Silicon Valley billionaire Jim Clarke just broke the world sailing speed record

Jim Clarke’s Comanche is now the fastest monohull sailing boat in the world. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

When Texan billionaire Jim Clark spent more than $15 million on the 100-foot yacht Comanche, he had one aim in mind: “the fastest boat ever built”.

Over the weekend, the 70-year-old founder of Silicon Graphics Inc. and Netscape, who is married to Australian supermodel Kristy Hinze-Clark, achieved his dream when Comanche smashed the monohull 24-hour distance record during the Transatlantic Race from the US to the UK.

Between 0530 UTC Friday and 0530 Saturday, Comanche, with 20 crew aboard, covered 618.01 nautical miles at a 25.75 knots (47.7 km/h) average, beating the previous 596.6nm record set in 2009.

The boat was about 1300 miles from Newport, Rhode Island in the North Atlantic when a low pressure brought winds of around 25 knots on a reasonably flat sea to push the boat along at high speed.

As skipper Ken Read explained, Comanche was built with the ability to sail it using just human power, which allows it to qualify for record attempts. So Read set the boat to manual power configuration and nailed the record.

“Our top speeds were into the mid-30s a bunch of times. It is not like you are surfing down a wave, you just go… fast. The boat is amazing! You sail it heeled over and it feels like you are right on the edge, but when you grab the wheel you are in control. The boat is a phenomenal piece of machinery,” Read said.

Comanche hit the water late last year, just two months before last year’s Sydney to Hobart and showed impressive speed early in the race before being overtaken by the eventual race winner, Wild Oats XI.

But it seems the record did come at a cost for Comanche’s navigator, America’s Cup veteran Stan Honey, who was knocked out during the race and may now miss out on his next post as navigator aboard Wild Oats XI for the 2225nm Transpac race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, starting next week.

Comanche. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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