In the Press


WILD OATS XI Preparations Reaffirmed for the Sydney Hobart Race

December 15, 2015 · Posted by kate

Sydney, Australia (December 14, 2015) – After a perfect start in light winds at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual SOLAS Big Boat Challenge bash around Sydney Harbor, Bob and Sandy Oatley’s super maxi 100-foot Wild Oats XI steadily drew away from the bigger, wider, more powerful 100 footers, Ragamuffin 100 and Perpetual Loyal, on every leg of the 14 nautical mile course. In the end, 3 minutes 50 seconds separated the slim and elegant Wild Oats XI from the fleet as they crossed the finish line off the Opera House first.

Wild Oats XI at 2015 SOLAS Big Boat Challenge
“We’re seeing improvements across the board with this boat. It’s a big deal to ask your owner to cut 14 meters off the bow of the yacht and two meters off the back, but they backed us and the SOLAS win reaffirmed the results,” Oats’ skipper Mark Richards commented.

In her first season, Wild Oats XI won the ‘treble’ in the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, winning both line honors and overall handicap as well as setting a new race record. In her 10 year span, Wild Oats XI has been first to Hobart in 8 of 10 races, winning the treble again in 2012. The 2009 first to finish yacht was the Reichel/Pugh-designed Alfa Romeo 100’ making nine out of ten recent RSHYR wins by Reichel/Pugh designed yachts.

As defending champion Wild Oats XI prepares for the upcoming 628 nautical mile 2015 Sydney Hobart on December 26, Reichel/Pugh’s Jim Pugh breaks down the recent carefully calculated modifications to boost her performance in up-range conditions. Calculations that will hopefully place Wild Oats XI ahead of the 110 yacht fleet into Hobart for the ninth time in 11 starts.

What got done to the hull?
The boat was 100-feet long, which is the maximum length for the Sydney Hobart Race as well as many others races. So the task was to make changes but return her to this length. Approximately 2 meters was cut off the stern, which allowed us to lengthen the bow ahead of the mast. We had 14m cut off the bow, and a new bow was designed and built that is now 2m longer.

What did this achieve?
We effectively slid the hull forward on the rig and appendages by 2m. The new bow has more volume, which we achieved by fairing in the longer bow section. The boat should be significantly faster particularly reaching and running with more volume in the bow. They should be able to push the boat harder off the wind. The boat had always been extremely fast in the lighter conditions and these modifications upgrade the performance in stronger winds. Additionally, now they can set larger sails off the stem and new extended sprit. One of several sails will be a new free flying non- overlapping Jib off the stem to improve upwind performance at the low end.

Has this changed the sail plan?
The rig is still the same and is pretty new. They still have the old headstay and position, but can set a larger jib free flying off the stem. These changes had as much to do with the rig as the hull. It allowed them to update their sail inventory to a more modern offshore inventory while improving on the practicalities and speed of changing sails offshore. They have some great sail design and handling guys on board so I am sure they made some nice tweaks to get them down the course and through changing conditions quicker.

Any tradeoffs to the hull modification?
The stern will be a little “draggier” in the light but it will be worth trading away for the up-range performance. This would be the biggest trade off, but the boat had light air speed to burn.

How radical is it to do this kind of hull modification?
This is not as difficult as it sounds, it is amazing what you can do with these composite hulls. In the Nineties we designed the 70-foot maxi Windquest. At the time 70 feet was the max size allowed, but the rule was later changed to 80’ Maxi’s. When Windquest was sold and became Alexia, we designed a new significantly longer bow (built by McConaghy) for the boat, and when combined with a short stern scoop, extended the boat to 79 feet overall. The boat continued to excel, going on to win quite a few championships.

Wild Oats XI at 2015 SOLAS Big Boat Challenge

About the Image
Yachting photographer Andrea Francolini has taken two near identical images of Bob & Sandy Oatley’s supermaxi, Wild Oats XI, so the difference between Wild Oats XI pre and post-surgery is apparent. He has lined up the masts in the shots for the basis of the comparison: note the shorter stern and longer bow. The location of the sailplan, rig, keel, rudder and daggerboards remain unchanged.

Wild Oats XI is now ten years old. Are their ‘old age’ benefits when it comes to the rating rule?
There are old age benefits but these guys are Battlers and are not ready to collect their pension. They want the challenge of beating the new boats to Hobart.

After completing the 24-hour qualifying run for this month’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race, skipper Mark Richards reported, “Wild Oats XI was a totally different animal. She just lifts her bow and goes like she’s never gone before.” An enthused Richards added, “It’s still early days, but I think we’ve got the yacht we wanted.”

Richards and his 18-man crew pushed the 30-meters-long sloop as hard as possible during the trial that took the yacht onto the open ocean off Sydney, and across the smooth waters of Sydney Harbor. The near 300 nautical mile passage was the first solid test for Wild Oats XI since she was re-launched following “surgery” which saw the hull almost cut in half and a new, 14-meters long, bow section fitted.

“We’ve done everything possible to make Wild Oats XI a better all-round yacht,” said Richards. “The Hobart race usually sees a real mixed bag of conditions: you get to sail upwind and down in light winds and strong. Wild Oats XI’s strength has been her ability to be competitive on all points of sailing, and now we think she’s even faster. While we are far from confident about being first to Hobart, we believe we will be hard to beat if we get our conditions.”

“We were left in no doubt that had we decided to build a new yacht it would not be a lot different from Wild Oats XI,” Sandy Oatley explained. “Considering that, we then knew it was more logical to modify the existing yacht and have her ready for this year’s Hobart race, rather than spend a year, and a lot more money building a new yacht over a 12-month period.”

An additional bonus that came with the modifications was that the key internal structure that accommodated the keel, rudder, daggerboards, DSS wing, rig and overall sailplan need not be changed.

Wild Oats XI Media Manager Rob Mundle outlines the expected benefits:
• The section of the hull forward of the mast becomes more streamlined and provides additional buoyancy. This feature greatly reduces the tendency to nose-dive, so the yacht could then be driven downwind faster and more safely in strong winds. It presents the opportunity to increase the sail area (horsepower) and make the sail-plan more efficient.
• Upwind speed in light winds (up to eight knots) improves as a considerably larger headsail (a J1) can be set. The new sail measures in at 280sq meters – 20sq meters larger than a doubles tennis court, and 23% larger than the existing J1!
• The bowsprit was redesigned to be significantly longer than its predecessor. This means the spinnakers being carried downwind would be more efficient, and therefore provide more drag-reducing lift.
• The longer bowsprit allows for the largest spinnaker to be increased in area by 120 square meters to 965 square meters. Its total area is now greater than the wing area of an Airbus A380 passenger aircraft.
• The DSS (Dynamic Stability System) hydrofoil wing has been modified to provide more lift forward and contribute to a reduction in hull drag. This results in an increase in speed when sailing downwind. New, deeper, daggerboards have also been fitted.
• Through the removal of some old non-structural internal components from the hull, and the use of the most modern materials, the new-look Wild Oats XI hull is more than 500 kilograms lighter. An additional 300 kilograms has been saved through the use of new, ultra-light cloth for the manufacture of the new sails. This fabric is the same as that being used in the construction of some components for the Boeing Dreamliner aircraft.

Wild Oats XI is the current record holder for the Hobart race with a time of one day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds.

McConaghy to launch a full feature film of the evolution of Wild Oats XI this week.
Shorts can be found by clicking the links below:
Wild Oats XI’s Evolution – Dance of the Longboard
Wild Oats XI’s Evolution – Cut and Covered
Wild Oats XI’s Evolution – Above and Below
Wild Oats XI’s Evolution – Intensive Care

Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design
Rolex Sydney-Hobart race Media
Sailing Scuttlebutt Editor Craig Leweck
Wild Oats XI Media Manager Rob Mundle
Builder McConaghy Boats

© Andrea Francolini
© Craig Greenhill, Saltwater Images

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