Skipper Mark Richards likes to emphasise that the champion offshore maxi Wild Oats XI is 11-years-old. But she is actually just like Trigger's broom in the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses. She's had so many changes that there are probably no original parts left.
Today (August 28) she went under the knife again and master photographer Andrea Francolini was there to capture the moment.
After undergoing minor surgery to make her faster downwind before the recent Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, where she took line honours, she is now getting a major make-over to prepare her for another battle with new super maxi Comanche in this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart.
“Ricko” and owner Bob Oatley were there to do the honours with a chainsaw.
Here's the official report from Rob Mundle:
Australia’s most successful ocean racing yacht, Bob Oatley’s 30-metre supermaxi, Wild Oats XI, is 30-metres no more.
The sleek, silver-hulled beauty literally got the chop at the hands of Bob Oatley and skipper Mark Richards in Sydney today.
Armed with a high-revving chainsaw, the pair took to the carbon fibre hull just forward of the mast, and by the time the job was finished one hour later, 10-metres of Wild Oats XI’s bow had been lopped off.
It was the first stage of a three month program that will see the yacht back to being 30-metres long, but with a completely different profile: All part of a plan to bring a new lease of life to the record-breaking, 10-year-old yacht and make her more competitive against more recent supermaxi designs.
In a few days the hull will be shortened even more when an additional two metres is cut from the stern.
“This is exciting” Richards said when sharing the first chainsaw cut with Bob Oatley. “I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it when we started, but this is the future for the old girl. She will be an even better yacht when we have finished. The more we cut the better I felt.”
However, legendary Australian Olympic gold-medal winning sailing coach, Victor Kovalenko, did say that watching the beautiful yacht being carved up was “painful”, then added that the pain would be forgotten once Wild Oats XI was sailing again.
The next part of the schedule for Wild Oats XI will see her trucked to the McConaghy’s boat building facility on Sydney’s northern beaches. Once there a new transom will be fitted where the stern has been cut off. Simultaneously, shipwrights will fit a completely new bow to the yacht – two metres longer than what was cut off today – so that she returns to the same overall length.
Much of the design work for the new-look Wild Oats XI has been done by the original designers, Reichel-Pugh, based in California, USA. By extending the bow forward the yacht will have considerably more buoyancy, a feature which all design testing indicates will make her considerably faster. She will also be lighter.
Wild Oats XI is recognised as the most successful yacht to have contested the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race over its 70-year history, and Mark Richards the most successful skipper. Since being launched in 2005 the supermaxi has secured an unprecedented eight line honours. She is also the only yacht to claim the triple-crown – line and handicap honours and a race record time – on two occasions … and take four consecutive line honours.
In July Wild Oats XI claimed fastest time in the 2225 nautical mile Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. The new-look Wild Oats XI is scheduled to be sailing again in November.
UPDATE FROM ROB MUNDLE:
“TAKE A BOW”: Here’s Wild Oats XI’s new bow section being finished at McConaghy’s, on Sydney’s northern beaches. When fitted to the now bowless hull “Oats” will be two metres longer forward of the mast. So … to get her back to within the 100ft max LOA for the Hobart race, two metres will be lopped off the stern and a new transom fitted. (Thanks Emma Roberts for the image.)
And if you'd like to see what we mean by Trigger's broom, watch the video: