In any other sport, a scoresheet listing nine line honours wins and a combined 238 Rolex Sydney Hobarts among the crew of 21 would suggest that team is the pre-race favourite.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, however, is a sporting contest like no other; while nothing is left to chance in terms of preparation, luck is as much a factor as previous success.
Hamilton Island Wild Oats’ long-time skipper Mark Richards says, “this year’s super maxi competition is red hot – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack and LawConnect. All have amazing teams with people flying in from all over the world to sail these incredible boats.”
On board the Oatley family’s Hamilton Island Wild Oats are three newcomers: key internationals Murray Jones from New Zealand and Stan Honey from the USA plus Kyle Langford, Australia’s dominant SailGP team wing trimmer and America’s Cup sailor.
These additions to the pedigree line-up have positively changed the dynamic at the back of the boat says Richards.
“The vibe onboard is fantastic with the new team members plus our usual solid crew, who have been sailing together for more than 15 years, from the beginning of the Wild Oats XI story.”
Seven-time America’s Cup winner Murray Jones is Hamilton Island Wild Oats’ tactician and Stan Honey will do what he’s known worldwide for – navigating winning offshore campaigns, including 11 Transpacs. Kyle Langford is part of the helming team.
The four 100-foot maxis vying for line honours in this year’s race are different designs and therefore suit different conditions.
Hamilton Island Wild Oats and Black Jack are skinnier in terms of hull shape and their crews will be happy with a mix of wind directions and strengths. Ideally, the forecast will include a strong Australian summer north-easter which will set them up for a spinnaker blast down the NSW coast and across Bass Strait then along the Tasmanian east coast to the finish line in Hobart’s Derwent River.
Hamilton Island Wild Oats racing and shore crew for Rolex Sydney Hobart – photo © Hugh Stewart
The Winnings’ Andoo Comanche and Christian Beck’s LawConnect are beamy and as the recent Cabbage Tree Island and SOLAS Big Boat race results demonstrated, their sweet spot is reaching, when the wind blows across the boat, rather than from behind or in front.
“A decent nor’easter is our ideal weather, and this is what we’ve asked Santa for, but equally we’d be happy with a bit of everything, particularly a southerly turning nor’east. If it’s easterly or westerly then Andoo Comanche could thrash us all,” Richards admits.
“I’m very excited; it’s always good to sail with a great team. Every Hobart race is an exciting challenge and this one is no different. It’s going to be a very hard race to win.”
A year-long maintenance program plus four new North Sails, designed specifically for the 628 nautical mile ocean classic, and several training blocks to iron out any wrinkles means the Hamilton Island Wild Oats racing team is confident in their preparation, whatever Santa delivers for Boxing Day and beyond.
The Oatley family will again entrust the family boat to the experienced crew with Sandy Oatley saying “we wish our team fair winds and safe passage for their crossing in the battle to claim a potential tenth line honours win. Our crew have barely enough time to sleep heading south; my admiration goes to the other end of the spectrum, the crews of the 30 to 40 footers who grind their way to Hobart over four and five days. Now that’s commitment!”
Wild Oats website: www.wildoatsxi.com.au @WildOatsXI @wildoatsxi
Kyle Langford – Hamilton Island Wild Oats – photo © Salty Dingo
by Wild Oats