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Sydney Hobart winner justifiably happy

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 27 Dec 2018 16:48 PST From Dec 26
Happy team indeed - Wild Oats XI at Constitution Dock © Crosbie Lorimer

The accolades will flow for the Oatley Family’s Reichel-Pugh 100 supermaxi, Wild Oats XI. Justifiably so, too. Her crew, many of whom have been there since she was launched as a 98-footer in 2005, also deserve the fame for their achievements, including taking out Line Honours in the Sydney Hobart in her Maiden attack on the race, barely a month after being christened.

WOXI has now racked up an impressive nine Line Honours crowns in the ensuing years, including the one today. She has also taken out the famed triple crown of Line Honours, Race Record, and Overall Win, not just once, but twice.

In those ensuing years she was extended to 100 feet LOA when the rule changed, and had new appendages, some of which were later removed. Yet the biggest modifications came only a few years back when two metres was lopped off her tail, ten off her front and a brand new 12m section sewn on where the old one had been. Yes, WOXI is a very famous starlet, and just like one from Hollywood, she has had many a nip and tuck over time. Some obvious, and some less so, just like a Madonna, always reinventing herself.

The added buoyancy meant she now ran even harder, was a lot drier, and avoided going down the mine. VMG running was already a strong suit, and it only got better. Modifications and additions to her North Sails wardrobe this year capitalised on it all, and harnessed some learnings from the last few years.

Whilst the additional for’ard attitude, and lack in the bum meant she sat more squat in the light airs, the overall package was better, and faster, as has just been witnessed by all and sundry. Her near, and earlier sistership, now known as Black Jack had her forestay moved out to her stem, and the prodder of all prodders added when she returned to Australian shores under Peter Harburg’s ownership. Being lighter meant she always had an advantage over WOXI, but today in Storm Bay and then the River Derwent, where it was flat water and light, the other R/P pencil that pays homage to legendary F1 Ace, Sir Jack Brabham, just could not muscle her out.

The other one right there at Tasman Island was the aircraft carrier, Comanche. She too had some big changes, chief of which were a bit of weight off, and powered winches replacing the pumps, as well as the gorillas that drove them. The other wide bodied girl, InfoTrack, had also had a diet, had the crew of crews on board and it showed, for she had her best showing in a lot of the lead up events, and of course this race, too.

The fifth member, Scallywag, retired with a broken bowsprit. She too had a new North Sails wardrobe for the race, and collects some new kites ahead of the RORC Caribbean 600, which is her next event. Being light, having huge form stability, new appendages, and the latest in sail tech means she should be on pace too, so no doubt we’ll she how she does during the year, and also when she shows up for the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, which is the 75th edition, by the way, so expect to see a big fleet for that.

In the end, they have all worked on their weaknesses, and become a lot closer overall, as a result. Only Comanche’s brutal performance on reach in a blow remains a key difference. Anyone not able to see that just needs to go back to her getting out of Sydney Harbour in four and half minutes when she showed up for her maiden race.

Iain Murray was the Tactician on board and he said quayside, It was a nice end to lovely race. Always good to come home first, a place we did not spend all that much time in during the race.” In relation to getting back in front, Murray said, “We did not want to be too close to Tasman Island, as it looked light, and it was. It came good for us in the end, which is handy and helpful.” “There were a lot of sail changes, and that is all part of it”, added Tim Wiseman, the bowman, who clearly had a bit on for most of the race.

So for now we will let her just revel in her achievements, which are many. You go girl! Plus, the crew and her owners have some celebrating to do…

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