by Ian Grant
Understandably, Bob Oatley’s super maxi Wild Oats XI has become a feature in conversations among every sport loving Australian as the countdown begins for the start to the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on Boxing Day.
Wild Oats XI
They recall her triple triumph of seven years ago when the Mark Richards helmed Wild Oats XI power sailed over the 628 nautical mile course with an average speed of 14.72 knots to win the race overall while also setting the present one day, 18 hour 40 minute 20 second record.
Some have been caught up in the hype which claims Wild Oats XI now has the potential to re-write the record following the alterations to her underwater appendages and new additions to her sail wardrobe.
But for this to fall into place her crew will be forced to live on the critical edge between distinction and disaster for Wild Oats X1 to have the opportunity to race over every nautical mile of the storm tormented Tasman Sea with a super fast time to eclipse the 2005 record.
Talk around the Sydney waterfront earlier this week has focused on Wild Oats XI, both her skipper and crew of experienced ocean racing sailors including female navigator Adrienne Calahan are well prepared but they will need a favourable spinnaker sailing and wave surfing forecast to be locked in place to hand her major rivals Wild Thing (Grant Wharington), and last year’s line honours champion Ragamuffin Loyal (Syd Fischer) a lesson in super fast ocean racing.
An ideal Northerly wind forecast prevailed at Green Cape (entrance to Bass Strait) earlier this week but a question remains with this breeze blowing with increased velocity when the fleet leaders set their course for Green Cape and the other important Tasmanian coastal points of Eddystone Pt, Bicheno and Tasman Island following what promises to be another spectacular start on Boxing Day.
Before this recent upgrade the high performance Wild Oats XI crew expressed their heavy wind ocean racing skills to smash the Sydney to Gold Coast record.
They completed the 384 nautical mile course with a remarkable 17.4 knot average, 2.7knots faster than their record smashing run over the Rolex Sydney Hobart ‘torture track’ which indicates she has the potential to be a short priced line honours favourite.
However they will not need a head wind to sneak out from The Great Southern Ocean which will thwart any chance for Wild Oats XI to remain on track to beat her 2005 record.
While intense interest remains with her maxi class match race for line honours with rivals Wild Thing, Ragamuffin Loyal, Lahana and the smaller maxi chasers Ichi Ban and Queensland’s Black Jack the Wild Oats XI believe they are better prepared to make a clean sweep of the Line and corrected handicap trophies.
But that will be determined on what nature provides with the angle and wind velocity combined with a wave surfing seaway which no one can accurately predict to blow this year.