Wild Oats tipped for bluewater classic
WILDOatsXI has secured a stunning compliment from rival skipper Grant Wharington, as its crew of proven Sydney to Hobart winners chase rare back-toback line honours victories.
Not since Astor in 1963-64 has a boat taken line honours in successive years, but few of its competitors would be prepared to bet against the maxi going back-toback.
Skandia s k i p p e r Wharington, who has competed against all of the world’s great maxis over the last two decades, rated Wild OatsXI as the best boat he had competed against in 18 Sydney to Hobart races.
‘‘I think Wild Oats is certainly the best boat that’s been around so far,’’ said Wharington, who piloted his present boat to line honours three years ago.
‘‘They are beatable of course, nothing is cut and dried at this stage and I think Skandia will be very competitive.’’
Wharington said his rejigged boat was undoubtedly substantially faster than last year.
Skandia is one of two serious threats to WildOats XI — unless it fails to finish — along with Maximus, and in tougher conditions than forecast, perhaps 70 footers ABNAmro and IchiBan.
‘‘For us to have a chance it’s got to get pretty nasty, which you wouldn’t wish on anyone,’’ said ABN Amros New Zealand born skipper Mike Sanderson.
The long range forecasts of heavy winds were moderated at the Christmas Eve weather briefings, though the fleet of 78 could still encounter winds of 15 to 25 knots and swells of three to four metres in the first 24 hours of the 628 nautical mile race.
Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley has assembled an awesome array of talent in a c r e w s t a c k e d w i t h America’s Cup sailors and plenty of people who know all about getting to Hobart first. ‘‘We’ve got 178 Hobarts between us, and 15 individual line honours victories on board, so there’s a lot of experience there,’’ Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards said.
If the conditions forecast on Christmas Eve eventu- ated, Richards ruled out a repeat of his boat’s momentous 2005 treble of line and handicap honours and a new race record of one day 18 hours 14 minutes and ten seconds.
It could still be a contender for the coveted Tattersalls Cup, the prize for the overall winner, though the mid-sized boats in the multi-national fleet appear the favourites.
Among them were new 55 footer Yendys, Loki, Quantum Racing, Flirt and Hardys Secret Mens Business.