UPDATE, OCTOBER 17, 2014: Comanche conducted her first sea trials in Newport, Rhode Island this week. Here she is on the water:
Read on for the original article from the launch of Comanche, and check out the video.
One of the most highly anticipated sailing yachts in build was launched last week. Comanche, the 100-foot (30.5-meter) carbon fiber racer commissioned by well-known yachtsman Jim Clark, emerged from Hodgdon Yachts. The video gives you a time-lapse look at her being towed out of the build shed. She’s about two months from setting off on her first record-breaking attempt, too—the first of what’s expected to be several.
To put the purpose of Comanche into perspective, consider the facts behind her design and build teams. She bears naval architecture from Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost (VPLP) and Guillaume Verdier, each of which are well-known in racing circles. VPLP is familiar to many in yachting, of course. As for Verdier, if you’re not acquainted with his contributions, he’s been behind the design of America’s Cup racers, among others. Comanche is further significant for being among the largest single-hull infusions constructed in the United States and indeed the world. Hodgdon Yachts even built the oven in which the structure was cured. It’s been using advanced composites for several years, for both yachts and military projects. “We are pleased to be one of a handful of shipyards in the world capable of executing projects like this, and to be a leader in this technology in the USA,” says Tim Hodgdon, president of Hodgdon Yachts.
All told, nearly three dozen people, between the yard staff and Clark’s own staff, have been heavily involved in the overall design and construction from the start. In fact, Ken Read, Clark’s point man on Comanche as well as her captain (he’s helmed previous Clark racers, too), has referred to the collective staff as “a SWAT team.” Other craftspeople have contributed as well over the past year.
You read that right: Comanche, whose scale model at left was shown at the Monaco Yacht Show, is a one-year build. Normally, a yacht of her complexity would take closer to two years. However, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race coming up in December has been on Clark’s radar from the start. That dictated the shorter build time. Hodgdon Yachts’ staff therefore worked two shifts for a significant part of the build.
Comanche is at Newport Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island getting her mast stepped. (The mast was subcontracted to another company, as was the keel. The keel has already been installed by Newport Shipyard.) She was towed from Hodgdon Yachts’ yard in Maine after she was launched. Read says it took more than 25 hours to make the trip and was “a little dicey at times.”
Once finishing touches are put aboard, Comanche will head to South Carolina. She’ll then be lifted aboard a transport ship for the journey to Australia. Read adds, “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.”
If you’re wondering why the Sydney-Hobart race, infamously punishing, has been Clark’s first target, Read gives a good explanation, via Scuttlebut Sailing News:
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?”