by Rob Mundle
In the IRC Grand Prix division at next month’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, five-time line honours winner and race record holder in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, supermaxi Wild Oats XI, will be testing a new underwater configuration while going for outright victory .
Wild Oats XI under spinnaker
The yacht’s owner, Bob Oatley, decided that the seven-year-old, 30-metre long sloop needed a ‘makeover’ after being narrowly beaten in the battle for line honours in last year’s Hobart classic. Wild Oats XI could not match Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal in light winds approaching the finish and was beaten into Hobart by just three minutes and eight seconds after racing for 627 nautical miles.
Wild Oats XI had been fitted with new, retractable daggerboards prior to that race, and after the finish Bob Oatley left Hobart convinced they slowed the boat in light weather.
Now, after three months of surgery which was carried out at Sydney’s Woolwich Dock, Wild Oats XI will appear at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week still carrying the same daggerboards, but with another retractable centreboard fitted on the centreline just three metres aft of the bow.
Wild Oats XI’s first test will come this weekend when she starts in the 384 nautical mile Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race, but the current weather forecast for the race from yachting meteorologist Roger Badham is for strong winds and a probable race record for Wild Oats XI. If that is the case then the race testing of the new light weather configuration will have to wait until Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which starts on August 17.
Wild Oats XI skipper, Mark Richards, said the modifications to Wild Oats XI were made after exhaustive trials and analysis earlier this year.
We weren’t able to trial the two new daggerboards prior to the Hobart race, so it was only then that we found out that we had a speed problem in light winds’, Richards said. ‘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.
Wild Oats XI - bowman
‘We now expect to use that centreboard when sailing in winds of up to seven knots, then go through a transition phase as the wind increases in strength to a point where the centreboard is eventually fully retracted and the leeward daggerboard completely down.’
Richards said he was looking forward to being able to test Wild Oats XI over the full range of wind strengths usually experienced on the island courses at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012, which will be staged from August 17 to 25, is open to a wide spectrum of sailboats – from sport boats to cruising yachts, cruiser-racers and Grand Prix level keelboats, plus high-performance multihulls. The fleet is now approaching 150 in number, so it is likely between 180 and 200 yachts will be competing.
Audi Hamilton Island Race Week website