American yachtsman ends long wait for Sydney Hobart race

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After waiting for 53 years to take part in his first Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Ken Read has had to scramble to get ready.

The veteran American yachtsman is the skipper of the new 100-foot supermaxi Comanche, which was launched in late September.

Backed by a billionaire owner, Jim Clark, Comanche was designed and built not only to win ocean races, but also to break records. Read and his high-profile crew, which includes America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill, have had to race the clock to prepare the cutting-edge yacht for its first big test in the Australian race, which begins Friday.

Read, a former America’s Cup helmsman and Volvo Ocean Race skipper who is also the president of North Sails, spoke with Christopher Clarey of The International New York Times from Sydney last week.

“Far and away the craziest timeline we’ve ever tried to deal with, mainly because a month of its preparation was taken up by having to be on a ship to get here. Realistically we had about seven days of sailing up in the northeast,” Read told the newspaper.

“As carefully as you put a boat like this together, there’s always issues,” he said. “It’s similar to Formula One, where someone spends millions and millions to build a new race car and it blows the engine out on its first lap. This is all new. This is all custom, and you’re only as good as your weakest link. So you go out sailing for a couple days. You come in and have a work list a mile long. We’re still building it, really. We still have four builders here who are working on parts and pieces and putting it all together.”

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