Written by Jeni Bone
Photography by Michael Kennedy Photography
05 July 2022
In her new incarnation as Andoo Comanche, the 100-footer has been chartered by John ‘Herman’ Winning for several races leading up to and including the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Skippered by Mitch Booth, Comanche spent the past year adding to her accolades, among them Line Honours and monohull race record in the 2022 RORC Transatlantic Race, in which she shaved two days off the previous record.
Comanche was commissioned by software mogul, Jim Clark, designed by VPLP/Verdier Maxi, constructed in carbon fibre by American builder Hodgdon and delivered in 2014.
The yacht is a three-time winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, taking its first Line Honours win in 2015, its second in 2017 after Wild Oats XI, which had crossed the line first, was penalised, and the third in 2019.
Now rebadged as Andoo Comanche after the Winning family business, the yacht is being thoroughly checked over and a long list of works undertaken after thousands of miles racing and sailing to Sydney from the Caribbean.
John Winning Jnr has great expectations for this racing weapon, once nicknamed The Aircraft Carrier for her 7.9-metre beam.
“We’ve committed to a 24-month racing schedule which begins later this month in the Sydney to Southport Race, followed by the Brisbane to Hamilton Island and then Hamilton Island Race Week,” he said.
“Our focus will then turn to preparation for the Sydney Hobart ahead of a campaign in New Zealand in early 2023.
“The team have been working feverishly to prepare the boat ahead of the whole crew arriving and training starting 25 July. We’re looking forward to getting to the start line and hopefully continuing her winning run.”
Andoo Comanche’s nemesis is the local favourite, Hamilton Island Wild Oats XI, which has lost several crew to the interloper, among them Iain Murray, Olympian, America’s Cup skipper and Wild Oats’ tactician.
Murray has sailed in the Wild Oats’ (WO) program since the WOIX and Admirals Cup 2003.
“That includes every Sydney Hobart on WOXI, 2005 to 2019 – 15 races,” he said, adding that there has been not a ripple of ill sentiment from his former teammates.
“I have had long-term relationships with many sailing families including the Winnings, Oatleys, Davids and O’Neills to name a few. I have delivered on every level to the Oatley family in business partnerships and yacht racing for over 20 years and fully kept them abreast of my position.
“I have not sailed on WOXI since 2019 or received any communications from WOXI over the past 12 months. On the other hand, I have been actively involved with the Winnings preparing, managing and coaching their skiffs for the past four years.”
The allure of the legendary maxi motivated Murray to sail with Andoo Comanche.
“The Winnings approached me after the JJ Giltinan Champs when Comanche became available. Andoo Comanche is an exciting boat that offers great opportunity and allows me to expand my racing with the Winnings.
“We have assembled a crew that is a mixture of Comanche experience, Sydney Hobart experience, skiff and youth. John is the skipper and I am the sailing master, Richard Allanson is in charge of the sails and Damien Durchon is the yachts Captain, there will be a lot of names you know.”
After competing at Hamilton Island Race Week, 20 to 27 August, Andoo Comanche will return to Sydney and undertake a major maintenance program ahead of the Sydney Hobart, then compete in as many bluewater races as possible, Murray explained.
Murray is yet to experience sailing aboard Andoo Comanche, but he is inspired by her stats.
“The numbers show the power of the yacht that she is. She is big, heavy with massive Righting Moment and will be very different to sail from what I know – a skiff on steroids!”
The aim is to bring home the silverware and boost interest in the maxi class.
“We are looking to reenergise 100-foot racing in Australia and putting a foot forward to do all the key races is a start. She is a proven yacht and we are assembling a long-term crew that will race the yacht hard in the Winning way.
“We set high standards, but we will also have a lot of fun.”