Launched in 2005, the 100-foot Wild Oats XI is as much about the 628nm Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as family is about Christmas. The two go together, so the thought of the supermaxi not being on the start line for the 75th edition would have been a shocker.
But what’s more of a shocker is that she will be on the start line among the 164-boat fleet.
Having claimed line honors on 9 occasions, won on corrected time twice, and twice set a race record time, the yacht suffered major structural damage a little more than a month ago when its 45-metre high carbon fibre mast fractured at deck level, resulting in a large part of the deck structure failed.
Occurring during the 180-nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island race out of Sydney, the crew miraculously was able to stabilize the broken mast and reach shore before the yacht suffered any additional damage.
Subsequently, during the past five weeks Wild Oats XI has undergone a major rebuild at its dock in Sydney, an endeavor that was designed to have it ready for the race start on December 26.
This included replacing an 8 m x 3 m piece of the deck and fractured frames, and repairing the mast. At one stage during the mast repair specialist technicians worked around-the-clock for 4 days to ensure maximum strength was achieved.
Last week, when the supermaxi was back in one piece, it completed a successful test on Sydney Harbour and now takes the next step by undertaking a 24-hour offshore passage off Sydney so it meets one of the many qualification requirements for yachts entered in the Hobart race.
“We will be in full race mode and treat this passage as we would if we were racing,” said skipper Mark Richards. “The entire race crew will be on board, including our navigator, Juan Vila, who has just flown in from Europe.”
Richard revealed that Wild Oats XI will start in the Hobart race a remarkable 1200 kg lighter than it was last year when it took line honours in the classic.
“We have replaced two large daggerboards with a small, and considerably lighter, rudder just forward of the mast,” he explained. “The few trials we have done using this new appendage indicate that it will be an advantage when sailing upwind.”
Damage photos from Adventures of a Sailor Girl:
Background: The 2019 fleet will be chasing line honours and the overall Tattersall Cup win in the 628nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts December 26, 2019. From Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait (which divides the mainland from the island State of Tasmania), then down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the historic port city of Hobart.
Source: Rob Mundle, Scuttlebutt