Bob Oatley’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race record holder – and five time line honours winner – Wild Oats XI, unveiled three significant additions to her armoury for this year’s race, which starts on Boxing Day.
All three changes have been designed to improve Wild Oats XI's speed in light winds, and to provide an even better opportunity for her to break her race record time of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 mins, 10 seconds, which the 30-metre long supermaxi set in 2005. Two of the changes have been made to the underwater configuration, and the third to Wild Oats XI's sail inventory. Other upbeat news was that Ragamuffin Loyal repairs were completed and they are looking forward to being on the start line on Boxing Day.
Keel Winglets: The most interesting change underwater is to the keel where winglets have been added to the aft end of the yacht's 12-tonne lead ballast bulb. These are not dissimilar to the winglets seen on the wingtips of modern commercial jet aircraft.
Retractable Bow Centreboard: After watching his yacht miss line honours in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart race, octogenarian Bob Oatley was convinced that one of the primary reasons for the yacht lacking speed in light winds was the drag caused by the two daggerboards which were fitted just prior to that race - and he was right.
Code Zero Headsail: If there was one thing missing in Wild Oats XI's sail arsenal last year it was the very latest and largest possible Code Zero light-weather headsail - but that will not be the case this year. Bob Oatley has had made especially for this year's race a headsail of gargantuan proportions - 535 square metres … larger than two tennis courts.
Mark Richards, who has skippered Wild Oats XI to all five of her Rolex Sydney Hobart race victories, gave his overview on the changes to the yacht: 'Last year's line honours result confirmed that every second counts, even in a race over 628 nautical miles, so this year we have gone in search of where we can gain seconds as well as, possibly, hours.
'The winglets on the keel will make us just that little bit faster in all weather, and the new retractable centreboard will give us more speed in light winds, as will the huge Code Zero headsail. That sail is like replacing a rifle with a canon.
'As was all too evident for us last year, we can't control the weather, but we can go into the race knowing that we can do no more when it comes to having the fastest possible yacht, and that is the case this year. Thanks to Bob Oatley's commitment, Wild Oats XI has never been better prepared for a Rolex Sydney Hobart race. Now it's up to us - the crew - and the weather to decide the outcome.'
The critical nature of these improvements is seen in the fact that had Wild Oats XI been just one second per mile faster in last year's race she would have completed the course almost 11 minutes faster than she did - more than three times the difference between line honours and second place!
17 December 2012 7:34 GMT