Third strike

The supermaxi Wild Oats XI has been thrown yet another Rolex Sydney Hobart curveball, as the yacht suffered damage after being struck by lightning.

20 December 2017


The Oatley family’s champion Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race supermaxi, Wild Oats XI, is racing against the clock to be ready after it was struck by lightning at the weekend.

Wild Oats XI was out of the water and in its cradle at Woolwich Dock, on Sydney Harbour, when a bolt of lightning struck the top of the 45-metre high carbon fibre mast during a thunderstorm early Sunday morning.

The 10 million volt-plus discharge from the lightning destroyed a significant number of electronic instruments, all of which are vital if the yacht is to maintain maximum speed and stay on course during the race.

It is still uncertain at this stage if the yacht will be in full racing trim for the start on Boxing Day, but the team remain undeterred. In a positive note, the carbon fibre rigging has not sustained any significant damage.

The crew are currently out pressuring testing their new sail and electronics, as they determine what shape the supermaxi is in.

“It’s a major blow for us on the eve of the big race,” said Sandy Oatley. “However, I’m sure our great team will have everything ready for the start on Boxing Day. There is no stopping them.”


On Peter Harburg’s invitation, Wild Oats XI’s shore team manager, Paul Magee, flew to Brisbane to see what equipment existed in Black Jack’s warehouse that might replace instruments damaged by the strike. Magee is back in Sydney and the boat has been out testing.

“That’s the spirit that exists in this level of ocean racing,” commented Sandy Oatley, on Peter Harburg’s kind assistance. “We might be arch rivals on the race course, but we’re all supportive of each other when necessary.”

Wild Oats XI’s skipper, Mark Richards, said he was confident the yacht would be ready for the start of the classic race on Boxing Day.

“I’d like the think that this is the third strike when it comes to bad luck for Wild Oats XI in the Hobart race,” Richards said. “Two years ago the mainsail shredded in a storm; last year the canting keel hydraulic system keel failed, and now we’ve been hit from the heavens.”

Another line honours favourite for the Hobart race, LDV Comanche, which was docked alongside Wild Oats XI when the storm struck, was not impacted by the lightning strike.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement