Offshore Yachting : February March 2013
RACE & REGATTA ROUND-UP 049 ANDREA FRANCOLINI Bob Oatley's two ocean racing thoroughbreds Wild Oats X and Wild Oats XI shared the silverware in the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, the maxi yacht dash around Sydney Harbour that has become the traditional curtain raiser for the Rolex Sydney Hobart. In a display of signiature raw power and boat speed Oatley's 100-foot super maxi and eventual Sydney Hobart winner Wild Oats XI put daylight between itself and second Wild whitewash IT WAS AN AUSPICIOUS DAY FOR BOB OATLEY AS HIS WILD OATS STABLE FILLED THE LEADER BOARD IN THE TRADITIONAL PRE- SYDNEY HOBART HITOUT, REPORTS JIM GALE. placed Lahana, crossing the line nearly 10 minutes in front. In a fresh south easterly and in the absence of Ragamuffin--Loyal and Wild Thing, Oats skipper Mark Richards chose to sail well within his boat's limits, but still found himself in the lead around every mark. Richards sailed with what was to be his full Hobart crew, and they certainly looked the part at every turn, despite once briefly snagging a spinnaker sheet under the bow. SOLAS BIG BOAT CHALLENGE After the race Richards said that the southerly winds and sloppy chop had made for a surprisingly testing day. "It was a lot of work. The boat was flying around the track and didn't give us much time to set up for sail changes. Ropes were going everywhere. "The best thing for us is we got around unscathed, with all fingers and toes. It was a good workout." But it was Wild Oats XI's baby sister, the similarly canting keeled RP66 Wild Oats X, that stole the show. 18-foot skiff sailor Troy Tindall had thrown together a crew of his Double Bay mates for the race, and they certainly turned up to race. "We sailed together for half an hour the day before the race, and before the start there were some pretty nervous moments," Tindall conceded, "but we got a really good start and took off from there." The skiffies trailed the two big boats across the line of course, but were close enough to take a four- minute lead on corrected time on Lahana, and nearly four and a half minutes on Wild Oats XI to win the race outright on IRC. If Wild Oats X was smoking, so was her RP66 sistership Black Jack. Just boat lengths separated the two. At times they looked more like speedboats than sailboats, with spray from their fine bows arcing back past the foredeck as they sliced through the choppy harbour. Black Jack, though, paid for a poor start. Lost minutes at the beginning cost her second place on handicap to 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Loki, despite Loki shredding a spinnaker on the first downwind leg. It was a costly day out for outgoing Loki owner Stephen Ainsworth. With neither Ragamuffin-Loyal nor the revamped Wild Thing on the racetrack, the race gave little guidance on the race for line honours come Boxing Day, and certainly nobody was to know that Wild Thing wouldn't be able to mark her return to competitive racing until 2013. Richards was clearly pleased with the speed he was getting out of Wild Oats XI, and as Lahana's owner Peter Millard conceded after the race, in drag racing terms: "Wild Oats XI is a generation apart. We realise we are a bubbling V8 against a V12." The Rolex Sydney Hobart is an often unpredictable race, but on this occasion the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge was a near carbon-copy of the way the big race would run -- start to finish domination by Wild Oats XI. ANGLED GRINDING Crew on the winches aboard race winner Wild Oats XI.
December January 2013
Offshore Yachting April-May 2013