Fat Bottomed Girl

There is a new platform for ocean racing with big sailboats, called super maxi’s, which are very powerful. A recent entry to this fleet is called Comanche, and she sails under the U.S. flag.  Comanche is a single masted monohull sailboat, made entirely of carbon, including the sails.  She is 100 feet long, and needs a crew of about 22 or 23 strong, able-bodied sailors, because her sails are huge, and weigh hundreds of kilograms.  She made her debut in the 2014 Rolex Sydney-to-Hobart Race, when she was less than a month on the water.  Comanche still managed to take second line honors, behind Wild Oats, an Australian supermaxi.

About 10 years ago, a novel concept hit the world of off-shore sail racing.  A sailboat usually has a ‘keel’ which helps keep the boat upright, as well as reducing the amount of sideways movement the boat experiences.  Somebody had the crazy idea of making a hole in the bottom of the boat, and attaching hydraulic rams to the keel fin, so that the whole keel, including the big bulb at the end of the long fin which is several tons of lead, can be swung from one side of the boat to the other, providing more resistance to the wind blowing the boat over.  When the wind is coming from the right side of the boat, the keel is swung over to the right side, which helps to hold the boat upright against the wind.  This is called a ‘canting’ keel, and they have been on the big sailboats during many recent races.

Comanche has a canting keel, as well as dagger boards, which can be lowered to help counteract the sideways motion sailboats experience when sailing upwind.  Comanche is also very wide across the beam, compared to her length, thus the nickname ‘fat bottomed girl.’  But that fat bottomed girl has been getting faster and faster, until she set a new record for the distance traveled in 24 hours for her type of boat, with 618 nautical miles traveled in one day.  That means that Comanche must have maintained an average speed of about 27 knots, which is 31 mph.  Even at night.  Just with wind power.

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