Rolex Sydney Hobart:: Wild Oats XI – “The Swiss Army knife’s”
oldest attachment is making a difference heading into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race While it wasn’t deployed when Bob Oatley’s supermaxi, Wild Oats XI claimed top honours in yesterday’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour, the skipper and crew of the champion yacht feel that the recently fitted hydrofoil wing will give them something in reserve for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, starting on Boxing Day.
Trials over recent days have left little doubt that the now lengthened retractable wing, which extends to leeward near the mast, is contributing to an increase in speed in light winds. Its benefits have already been proven in in stronger winds. “The tests have shown that the used wing is producing results better than expected,” Wild Oats XI’s skipper, Mark Richards, said after the yacht secured the Big Boat Challenge line honours trophy for the eighth time. “We deliberately didn’t use it in the harbour race, but when we did trial it over the weekend, both in the harbour and offshore, there was a noticeable increase in speed in the low wind range – and that was what we were looking for. “However, what we didn’t expect was the stabilising effect the wing provided on all points of sailing – the yacht didn’t rock around anywhere near as much as she used to.
It’s a proven fact that a smoother motion through the water leads to improved airflow over the sails – two things that really contribute to better speed.” Wild Oats XI is already dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife” because of the six, either fixed or retractable, appendages on the hull. Now, in keeping with the attachment theme, the crew has decided to refer to the used carbon-fibre hydrofoil wing, which is 80 centimetres longer than the previous version, as “The Ironing Board”.
Richards, who flew out to Malaysia on a 48-hour business trip immediately after the Big Boat Challenge, will be back at the helm of Wild Oats XI for more trials at the weekend. Wild Oats XI is the most successful yacht to have contested the Sydney Hobart race in its 70 year history. This year, in what will be her tenth start in the classic, the sleek racer will be going for an unprecedented eighth line honours.
Since being launched for the 2005 Hobart race she has become the only yacht to secure the triple-crown – line and handicap honours and a race record time – on two occasions. She is also the only yacht to have achieved four consecutive line honours. Rob Mundle
by Rob Mundle Media Manager – Wild Oats XI and BYM