Checking a box off the bucket list sailing aboard Jim & Kristy Clark’s 138-foot Hanuman in the America’s Cup J Class Regatta.
Majestic, elegant, timeless, classic… The adjectives to describe the stunning J Class could go on and on. When seven of these gorgeous yachts met recently at the America’s Cup J Class Regatta it was a historic moment. Never before in the 80-year history of the class had so many of these beauties gathered together. One of these yachts had another distinction, an owner just as stunning.
Kristy Hinze-Clark is an Australian supermodel who grew up sailing Hobies in Australia, and then inspired by her husband, tech entrepreneur and passionate sailor Jim Clark, took her sailing to another level. Together they campaign two of the world’s most exciting racing yachts: their 138-foot J Class Hanuman and their 100-foot super maxi Comanche.
“I love them both for different reasons. Comanche is pure speed and adrenaline, Hanuman is pure beauty and elegance—and more comfortable,” said Kristy.
Indeed, whereas Comanche is a stripped-down carbon fiber racing machine, Hanuman is modeled after the classic Endeavour II, which has been called the most beautiful yacht ever built. The J Class yachts hail from the period when America’s Cup yachts mixed in equal measure speed and luxury; their interiors rivaling those of the world’s finest cruising yachts.
Kristy is a true competitor. Growing up in Australia, her goal had always been to sail the legendary Rolex Sydney Hobart. When she finally did, it was with the distinction of being the first female owner to take line honors. It was a particularly grueling RSHYR too, the most challenging in 20 years.
“There were a bunch of emotions that went with it: pure terror at one stage, excitement, and now total joy and fulfillment. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said of the experience.
While Comanche is a modern marvel in every way, Hanuman recalls the gilded age of the 1930s America’s Cup when Harold Vanderbilt, Sir Thomas Lipton, and Sir Thomas Sopwith were among the successful owners and defenders of the Cup.
By the 1980s, only three of the original 10 J Class yachts were still in existence but today the class is undergoing a resurgence with a mixture of refitted originals and new yachts built to original hull lines. Hanuman was designed by Dykstra Naval Architects in Amsterdam and built by Royal Huisman. This modern recreation, a new super J Class yacht, was launched in 2009.
The design adhered to J Class Association rules but optimized with more sail area, ballast ratio, righting moment, and building materials. Hanuman’s hull is built from Alustar, and its spars and rig are carbon composite. Below deck, interior designer Pieter Beeldsnijder has created a luxurious, classic interpretation of the period in French walnut.
Hanuman is named after the Hindu god of strength, heroic initiative, and assertive excellence. Kristy told me that in Asia he is the deity of choice for the hip kids. “He has the cool factor,” she said. Hanuman’s name has served her well; she’s the winningest yacht in the J Class fleet.
On the water
The AC35 J Class Regatta started off with little to no wind; racing had to be canceled the first day when the breeze refused to cooperate. The second day brought more wind and for this lucky writer, a dream come true—a ride aboard Hanuman!
Photos may capture the beauty and elegance of the yacht, but being aboard and feeling her velvety, immense power is another experience altogether. It’s breathtaking. When her more than 10,000 square feet of sail area is deployed, Hanuman appears to take flight.
Flying is always a good analogy for sailing, but the J Class takes it to a new level. Sailing aboard this majestic machine, it was as if a flock of incredibly tall graceful birds was swooping around us in a beautiful airborne ballet.
Hanuman has a permanent crew of six but increases to 26 on race day. This wildly talented group is made up of professional sailors who count the world’s greatest races among their wins. It’s like a Who’s Who of yachting, including skipper Ken Read, tactician Kelvin Harrap, navigator Stan Honey, mainsail trimmer Warwick Fleury, Bowman Casey Smith and Shannon Falcone on mid bow among them. Interestingly, the core crew is basically the same for both Hanuman and Comanche.
“We’ve sailed together in one form or fashion for years and years, through America’s Cups and J Class racing and Comanche and the like,” said Ken.
It’s a particularly Zen-like experience since most of the time the crew communicates exclusively through their headsets. The only sound much of the time is of the rig slicing through the breeze as her hull glides through the water.
Hanuman’s luxurious multi-sensory experience extends to dining. Throughout the race, stewardesses tempted us with a variety of delicious treats including gourmet sandwiches, healthy date balls, and adorable Hanuman gingerbread cookies. We capped off the day with Hanuman’s iconic Banana Rum smoothies, a tradition when racing is completed.
Going into the final day or racing, Hanuman was tied for first with Ranger, each with seven points, and Lionheart just behind with eight. It was exciting, close racing, with Hanuman in the lead, but a dramatic turn of events, a rule infringement penalty as she approached the weather mark of the last race, dashed her hopes for the title. It was to be Lionheart’s regatta.
“It was a great event, despite that one costly error. Now we move on to the next regatta and don’t look back!” said Read.
They didn’t have long to wait. Just a couple of weeks later Read and company had traded the Atlantic for the Pacific, breaking records on Comanche in the legendary Transpac. They set a new Transpac monohull record of 5 days, 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 22 seconds—smashing Alpha Romeo II’s 2009 record by a half a day. They also set a new 24-hour distance record of 484.1 nautical miles.
During the J Class regatta, Kristy shared that the focus of the program was actually on Comanche in the Transpac. She didn’t race—that wasn’t in the plan—because she didn’t want to be away from her babies that long. In addition to being a world-class sailor, Kristy is also a devoted mother of two adorable young girls. Dylan, age 6, is almost ready to take the tiller herself. Kristy is thinking of starting her with Hobies.
Off the water
Kristy and her husband are globetrotters who divide their time between Palm Beach and New York when they’re not sailing. It was actually a trip to Southeast Asia that inspired the name of their yacht Hanuman. Other favorite destinations include Italy, specifically Positano, Amalfi, and Tuscany.
“I love Italy. The people are relaxed, the food is great, it’s a good place to be,” she said. They also travel home to Australia to visit friends in the harbor once a year.
Culinary passions lean toward Europe. “Italian food and French wine,” she said laughing, adding that French Burgundies are her favorite, though it really depends on where they are, given how often they travel and the opportunity to race close to some of the greatest wine growing regions of the world.
I was curious what designers this supermodel favored; the answer is that she likes the classics. Ralph Lauren, Celine, and Australian designer Zimmerman particularly. “Loro Piana, Bruno Cucinelli, which are yummy to wear,” she added.
Sailing on one of these yachts is be part of something larger, part of history. Racing aboard Hanuman will be something that I treasure always—it was a true bucket list experience.
“It’s an honor to be part of the seven yachts on the same starting line and these incredibly cool owners who put this all together—it’s special. I think every person sailing on all of these boats realizes how special it is. We’re lucky people,” Ken said.
Still, you needn’t be aboard to experience the thrill of the J Class. Just watching them is a real love affair for any sailor. Be sure to catch them in August for when they come back together for World Championships in Newport.