How does a ten year old yacht remain at the forefront of one of the great ocean race classics? With her distinctively narrow hull, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI has beaten all comers for line honours in eight out of the last ten Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races.
And now her original builders McConaghy Boats have completed her most radical modification yet, with the goal of maintaining her winning ways. Watch the evolution of this concept from idea to reality.
Design and construction
Wild Oats XI is a state-of-the-art maxi yacht designed by Reichel/Pugh and built by Mcconaghy Boats, five months after her near-sistership Alfa Romeo II, from which she borrowed extensively. She was launched in December 2005 after a 9-month build and won her first Sydney-Hobart the same month. She is distinctively narrow with a 5.1 m (17 ft) beam and originally featured “canting ballast twin foil” appendages enabling her to carry a large sail plan without compromising stability.
She has undergone many modifications over time to keep her competitive: In 2009 she was lengthened at bow and stern from 98 ft to 100 ft to meet the new limit in the Sydney-Hobart. In 2011 her forward balanced spade canard was removed and twin daggerboards were added amidships. In 2012 she received a bow centreboard as well as caudal fin winglets on her torpedo bulb. In 2013 she was equipped with a Dynamic Stability System (DSS) foil, which is a retractable horizontal foil deployed on the leeward side of the boat.
In 2015 her stern was shortened by 2m and her 12m forward sections were replaced by a 14m longer, sleeker bow, keeping her midship sections unmodified and in effect moving her entire existing sailplan aft by 2m. All mechanical systems onboard Wild Oats XI are powered by a continually running Diesel generator, excluding manual backup systems, making the boat entirely dependent on the auxiliary. This limits the boat’s autonomy as it cannot be sailed once the fuel is exhausted but this enables significant grinding crew weight savings.