Back on track

Repaired supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, completed an overnight qualifier for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.

Photography by Craig Greenhill/Salty Dingo

17 December 2019


The supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, took another significant step forward in its challenge to be on the start line on Boxing Day for the 75th annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart race.

Little more than a month ago the 30-metre sloop suffered major structural damage while contesting the 180-nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island race out of Sydney. The yacht’s 45-metre high carbon fibre mast fractured at deck level and as a result a large part of the deck structure failed.

Miraculously, through great skill, the crew was able to stabilise the broken mast and reach shore before the yacht suffered any additional damage.

Subsequently, during the past five weeks Wild Oats XI has undergone a major rebuild at its dock in Sydney, an endeavour that was designed to have it ready to race to Hobart on December 26.


This included replacing an 8-metre x 3-metre piece of the deck and fractured frames, and repairing the mast. At one stage during the mast repair specialist technicians worked around-the-clock for four days to ensure maximum strength was achieved.

Last week, when the supermaxi was back in one piece, it was put to the test on Sydney Harbour. When that session was complete skipper Mark Richards and his crew were singing the praises of everyone associated with the repair work, as were the yacht’s owners, the Oatley family.

Wild Oats XI undertook a 24-hour offshore passage off Sydney so it meets one of the many qualification requirements for yachts entered in the Hobart race.

“We treated this passage as if we were racing,” said Mark Richards. “The entire race crew was on board, including our navigator, Juan Vila, who had just flown in from Europe.”

Richards revealed that Wild Oats XI will start in the Hobart race a remarkable 1200 kilograms lighter than it was last year when it took line honours in the classic.

“We have replaced two large daggerboards with a small, and considerably lighter, rudder just forward of the mast,” he explained. “The few trials we have done using this new appendage indicate that it will be an advantage when sailing upwind.”

Wild Oats XI is recognised as the most successful yacht to have contested the Sydney-Hobart race since the inaugural event in 1945. Launched in 2005, the supermaxi has claimed line honours on nine occasions, won on corrected time twice, and twice set a race record time.

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