by Rob Mundle
If for no other reason, the crew of Bob Oatley’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race record holder – the thirty metre long supermaxi, Wild Oats XI – have declared that the yacht is now perfectly prepared, simply because the legendary chicken pies made by his granddaughter, Nicky, are back on the menu for the race.
First light: Wild Oats XI nears the finish in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race. She went on to claim the triple crown – line honours, first on handicap and a race record time
'We didn’t have Nicky’s pies on board for the race last year,' said the yacht’s manager, John Hildebrand, 'and the guys complained all the way to Hobart.
'It was a problem we obviously had to fix, and fortunately for us, Nicky agreed to return to the kitchen and make a special batch for this year’s race. The guys love them, possibly because they have a special ingredient: apart from fresh chicken, they contain a liberal dose of Wild Oats Pinot Grigio, which most definitely tantalises the tastebuds.'
Yesterday, 40 of the delectable pies – two for each crew member – were the last items to be put aboard Wild Oats XI at Woolwich Dock in preparation for the start of the 628 nautical mile classic at 1pm on Boxing Day.
Now the crew must wait for the final pre-race weather forecast on Boxing Day so they can decide which sails to put aboard. That done, it will be 'all systems go!'
The official pre-race weather briefing at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney yesterday did not bring any clarity to the major meteorological unknowns hanging over the race: in fact the forecast created as many questions as it did answers. The only thing that appears certain is that the largest and fastest yachts will have a relatively easy passage to Hobart while the smaller yachts at the tail of the fleet are likely to cop a hammering from a gale in Bass Strait, and down the east coast of Tasmania. Such gales are not uncommon in this race.
Yachting meteorologist, Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, suggested that 48 hours out from the start he was still searching for some certainty in the forecast: 'Just when you thought the outlook was settling, the latest computer models for the weather have caused a total re-think for the whole race!'
If anything, the prognosis confirms that the race for line honours will be an even greater battle between the four 30-metre long supermaxis – Wild Oats XI, Perpetual Loyal, Ragamuffin 100 and Wild Thing. Also, the new, and untried, 80-footer, Beau Geste, could easily come into the mix.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart race starts on Sydney Harbour at 1pm on Boxing Day.
Rolex Sydney Hobart website