Set to run in the fantastic St. Barth yacht charter location from April 13 to 18, this year’s 6th edition of Les Voiles de St. Barth will host sailing yacht Comanche and Rambler 88 yacht. When it comes to the popular Caribbean regatta headlines, nothing beats having superyacht Comanche and sailing yacht Rambler 88, the yachting world’s two newest and most sophisticated racing machines, compete head-to-head for the first time ever.
Super yacht Comanche, designed by the French team of VPLP Design/Guillame Verdier, and Rambler 88 superyacht, designed by Argentinian Juan Kouyoumdjian, were launched in late 2014 at Hodgdon Yachts and New England Boatworks, respectively. Both yachts sport state-of-the-art carbon fiber hulls and rigs, but each has special features that, although tested on previous boats, have been combined with other innovations on these yachts for the first time. For instance, Comanche’s monolithic (as opposed to sandwiched honeycomb) construction in its forward hull sections certainly qualifies as “beyond normal,” but to keep up, Rambler 88’s rudders seem to have been nibbled on by sharks around their leading edges.
“When it comes right down to it,” says Comanche yacht’s helmsman Ken Read, “the general concepts of the two yachts are very similar; they are big wide boats that rely on canting keels and width for their stability. The biggest difference is sheer size. Comanche is a big 100 footer, while Rambler looks to be a much more manageable-sized 88 footer. But don’t let the size fool you. Being manageable is all relative, and each will be a handful when the breeze kicks in. Both boats have their versions of ‘unusual,’ but whether it’s the size and shape of Comanche or the sabre tooth rudders on Rambler 88, the underlying part of the story is that these boats were born to go fast, and their owners are both huge promoters of innovation.”
Rambler 88 yacht’s owner George David has made headlines before (at Les Voiles and regattas elsewhere around the world) with his previous Ramblers, a 100 footer and a 90 footer, and it was his love of the latter boat that convinced him to settle on a smaller rather than a larger design this time around. The strategy served him well when he finished second in his shakedown competition: January’s Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race. In December, Comanche, which launched only a month earlier than Rambler 88, completed the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, finishing second to line honors winner Wild Oats and giving a sneak peek, like Rambler 88 did, of her possibilities once she has her legs fully under her.
“There were some conditions where Wild Oats and Comanche, two boats that look nothing alike, were actually remarkably close in speed,” said Read, adding that he expects the same can happen between Rambler 88 and Comanche. “It’s horses for courses; each boat will have its condition one time or another and succeed in it. But the bottom line is wide boats like breeze, which Les Voiles has, so you’re going to see two really cool boats blazing around the island of St. Barth.”
Read reiterated that both boats were designed to let loose in the middle of the ocean, so why around-the-buoys racing at Les Voiles de St. Barth? “For the pure fun of it,” he said. “Comanche’s owners (Jim Clark and Kristy Hinz-Clark) did a lot of sailing on the boat in Sydney and just had a blast. They couldn’t think of a place that was more fun to sail than St. Barth. They’ll bring three, four, maybe five friends on board racing each day, and we’ll most likely put a couple of them on the handles and get them into the action.”