Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars - North Technology

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Wild Oats XI set to fly

by Rob Mundle on 17 Dec 2012
Wild Oats XI Peter Blakeman
The Wild Oats XI officially unveiled on Sunday the three key changes in her armoury in an attempt to win line honours for Boxing Day’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and even shatter the record of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes, and 10 seconds the supermaxi booked seven years ago.

Bob Oatley’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race record holder – and five time line honours winner – Wild Oats XI, today 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.

The improvements have come as a consequence of the big boat missing line honours in last year’s 628 nautical mile Hobart race by a mere three minutes after sailing for two days, 6 hours and 17 minutes.

Two of the changes have been made to the underwater configuration, and the third to Wild Oats XI’s sail inventory.

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. At the same time, Wild Oats XI’s winglets could be said to have a lineage which extends back to the 1983 America’s Cup winner, Australia II, and her famous winged keel. Just as was the case with that yacht, and today’s jet aircraft, Wild Oats XI’s winglets have been designed to reduce drag by straightening out the flow of water coming off the trailing edge of the keel bulb: they minimise what are called tip vortices – speed-sapping turbulence in the form of small eddies. They have been designed by hydrodynamic and aerodynamic specialists, some of whom are involved with the latest America’s Cup yachts.



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.

After extensive testing back in Sydney, and three months of hull surgery, Wild Oats XI was relaunched carrying the same daggerboards, but with another retractable centreboard fitted on the centreline three metres aft of the bow. Mark Richards, the yacht’s skipper, explained this modification: ‘We weren’t able to trial the two new daggerboards prior to the last Hobart race, so it was only during the race that we realised we had a speed problem in light winds.

'When the yacht returned to Sydney we did a series of tests using extremely accurate GPS readings so we could analyse the yacht’s performance, and that led to us designing a symmetrical and retractable centreboard to be fitted near the bow.

'We now use that centreboard when sailing upwind in winds of up to seven knots, then we go through a transition phase as the wind increases in strength to a point where the centreboard is eventually fully retracted and one of the two existing daggerboards is completely down. When sailing downwind all three appendages are retracted to reduce drag.’



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. It is so large that the foot (bottom) of the sail will extend from the tip of the bowsprit to a point that is three-quarters of the way along the deck of the 30-metre long yacht. The sail, from North Sails in Sydney, is made using the very latest technology. The ultra-lightweight 3DI fabric comprises carbon, aramid and Dyneema yarns.



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!

Related Articles

Shape of next Volvo Ocean Race revealed at Southern Spars - Part 1
Southern Spars has been confirmed as the supplier of spars for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. In mid-April, Race Director, Jack Lloyd and Stopover Manager Richard Mason outlined the changes expected for the 40,000nm Race during a tour of Southern Spars 10,000sq metre specialist spar construction facility. A total of up to seven boats is expected to enter, but time is running out for the construction of any new boats.
Posted on 3 May
Will NZ's most successful Olympic Sailing event cop the Selection axe?
New Zealand qualified in all ten of the 2016 Olympic events at the first round of Qualifying in Santander Spain New Zealand qualified in all ten of the 2016 Olympic events at the first round of Qualifying in Santander Spain in September 2014. In two of those the RS:X Windsurfing event, New Zealand is unlikely to be represented in the Men's event, and in the Women's event, Natalia Kosinska would appear to be a borderline selection.
Posted on 2 May
Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
Kosinska to hit out against the Hyeres heavy metal in 2016 Olympic bid
Natalia Kosinska (NZL) will face a star-studded field in the Womens RS:X event at Hyeres later this week. 2016 Olympic aspirant, Natalia Kosinska (NZL) will face a star-studded field in the Womens RS:X event at the third round of the Sailing World Cup Hyeres.
Posted on 26 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
Rio2016 - Winther hits ball firmly into Olympic selectors' court
2012 Olympic representative, Sara Winther has made a strong bid for inclusion in the 2016 NZ Olympic Sailing Team 2012 Olympic representative, Sara Winther has made a strong bid for inclusion in the 2016 NZ Olympic Sailing Team finishing 11th in the 2016 Laser Radial World Championships in Mexico. Running a self-funded campaign which took in the Princesca Sofia Regatta in Palma, Spain followed by the World Championship on Banderas Bay, Mexico, Winther placed 11th overall and 10th country.
Posted on 21 Apr
Sailing World Cup Hyeres - Kosinska flies out in RS-X Olympic bid
Women's RS:X Windsurfer sailor, Natalia Kosinska (NZL) flew out of Auckland today for the Sailing World Cup Hyeres Women's RS:X Windsurfer sailor, Natalia Kosinska (NZL) flew out of Auckland today for the Sailing World Cup Hyeres, in her final attempt to gain NZ Olympic selection. Kosinska has been training in her own program in New Zealand with the 2015 Women's World Champion, Chen Peina (CHN) in the RS:X Windsurfer, and Zhichao Zhang the Men's #4 at the 2015 Worlds in Oman
Posted on 18 Apr
Laser Radial Worlds - Winther makes top three in final Qualifying race
2012 Olympic Representative, Sara Winther continues to improve at the 2016 Laser Radial Worlds 2012 Olympic Representative, Sara Winther continues to improve at the 2016 Laser Radial Worlds and has moved up the leaderboard to be in 12th place at the end of the shortened Qualifying Round. She placed third in the only race sailed today and continues to improve as the regatta progresses, and her confidence builds.
Posted on 18 Apr
Laser Radial Worlds - Winther scores three single digit places - Day 3
New Zealand 2012 Olympic representative, Sara Winther has advanced three places up the points table New Zealand 2012 Olympic representative, Sara Winther has advanced three places up the points table at the 2016 Laser radial Worlds being sailed in Mexico. She now lies in 15th place overall after three days of racing. She achieved single digit scores in the three races sailed today, despite hitting marks in two races and having to perform penalty turns.
Posted on 17 Apr
Laser Radial Worlds - Kiwis locked in Olympic selection fight - Day 2
The points gap has narrowed between the two elading New Zealand contenders for 2016 Olympic selection The points gap has narrowed between the two lading New Zealand contenders for 2016 Olympic selection in the Womens Singlehanded Laser Radial class.
Posted on 16 Apr
Kilwell - 1The Water Shed - 5North Sails Fast