Comanche, Rambler 88 ready to race across Atlantic Ocean

July 4, 2015

Big boats Comanche and Rambler 88 are ready for their transatlantic showdown.

Now they just need the weather to cooperate if they hope to break the record for sailing between Newport, Rhode Island, and The Lizard, the southern tip of the British mainland.

Comanche, a 100-footer owned by Internet pioneer Jim Clark, and Rambler 88 are scheduled to leave Newport on Sunday afternoon as part of the third of three staggered starts in the Transatlantic Race 2015.

The record is 6 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes and 2 seconds, set by Rambler 100 in 2011, the last time the race was held.

Comanche skipper Ken Read, a veteran of the America's Cup and round-the-world racing, says the boats are facing two extreme scenarios. If the boats can escape a high pressure system, ''it could be a record run. If we don't escape it, it could be the slowest race in history,'' Read said.

''You want to do a lot of power reaching,'' Read said, referring to sailing across the wind. ''These big, wide boats love to power reach, so let's hope we get a little bit of it. It becomes easy sailing. If it's upwind or downwind, it's never quite that easy.''

The showdown between Comanche and Rambler 88 has been eagerly anticipated since they were launched late last year.

''Comanche was built by the Clarks to do two things,'' Read said. ''The first is to try to be first to finish in every race it sails in. That's something we have control over, with the design of boat and the way we sail it. It's also designed to break records. Records are more aloof. You have to have pretty good conditions.''

Comanche broke the record in the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race in late May.

''This boat is capable of shattering records. We just need Mother Nature to give us a little bit of help,'' Read said.

Comanche finished second to Wild Oats XI in the Sydney to Hobart race in late December.

Read is president of North Sails Group and said skippering Comanche ''keeps me relevant.''

He spent the better part of eight years competing in the Volvo Ocean Race, including twice as skipper of Puma Ocean Racing.

''I just couldn't go cold turkey on that type of sailing because it became such a huge part of my life,'' he said. ''Comanche helped string it out. It gives me the chance to go out in the ocean and compete at the highest level and sail in events out in the middle of a place so few people get to go to poke around. We're not looking for seahorses and mermaids, but at the same time it's an adventure as well as a sailboat race. This has allowed me to stay in the thick of it without something as time-consuming as the Volvo. It's been wonderful for me.''

Comanche and Rambler 88 are development boats and both have design secrets.

However, Rambler 88 recently added side boards for reaching and running, to help lift the bow out of the water.

The side boards were ''a big call, especially when the boat is brand new,'' said tactician Brad Butterworth, a four-time America's Cup winner and veteran of ocean racing. ''It will be quite good fun, and we have a good group onboard.''

Owner George David will steer the boat, as he did when Rambler 100 established the record four years ago.


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