70th staging of Sydney-Hobart yacht race
117-strong fleet starts from Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day
Supermaxi Comanche expected to battle it out with seven-time winner Wild Oats XI
Comanche owned by billionaire Jim Clark and his Australian model wife Kristy Hinze
It’s the super yacht with a super model and her billionaire tycoon husband as its joint owners and the 100ft supermaxi Comanche lived up to expectations with a blazing start to the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race Friday.
The ‘Bluewater Classic’ in its 70th staging is the first real competitive test for Comanche, which has been specially built for distance racing and speed record attempts, the brainchild of Netscape co-founder Jim Clark and his wife, Kristy Hinze-Clark, who was born in Australia.
Comanche, skippered by American Ken Read and with a strong international crew, is expected to battle it out for line honors with seven-time winner Wild Oats XI in the 628-nautical miles race, one of the highlights of the international yachting calendar.
The traditional Boxing Day start from Sydney Harbor saw an early glimpse of Comanche’s speed with the skipper of Wild Oats XI, Mark Richards, moved to exclaim: “She’s smoking – look at that thing go!”
Out to sea and past the first mark in an unofficial record time, Comanche led from Wild Oats XI with the other supermaxis Ragamuffin and Perpetual Loyal giving chase.
The race, which runs down the east coast of Australia and across the Bass Strait to the Tasmanian capital Hobart, has drawn a 117-strong entry, the biggest since 1994.
But pre-race attention has centered on Comanche – with its wide-bodied and cutting edge design, and two years in the building in Maine in the United States.
Clark watched from a supporting boat as his wife was part of the crew when Comanche took part in the Big Boat Challenge in Sydney Harbor on December 9, won by Wild Oats XI.
But the short race was just a small taster for the bigger test and Hinze-Clark opted out of competing, two days before the start, due to fears her inexperience might hamper the race favorite in predicted difficult conditions.
She also has three-year-old and four-month-old children to look after so both joint owners are safely shore side to track the progress of their costly boat.
“We’re ready,” Read told the official race website before the start, unperturbed by reports of the rougher conditions ahead.
“To me it looks like a nice sailboat racing day. A little breezy, a little lumpy, but if our boat can’t handle 25 knots and a little bit of bump then something’s wrong.”
The weather forecast would appear to rule out the chance of a new race record, the current mark set by Wild Oats XI in 2012, of one day 18 hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds, and there were several early withdrawals in the testing conditions.