Light air zones threaten record-breaking pace as 100ft yacht charges across mid-Atlantic
With 1,548 nautical miles left to sail to the finish of the Transatlantic record (as of 08:30 GMT today) at Lizard Point, UK, Comanche remains on course to break Mari Cha IV’s 2003 record.
Stan Honey, Comanche navigator, noted this morning: Chilly here. Set the A-3 Gennaker to go deeper. Very flat water. Smooth sailing. Not much wind down low near the cold water. Visibility 10meters. Keeping careful radar watch.
Boat Captain, Casey Smith also sent an update from onboard this morning: “Everyone on board is doing great. Tony, Richard and Dirk are all over the sail selections and we are managing to keep the boat going fast with fresh drivers. We are doing four on, four off watches and everyone is getting good rest. The boat is in great shape with no issues to report. Looks like we have a period of lighter air to navigate over the next 24 to 36 hours, which should give us a good chance to have a full check over. Water ingress is very low. The new bow drains are doing the trick with only a couple of buckets pulled out of up front in the first 36 hours.
The Offshore Dodger will never come off again if the crew has their way – such a game changer. Hatches open the whole time and the pit area of the boat so much safer during high-speed maneuvers. We hit one log with the keel and snapped it in two but it missed the rudders thank goodness. Now we just need to miss the ice and we should be in great shape.
Everyone is great. Life is good. Go the Comanche.”
Meanwhile, watching the record run from the TV compound at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, Comanche’s skipper Ken Read believes the next 24 hours are crucial for two reasons: “Firstly, Comanche is crossing a bit of ridge and this will bring some of the lightest air they will see on this whole trip. And if you aren’t careful you can get quite bogged down in it and miss the window. When you do these record attempts you sort of ‘hop on the train’ and hope that the train takes you all the way to the next station. They need to get through this next light air zone to get back on the train again and rip it across the ocean.
“Secondly, they are right in the possible projected ice zone literally with zero visability – I don’t need to tell anyone that carbon fibre and ice do not like each other and it doesn’t go well if they meet. The guys are very aware; it’s cold and very foggy. They have a great radar system on board the boat, which they are quite confident in. I have talked to them a lot and in fact, I think they are pretty sick of me by now but I now know how hard it is to watch these things from dry land, especially when you see the fantastic pictures of glamour sailing.”
Comanche’s owners, Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark, are naturally following the record run extremely carefully. As Ken Read concludes: “It’s funny, Jim and I have both also become armchair navigators during our many text message banters, discussing whether the best navigator in the world [Stan] is actually doing the right thing. But I think at the end of the day he and I are going to give way to Mr Honey. Not only that, Ken Campbell and Commanders weather are supporting Stan to help make sure he is making all the right decisions. Stan has a programme set up from the boat whereby on the half hour it pings all the key information off the boat e.g. latitude, longitude, boat speed, wind speed and wind direction, to several of us including Ken Campbell so he is monitoring it very carefully and making sure that a tired Stan Honey is still paying attention. This is a different sort of situation for all of us (other than maybe Stan) as in a race you can’t have any outside assistance but here you can have people making sure that all of the sudden a tired mind doesn’t miss anything. Ken has been awesome up to now, watching over things and offering suggestions to help support Stan out there. And also looking at some high altitude weather that could affect things – so the combination means Comanche has the best chance, so let’s see what the next little phase brings.”