History was made when Kristy Hinze-Clark, the beautiful Australian model who co-owns the 100-foot supermaxi Comanche with husband Jim Clark steered the yacht across the Rolex Sydney Hobart finish line on December 28.
It was a double first: The first female owner to take line honors in the history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, and also the first American yacht to take line honors in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s renowned race since Larry Ellison’s Sayonara in 1998.
The win was that much sweeter given the dramatic come-from-behind victory.
After leading the “big five” yachts out of Sydney Harbor (Robert Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, Andrew Bell’s Perpetual Loyal, Sid Fisher’s Ragamuffin 100 and Geroge David’s Rambler 88, Comanche suffered sudden and severe damage to her daggerboard and rudder.
Initially, it was reported that the race was over for Comanche after her steering system was shattered. Indeed, the supermaxi was drifting downwind back to Sydney in a 40-knot southerly. Hinze-Clark asked if the yacht could still win and then the tools came out, the after-guard came up with a solution.
In what has become a now famous quote, renowned skipper Ken Read quipped, “We came here to finish. One way or another we’re going to finish this damn race. We’ll limp across the finish line even if we’re paddling we’ll be there!”
The boat’s steering system was held together by just three stainless steel threads upon their victorious arrival.
Read had high praise for Hinze-Clark’s abilities as a sailor, “Kristy has the best attitude on a sailboat, she jumped right into it, grinding, hiking, driving, she was a star,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, so I went out and trained with the guys and now here we are,” said Hinze-Clark after the win in Hobart. The guys being some of the greatest sailors in the world, including eight current and former America’s Cup sailors, the likes of Read and Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill.
Hinze-Clark is best known for her modeling career, during which she strutted her stuff on the high fashion catwalk, made appearances in Sports Illustrated and worked with Victoria’s Secret. But she is equally comfortable pulling on her foulies to embark on the adventure that is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Team Comanche debuted Mustang Survival’s new Fall 2016 Ocean Raceing Series, which will be available to the public in June 2016. As a leading supplier to the military, coast guard, and water rescue professionals for decades, Mustang was a good match for the race.
This year’s RSHYR was particularly grueling, the teams faced the most challenging conditions in a decade. Twenty-four hours after the start a quarter of the fleet had been forced to retired due to damage – broken rudders, one dismasting and numerous shredded sails inflicted by gale force winds and heavy seas during the night.
“There was a bunch of emotions that went on: pure terror at one stage, excitement and now just total joy and fulfillment,” Hinze-Clark said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Ken Read compared the experience to the Volvo Ocean Race. “The Rolex Sydney Hobart is a two day VOR race, everything we experience in an eight month race condensed to two days… The good, the bad, the ugly, breaking, great rides – it had it all.”
Although it’s a much shorter race, life aboard the yachts during the RSHYR is a lot like the VOR. Creature comfort is given up in the name of speed, from the spartan accommodations to the freeze-dried food. Everything on board is planned for speed.
“Comanche is a carbon fiber shell, made to do one thing, go and go fast.” Read said. The thoroughbred VPLP Design supermaxi claimed line honors with a race time of 2 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds.
“The boat took off just how we expected it to…When she takes off it’s a rush – it’s a great feeling,” Hinze-Clark added.
Even the sea life knew Comanche’s win was something special; she was escorted to Hobart by a pod of dolphins.
In talking with Read, who is also President of North Sails, I took the the opportunity to ask about something I’d always wondered about, the longevity grand prix racing sails. I really learned something.
Comanche’s sails are North’s standard 3Di Raw sails, which were originally developed for inshore racers. Read said they are the lightest, fastest sails ever made for sailing and are made with a patented process that North Sails owns.
The first yacht to sail offshore with 3Di Raw sails was Comanche, a year ago. The technology has worked so well that 90 percent of offshore racers use it now. 3Di Raw quickly become the standard in being not only lightest, fasted and strongest-ever sail, but also the most durable.
Read says Comanche still uses its first raw sails and with 22,000 miles on them now, they’re still perfect. Wow.
Comache is currently in Melbourne for repairs and from there she will go to Charleston, SC, where she’ll get an ultra sound. The next stop on her tight schedule is Antigua for the Caribbean 600 in February.
Good news for Australia: Comanche will be back. “It’s not going to be the last time she’s here… not if I’ve got anything to do with it,” says Hinze-Clark.
Kara Hugglestone is a San Francisco-based branding professional, accessory designer, sailor and traveler. When time permits, she also indulges in her passion for things classic: cars, movies, wine and fashion. You can follow her on Twitter at @gallerykara.