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The bookies may, or may not be happy

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 17 Nov 2019 13:00 PST
Skipper of Wild Oats XI, Mark Richards, returns to the boat after the traditional 'swim' for the winner... © Crosbie Lorimer

Mark Richards had a very short message for everyone: "It was very cool to watch our crew nurse the boat into port. We now have all the right resources working on the repairs. We are 100% there for the race." Put simply, punters can expect to see Wild Oats XI go for Number 10 in the 75th iteration of the Sydney to Hobart race come Boxing Day this year.

The key takeout in all of that is the 'right resources' being put in place. Firstly, there is the custom replacement mast section being prepared by Southern Spars. In a way, the next and more expansive element is the work the famed McConaghy's yard will have to do in what is a pretty short timeline. It is very much a case of applying those right resources to the exact tasks, at precisely the correct times.

So a quick look at how to get from A (problem) to B (all squared away) comes out thus:

  • Last Monday; inspected Oats once it had motored back to Woolwich, and formulated a plan in conjunction with the engineers.
  • Tuesday; inspected again with McConaghy's lead boatbuilder for the job, and the Engineer. Mapped out the dotted 'cut here' line.
  • Wednesday; started work at the factory building the deck mould required for the new deck shell.
  • Thursday; Wild Oats shore crew ready the boat for the surgery to begin on Friday.
  • Friday; the cut begins, with the coachhouse removed and sent back to the factory for repairs. Damage in the way of the mast collar cut out and removed.
Deck mould completed Friday afternoon, and the new deck shell is laminated over the weekend, with the 'cook' planned for today (Monday).

"The plan is to offer the new deck to the boat by the end of the week and all going well, complete the repair by early December," said McConaghy's Tony Johnson.

Of course, the explanation of what all that means starts with a small, handful-sized team working firstly at McConaghy's in Gosford, and then later down at Woolwich. General Manager, Eric Desjardins said, "Naturally we wanted to jump on it and help the Wild Oats team. It is kind of a commando mission. We have got a lot on, but we have the resources to hand, especially as we started some new people of late, so everyone is right into it. Indeed we have some more new members to come on board soon, as well."

"Importantly, there were two crucial aspects that meant we could look to achieve the desired outcome here, and yes, obviously the damage could have been a lot worse, which would have made it really difficult. Firstly, we recently stocked up on prepreg (carbon pre-impregnated with the correct dose of resin), and honeycomb, especially all the hard-to-get stuff, so this is a real bonus to the timeline!"

"The next element is totally fortuitous, for it is important to manage all of our customers and their specific requirements. Given that the new Dunning 44 racer is in the painting and fairing stage of her tooling, it meant that the shipwrights could jump on Oats, without affecting the other boat's programme. Whilst talking about that, if you would like one of these for yourself, call now, because the mould will be cut up after it's made, and this will occur in December."

"The commando idea is important, for one needs to be ready to adapt and make it work, by continually reassessing the plan, so as to make sure we still deliver everything on time. Getting the engineer's drawings ready and starting on the mast collar and deck panel has been crucial to having everything in play right now. We call this the 'Agile Boatbuilding' mindset."

Showing there's still a sense of humour there, despite the workload, Desjardins added, "We're pretty good at splicing in replacement parts with that boat." (Referring to her distinctive rhinoplasty 18 months ago.) "We were not bored before this Oats project, and the Black Jack team are thrilled with their mods, which is superb news. So everyone will certainly be looking forward to a well-earned Christmas break," Desjardins concluded.

Irrefutable kibosh

No deal!!! Comanche to stay in Australia, with her custodian, Jim Cooney, stating, "The only reason Comanche didn't do the Cabbage Tree Race was because it was my son's (James) 21st Birthday Party on Friday, and we had 200 people at home. As you know we all sail together, and in the case of last weekend, we all partied together."

"We are fully committed to the 75th Hobart race and I have all my regular crew signed up and committed. We will be out there training from early December, possibly the Bird Island race if the timing works."

You ready?

All this talk of ocean racing is enough to get one inspired. If you are going and are not on a Safety and Sea Survival Course, then Terry Wise's Pacific Sailing School can get you sorted with one of the last few spots for their course in December. You might even want to get your radio proficiency ticket whilst you're at it. You can check out the course at

Right oh - here today there are some gems for you to review like The Ocean Race, SailGP, Brest Atlantique with the Ultim Tris, AC75s, Transat Jacques Vabre, 18-footers, Nanni repower the glorious Josephine, Helix Luff Cord from North Sails, the great John Bertrand takes delivery of a new Etchells ahead of the 2020 Australian Championship, 13 and 16-foot skiffs to light up Port Stephens, and certainly there is much, much more below.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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