Weapons-Grade

When Comanche rolled off the Guillaume Verdier, Marc Van Peterghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prevost design board, it was a quick flick of the keyboard over to the Hodgdon Yachts facility in Maine to build the yacht that defines our times. What emerged from the shed in East Boothbay for Netscape founder and serial tech entrepreneur Dr Jim Clark was something of a brutal beauty. I’m not sure any boat I’ve ever seen before or since comes close to its sinister glory. A carbon wonder, it’s one of the greatest sights on our seas and having been handed over to the very pinnacle of ocean sailors since 2015, has performed like a dream. What. A. Boat.


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The results speak for themselves and you can throw a towel over the greatest ocean races and records. Rolex Fastnet, Rolex Middle Sea, Rolex SydneyHobart – they’ve got more Rolexes on Comanche than a Swiss billionaire fashionista.

And don’t forget the outright monohull distance records and trans-Pacific runs. This boat is a weapons-grade ocean-eater and serial race killer that takes no prisoners. The launch of the 139ft Skorpios this year raised the bar on the 100 footers that are squeaking under the eligibility requirements for the Sydney-Hobart and a few other big races but Comanche is the boat they are all aiming at. It’s the gold-standard of ocean racing and an absolute pleasure to watch in action.


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Taking the new monohull record for the RORC Transatlantic Race is something straight out of a Bob Fisher book. We will look back in years to come as these vessels go ever faster, ever larger, ever more extreme and say: “that’s where it all started.” It’s a benchmark boat that has raised the bar and set records that we right now, find hard to believe will ever be beaten. The Rolex Middle Sea race, although officially won in what even the Comanche crew would say are ‘ nefarious circumstances’ belied the race record. That’s something that will stand for a very long time. The perfect conditions matched the perfect boat with Tom Slingsby on the wheel and set something of the Bob Beamon’s about it. Remarkable.


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Records will get broken though. The right conditions married with the top of the top professional crews with the bit between their teeth will see evolution but my goodness what a series of records Comanche is setting. And the great thing is that the crew look like they are having the time of their lives achieving it. It’s almost as though the sands of time are running out. There’s a desperation to set every record under the sun before the next generation hits – and they’re doing it in style.


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Crossing the finishing line in Grenada in the dead of night beneath football pitches of carbon North genius, the elated crew led by the affable Mitch Booth (yes the multihull guru) stepped ashore to yet another race record and the delight of the Royal Ocean Racing Club who, like us all, are dumbfounded at the stunning success of this race. Mitch was in ebullient mood, saying:

“Comanche is an absolute weapon in the open ocean; the benchmark in non-foiling offshore monohulls. The team are just so privileged to have the opportunity to race this boat with the full support and trust from the owners. It’s just a real thrill to be on board. The Comanche crew is a mix of very experienced offshore sailors, grand prix inshore sailors and a few newcomers. We are not in set roles; everyone is trimming and on the helm. We are mixing it up, having a great time. It’s been really fun sailing together. Setting Atlantic records is iconic and very special. Comanche now holds records for both easterly and westerly routes.”


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And if you think this is easy, take the temperature from Comanche’s navigator Will Oxley who guided one of the most direct routes of any Transatlantic, barely breaking the rhumb line: “Our route was governed by an Eastern Wave. It sounds like a complicated term, but they are lines of clouds that develop close to the coast of Africa and move west across the Atlantic. To the north of Comanche was a col, which is two areas of high pressure going in different directions forming a windless area. Our strategy was to wiggle our way between these two weather differences. We always try to point the boat at the mark, sailing the shortest course is probably going to go well in your favour.”

It paid handsomely. Comanche’s crew sailed an absolute blinder of a race but the real clever part was the eschewing of a northerly route that all the weather models had as paying with Oxley realising a horrible transition area that the predictions couldn’t map: “We looked at the northerly option and whilst it showed to be the fastest, there looked to be a very difficult exit strategy to this route to get back south. Looking at weather models days into the future comes with inaccuracies. So, there is a high chance that if you let it play out to the end, you may find yourself upwind to the finish.”


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That’s why Will Oxley is the navigator of the day and it’s this kind of intelligence and experience that yields the big results. Comanche’s secretive Russian owners must be delighted – quite why they have to be so secretive is yours and my guess although there are some Russian-named individuals aboard – and their eyes are now on the RORC Caribbean 600 Race and an ultimate showdown with Skorpios. If it’s windy and reaching conditions prevail, it will be a fascinating tussle around the Caribbean islands. What’s not to love?

Congratulations to Team Comanche and thank you for putting on a rare spectacle of outstanding seamanship and racecraft.

The RORC Transatlantic Race has had it all. Fabulous to see and already a highlight of 2022. What a season we have before us…


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