Wild Oats tipped for blue­wa­ter clas­sic

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

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.

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