The most successful yacht that has ever contested the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race over its 70-year history, the record-breaking Australian supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI is set to undergo major modifications, that will take 3 months to complete. Coming fresh from participating in the recent Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the 30,5m sailing yacht Wild Oats XI will be cut two metres from her stern, and subsequently, her forward sections will be extended by the same length. There will also be changes made to the hull configuration, sailplan, as well as rig. The new-look Wild Oats XI is scheduled to be sailing again in November 2015.
“Wild Oats XI’s profile will be considerably different when we have finished,” comments Sandy Oatley, who is coordinating the project for his father, the Wild Oats XI yacht’s owner, Bob Oatley. “She is now ten years old and in need of a new lease of life, especially if we are going to have any chance of beating the four other 100-footers we expect to see on the start line for the Hobart race in December, including the American yachts, Comanche and Rambler.”
At the moment, superyacht Wild Oats XI is sailing 4300 nautical miles back to Sydney from Hawaii after scoring the fastest elapsed time in the Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu and winning her division. She is expected to arrive in about two weeks and will then be taken from the water almost immediately so the work can start.
“Wild Oats XI’s result in the Transpac race was a fitting finale for the old girl as we know her,” comments Wild Oats XI yacht’s skipper, Mark Richards. “It’s time she had a makeover – a big one. “It’s a truly exciting project, one that reflects the competitive nature of Bob and Sandy Oatley. They want to give her every chance for taking her ninth line honours in the Hobart race. This is a massive undertaking for everyone involved, one we have to do to stay competitive. Our goal is to take a decade-old, proven, all-round yacht and make her leaner, lighter and faster. Lopping off the stern is relatively simple, but the extension to the bow is far more complex. To retain the right hull shape we will be cutting off the existing bow section just forward of the mast and rebuilding her from there.”
The first stage of the project will take place in a shed at Woolwich, on Sydney harbour, where sailing yacht Wild Oats XI docks. The mid-section will then be trucked to the McConaghys boatbuilding facility at Mona Vale, on Sydney’s northern beaches. McConaghy constructed Wild Oats XI there in 2005 and have, in recent weeks, prefabricated the yacht’s new bow and stern sections on site.
The plan for the modifications means that the position of the Wild Oats yacht’s mast, keel, rudder, daggerboards, hydrofoil wing and basic sailplan will remain unchanged as they are an integral part of the remaining internal hull chassis. However, the new look Wild Oats XI will also feature a longer bowsprit, a change that will allow for larger downwind and light-wind sails to be set. The strength of this new structure will also allow for the load tension on the outer forestay to be increased from seven to 12 tons.
“There are many other things that will change as a consequence of these modifications,” Richards added. “We have three new sails on order, and because the hull will now be lighter we will be able to increase stability by adding 400 kilograms to our keel ballast bulb.”
Not so apparent will be a change in profile for the existing daggerboards and horizontal hydrofoil wing fitted at the waterline, aft of the mast. This wing, which was installed more than a year ago, made a notable difference to Wild Oats XI superyacht’s downwind speed as it remarkably reduced the effect of nose diving. Design research on the new-look hull confirms that the combined influences of the increased buoyancy that will come via the longer bow section, and increased lift from the wing, will make the vessel even faster downwind.