Fast Times in Maine

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<< Back to Robb Report, April 2015
  • Shaun Tolson

This summer, the captain and crew of Comanche will try to win the Transatlantic Race and establish the 100-foot vessel as the world’s fastest mono-hull sailing yacht. The event, part of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, will begin June 28 in Newport, R.I., and follow a 3,200-mile course to south Cornwall, England. The race has been run once before, in 2011, when Rambler 100, a New Zealand–built super maxi (90 feet or longer), crossed the finish line in 6 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes, and 2 seconds. 

Comanche launched in October and two months later placed second in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, an annual contest that covers the sometimes treacherous 723-mile route between the Australian and New Zealand ports. The yacht is visually striking, with black sails and a black-and-red hull. With one of the largest carbon-fiber hulls of its kind, Comanche also represents the state of the art in hull-construction technology. The yacht is owned by Kristy Hinze-Clark and her husband, Jim Clark, the 71-year-old cofounder of Netscape, and it was designed by VPLP Design and Guillaume Verdier, two French firms that specialize in racing yachts. Comanche was built—remarkably in only about 13 months—by Hodgdon Yachts, a sixth-generation, family-owned company in East Boothbay, Maine, that three decades ago rejected technological advances in hull construction in favor of the traditional techniques and materials for which Maine boatbuilding is renowned. 

Comanche is a rocket ship,” says Tim Hodgdon, the company’s CEO. “The boat was designed to break records and win races, and under the right circumstances, it will be the fastest boat, far and away.”

Hodgdon’s second-floor office overlooks the Damariscotta River, not far from where the waterway empties into the North Atlantic. The walls are hung with photos of Comanche and other yachts that the company has completed in recent years. Many of the vessels—traditional sloops, ketches, and commuters, as well as modern-looking motor yachts built for the Office of Naval Research and Special Forces—feature hulls made of advanced composites. Cutting-edge construction has been the boatyard’s focus since Tim Hodgdon took the helm. 
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