her 25-ft wide transom, the boat’s skimming dish design, along with her canting keel and water ballasting, ignored every racing rule in existence for Clark’s one and only ‘rule’ – that she break records.

Stand by for more of that. As you read this, the boat is on her way back to Newport to prepare for a transatlantic monohull attempt later this summer, maybe a Sydney Hobart, and then to the West Coast for the 2017 Transpac.

Skipper Ken Read called Stan Honey the "best navigator in the world" after steering the 100-ft record setter through some tricky winds after the start, setting her up for her record run. 

© Barry Pickthall / PPL

It was really a banner week for Stan Honey in particular, who was named 2016 winner of the Magnus Olsson award the day before the start. (Named for the charismatic Swede, the award is given annually to an individual or organization that upholds Magnus’ indomitable spirit and enthusiasm.)

The rest of the Newport Bermuda Race fleet was led to the finish line by a boat of relatively modest size (a Tripp 41), crewed by three adults and seven teenagers. High Noon finished a few minutes after 9 a.m. on Tuesday and when she reached the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina, she was the only Bermuda Race boat in the harbor, and she stood first on corrected time in her division and second overall on elapsed time. The US Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation had loaned the boat to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team, based out of American YC in Rye, NY. For more info and results in progress, see www.bermudarace.com.

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