Wild Oats XI: Not Ready To Collect Her Pension
Published on December 16th, 2015
Robert Oatley’s 100-foot Wild Oats XI is a special boat. In her first season, the maxi won the ‘treble’ in the 2005 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, winning both line honors and overall handicap as well as setting a new race record. In her 10 year span, Wild Oats XI has been first to Hobart in 8 of 10 races, winning the treble again in 2012.
After overcoming the challenge by Jim & Kristy Clark’s newly launched 100-foot Comanche in the 2014 Sydney Hobart, passing them in a light air section of the race, the 10 year old Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design saw a need to boost her ability in breeze or risk losing the reign as the supreme super maxi.
Wild Oats XI had been updated over the years, but nothing like her latest modification. As she prepares for the 2015 Sydney Hobart on December 26, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with Jim Pugh for the details…
What got done to the hull?
The boat was 100-feet long, which is the maximum length for the Sydney Hobart Race as well as many others races. So the task was to make changes but return her to this length. Approximately 2 meters was cut off the stern, which allowed us to lengthen the bow ahead of the mast. We had 11.5m cut off the bow, and a new bow was designed and built that was now 2m longer.
What did this achieve?
We effectively slid the hull forward on the rig and appendages by 2m. The new bow has more volume, which we achieved by fairing in the longer bow section. The boat should be significantly faster particularly reaching and running with more volume in the bow. They should be able to push the boat harder off the wind. The boat had always been extremely fast in the lighter conditions and these modifications upgrade the performance in stronger winds. Additionally, now they can set larger sails off the stem and new extended sprit. One of several sails will be a new free flying non- overlapping Jib off the stem.
Has this changed the sail plan?
The rig is still the same and is pretty new. They still have the old headstay and position, but can set a larger jib free flying off the stem. These changes had as much to do with the rig as the hull. It allowed them to update their sail inventory to a more modern offshore inventory while improving on the practicalities and speed of changings sails offshore. They have some great sail design and handling guys on board so I am sure they made some nice tweaks to get them down the course and through changing conditions quicker.
Any tradeoffs to the hull modification?
The stern will be a little draggier in the light but it will be worth trading away for the up-range performance. This would be the biggest trade off, but the boat had light air speed to burn.
How radical is it to do this kind of hull modification?
This is not as difficult as it sounds, it is amazing what you can do with these composite hulls. In the Nineties we designed the 70-foot maxi Windquest. At the time 70 feet was the max size allowed, but the rule was later changed to 80 feet. When Windquest was sold and became Alexia, we designed a new significantly longer bow (built by McConaghy) for the boat, and when combined with a short stern scoop, extended the boat to 79 feet overall. The boat continued to excel, going on to win quite a few championships.
Wild Oats XI is now ten years old. Are their ‘old age’ benefits when it comes to the rating rule?
There are old age benefits but they are not ready to collect their pension. They want the challenge of beating the new boats to Hobart.