By John Rousmaniere
Dateline Hamilton Bermuda: June 18, 2016 — Less than 24 hours into the race, Comanche is already through the Gulf Steam and pressing to break Rambler’s elapsed time record from 2012. “We’re in Champagne conditions, making 20-25 knots,” said skipper Kenny Read. At press time 7:00PM in Bermuda, Comanche was 213 miles from the St. David’s Lighthouse finish in Bermuda doing 20kts. At that pace she would cross the finish line as early as 3:00AM, some 7hrs ahead of the record.
The existing (and probably soon to be old) course record is an average speed of 16 knots and an elapsed time of 39 hr. 39 min. 18 sec. That record was set four years ago, in the last “reaching race,” by George David’s 90-foot Rambler, which clipped a spectacular 14 hours off the previous best time set during the previous “reaching race,” in 2002, by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket. “These were perfect conditions,” David told Colin Thompson of Bermuda's Royal Gazette after collecting the bottle of champagne that’s the traditional reward for the line honors winner.
Rambler not only slashed the race record. She easily beat the next two boats by more than 90 minutes—the Maxi 72s Bella Mente (owned by Hap Fauth) and Shockwave (George Sakellaris), with Bella Mente winning by just 2 minutes on elapsed time. Shockwave turned the tables on her in 2014 by a margin almost as small—7 minutes.
With the Maxis opting not to race this year, when Comanche finishes on Sunday, whoever is observing will have the right to quote the sailor who told Queen Victoria about the yacht America in 1851: “Madam, there is no second.”