David's Rambler 88 And Clark's 100-foot Comanche
Poised For Their First Match-Up In St. Barth At Les Voiles de St. Barth
March 15, 2015
David’s Rambler 88 and Clark’s 100-foot Comanche are the Formula 1s of world sailing, incorporating engineering/design feats beyond what has ever been realized in the yacht racing world and with “pit crews” comprised of small armies of professional sailors who are aboard during racing.
They are poised for their first match-up in St. Barth at Les Voiles de St. Barth
● Clark previously has built Hanuman (a Super-J for racing) and Athena (the fourth largest sailing yacht in the world for cruising) and caused a huge national stir in Australia when he and Australian wife and supermodel Kristy Hinze Clark debuted Comanche in December’s famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. (Comanche’s skipper Ken Read puts it in perspective at the beginning of Channel 7’s “live coverage” of that race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b30207IDcXM
● David famously skippered two previous Ramblers, one of which famously capsized in the 2011 Fastnet Race.
So there you go. Two technological marvels, two titans of industry, and a colorful opportunity to see their new multi-million dollar campaigns play out.
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High-Tech Match-Up at Les Voiles de St. Barth:
Comanche vs. Rambler 88
When it comes to regatta headlines, nothing beats having Comanche and Rambler 88, the yachting world's two newest and most sophisticated (a.k.a. mind blowing) racing machines, compete head-to-head for the first time ever. Add to that a slew of famously talented sailors on teams rounding out to 75 or more against the postcard-perfect backdrop of St. Barth, with its ever-blue water, dependable trade winds and relentlessly active shore life, and you have the developing story of the sixth annual edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth, scheduled for April 13-18, 2015.
Comanche, designed by the French team of VPLP Design/Guillame Verdier, and Rambler 88, designed by Argentinian Juan Kouyoumdjian, were launched in late 2014 at Hodgdon Yachts and New England Boatworks, respectively. Both yachts sport state-of-the-art carbon fiber hulls and rigs, but each has special features that, although tested on previous boats, have been combined with other innovations on these yachts for the first time. For instance, Comanche's monolithic (as opposed to sandwiched honeycomb) construction in its forward hull sections certainly qualifies as “beyond normal,” but to keep up, Rambler 88's rudders seem to have been nibbled on by sharks around their leading edges.
“When it comes right down to it,” says Comanche's helmsman Ken Read, “the general concepts of the two yachts are very similar; they are big wide boats that rely on canting keels and width for their stability. The biggest difference is sheer size. Comanche is a big 100 footer, while Rambler looks to be a much more manageable-sized 88 footer. But don't let the size fool you. Being manageable is all relative, and each will be a handful when the breeze kicks in. Both boats have their versions of ‘unusual,' but whether it's the size and shape of Comanche or the sabre tooth rudders on Rambler 88, the underlying part of the story is that these boats were born to go fast, and their owners are both huge promoters of innovation.”
Rambler 88's owner George David has made headlines before (at Les Voiles and regattas elsewhere around the world) with his previous Ramblers, a 100 footer and a 90 footer, and it was his love of the latter boat that convinced him to settle on a smaller rather than a larger design this time around. The strategy served him well when he finished second in his shakedown competition: January's Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race. In December, Comanche, which launched only a month earlier than Rambler 88, completed the Sydney Hobart Race, finishing second to line honors winner Wild Oats and giving a sneak peek, like Rambler 88 did, of her possibilities once she has her legs fully under her.
“There were some conditions where Wild Oats and Comanche, two boats that look nothing alike, were actually remarkably close in speed,” said Read, adding that he expects the same can happen between Rambler 88 and Comanche. “It's horses for courses; each boat will have its condition one time or another and succeed in it. But the bottom line is wide boats like breeze, which Les Voiles has, so you're going to see two really cool boats blazing around the island of St. Barth.”
Read reiterated that both boats were designed to let loose in the middle of the ocean, so why around-the-buoys racing at Les Voiles de St. Barth? “For the pure fun of it,” he said. “Comanche's owners (Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark)did a lot of sailing on the boat in Sydney and just had a blast. They couldn't think of a place that was more fun to sail than St. Barth. They'll bring three, four, maybe five friends on board racing each day, and we'll most likely put a couple of them on the handles and get them into the action.”
Though currently in the spotlight as skipper of Comanche, Ken Read is a two-time US Sailing Yachtsman of the Year (1985, '94) and six-time world champion in the J/24 class, with three America's Cup campaigns and two Volvo Ocean Races to his credit. He is typical of the high caliber of talent that competes at Les Voiles, which serves as a reunion, of sorts, for those in Read's league.