Bruce Kirby, the designer of what is arguably the most successful boat in sailing history the Laser, there have been more than 210,000 built so far, is a man who calls what he believes to be a spade a spade.
Here is his opinion on Jim and Kirsty Clarke’s supermaxi Comanche…
‘When are my many friends in the yachting press going to put a lid on all this nonsense about the 100 foot Comanche?
‘The owners have spent as much money on the big cutter as could possibly spent on a 100 foot sailboat. She is sailed by a professional crew led by the talented Ken Read.
She was reputed to be a “record breaker” BEFORE she WAS LAUNCHED !!! She was tuned up off Newport, R.I. and then shipped to Australia to compete in the Sydney – Hobart race.
‘In 20 knots of wind, and heeling about 30 degrees, she went off the starting line like an express train and held her lead for about a day.
‘Then the wind dropped below 12-13 knots. Comanche came upright, and her huge wetted surface glued her to the Ocean.
‘In light to medium air, wetted surface is the chief deterrent to speed.
‘The 100-foot Aussie super maxi Wild Oats sailed merrily past Comanche and left the floundering American yacht in her wake.
‘Towards the end of the race the wind came back up into Comanche’s range; she heeled ‘way over and gained on Wild Oats, but could not catch her.
‘First race, no record.
‘Then she entered the Trans-Atlantic Race. She was first to finish but did not break the TA record and corrected well down in class.
‘The only record she broke was a 24-hour record for monohulls, but she was the only modern 100 foot monohull on that part of the ocean.
‘And she reportedly sailed that 24 hours with a 40 degree angle of heel. Pity the poor cook.
‘When the very wide and very flat Comanche heels to about 40 degrees her underwater shape takes on that of a catamaran – long and skinny. Her enormous beam and swing keel give her huge stability, like a catamaran, and so she goes very fast, like a catamaran .
‘But in a wind strong enough to heel Comanche to her optimal 30 – 40 degree heel angle a modern well designed and sailed 100 foot catamaran would leave her rushing along at a dreadful slant while the catamaran disappeared into the mist ahead with her crew enjoying cocktails in their deck chairs.
The Big Bucks Boat did do a good job on the Storm Trysail Block Island race this year.
‘The strong northwesterly gave her a broad reach to the island and then a close reach home.
‘Fact is, of course that in a lot of wind, Comanche, like a catamaran, always pulls the apparent wind well forward of the beam. So she was first all the way; but she was the only boat anywhere near her size in the race.
And then Comanche entered the infamous Fastnet Race, and yes, she finished first but did not break the course record.
‘On corrected time – which is what handicap racing is all about – she finished 272nd (yes, two hundred and seventy second) in the IRC class, and 10th out of 11 in the IRC canting keel division.
Comanche is a very exciting, horrendously expensive, very high tech machine. But she will never win a race when there isn’t enough wind to make her heel close to 40 degrees and which keeps her at that angle for most of the course.
‘Even if I had the $$$$$$ I wouldn’t wish that on the cook.’
Now come on Bruce, tell us what you really think!!!
S-W: Before and after her launch Comanche’s skipper Ken Read oft made the comment –
‘Comanche was designed and built with two goals in mind for any sailing she will do: first, always try to take line honors and second, break a record when the weather cooperates. In fact, the design office, Verdier and VPLP, were told specifically by me that if this boat isn’t the worst rated boat in history (IRC or ORR) they have failed.’
Maybe with the ratings results that Comanche’s has on her score sheet her designers have gone close to achieving their brief!