Comanche skipper: we could have been quicker
Ken Read, the skipper of Comanche, believes he and his colleagues could have arrived in Bermuda sooner had it not been for a delayed start to the 50th Newport Bermuda Race.
Jim and Kristy Hinze-Clark's 100-foot supermaxi slashed nearly five hours off the previous record of 39:39:18 — set by George David's Rambler in 2012 — after crossing the line off St David's Lighthouse at 4:22:53am on Sunday, in a provisional elapsed time of 34hrs 42min 53sec.
“If we would have started at normal time, which is usually about 3pm, we could have shaved another four or five hours off the record because we would've gotten ahead of a little high pressure off the coast,” Read said shortly after Comanche docked at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
“The high pressure became our challenge and once we got through it in really good shape we put a brick on the accelerator pedal, held on and let the boat do its thing. Once we got out of that little high pressure area off the Rhode Island coast and Nantucket it was a dream ride.
“This time of year you don't get many north-easterlies like that, that hold for the entire race. It was a really fun, fast reach.”
The Newport Bermuda Race elapsed time record has now swapped hands three times in the past 14 years.
“It's an honour to be mentioned with the Pyewackets, Ramblers and Boomerangs who have all broken the race record and good to put Comanche on the list with all those boats,” Read said.
“When the Clarks built this boat one of Jim's stated goals was to try to beat records in great races, and this race obviously is one high on the list. It was really fun and this boat did exactly what it was made to do.”
Comanche's line honours victory in the Newport Bermuda Race was in stark contrast to the yacht's come-from-behind victory in January's Sydney Hobart Race when it retired after damaging its daggerboard and steering system during heavy squalls before rejoining the race after a group of crew jury-rigged a repair to the steering system.
“There was no drama this time,” Read grinned. “We didn't break a single thing or person, and so we're very happy.”
A total of 133 yachts in 16 classes started this year's Newport Bermuda Race in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island on Friday afternoon, among them local entries Spirit of Bermuda and Bermuda Oyster as well as the US Merchant Marine Academy yacht Metolius, which is being skippered by local sailor Dr Stephen Sherwin.
Paul Hubbard's Bermuda Oyster is competing in the St David's Lighthouse Division, Metolius in the Cruiser Division and Spirit of Bermuda in the Spirit of Tradition Division along with America, a replica of the yacht that inspired the America's Cup.
“We're rocking and rolling doing about ten knots with our spinnaker up,” Ben Fairn, director of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, who is among Spirit of Bermuda's 32-member crew, said yesterday.
Spirit's crew were treated to a rare sighting of great white sharks that came up close to the sloop off the coast of Newport.
“Initially we saw one go across our bow and we were all standing right over looking at it,” Fairn said. “Then, five minutes later two more came by and the first was like 20 feet!
“It was a big shark and we were all pretty stunned. Nobody wanted a fishing line and no one went swimming!”