This year’s Hamilton Island Wild Oats Rolex Sydney Hobart crew is once again a formidable mixture of highly experienced core crew, bolstered by the calibre of seven-time America’s Cup winner Murray Jones, world renowned navigator Stan Honey, and Australia’s SailGP and Moth gun Kyle Langford.
The team of 21, led once again by skipper Mark Richards, comprises some of the world’s most talented and applauded sailors boasting close to 250 Hobart races between them. The key to the supermaxi’s impressive history is undoubtedly picking the right crew and sticking with them, plus the Oatley family has kept the boat competitive via continuous modifications.
The team is vying for a record-breaking 10th line honours win in this year’s edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart and ready to face stiff competition from the other three supermaxis – Andoo Comanche, Black Jack and Law Connect.
Hendo is one of the Wild Oats XI originals and is lining up for his 25th Rolex Sydney Hobart, a milestone that is recognised by race organisers and the honour roll for the bluewater classic.
“Being on the start line of the race, you feel a sense of calm on the inside… but things are hectic on the outside. We do so much training and preparation and we are pretty good on our boat, but there’s a lot of activity around us.”
“To be able to get back out there and test ourselves against all these great boats is what I’m looking forward to the most this year. All these 100 footers are so well sailed now; they’re getting faster and the teams are getting stronger.”
This is Craig’s 20th start for the Sydney Hobart. “It is always exciting being out there with all the boats. There is usually a lot going on at the bow, but it’s pretty magical crossing the line as soon as the gun is fired.”
“Sydney Harbour is one of the most amazing harbours on the planet and to have the spectator fleet and that many yachts on the start line, the fever and adrenalin is remarkable.”
“On that start line, if you have a chance to stop and think about it, it is really special. The boats are so fast, there is so much going on and when you are on a big boat, everything is amplified.”
“There’s a little anxiety about getting a good start and getting out of the heads, but it’s exciting, fun times. Once we clear the Heads, everything calms down a bit and we get on with the job.”
“You are constantly thinking “Don’t make a mistake”. The final ten minutes is the fastest ten minutes of your life. Before you know it, you are off.”
Kyle claimed his first world title when his crew won the RC44 World Championships and went on to join ORACLE TEAM USA just days before the 34th America’s Cup. He re-joined for the 2017 campaign in Bermuda then expanded to offshore sailing as a member of Team Brunel in the 2017-2018 Volve Ocean Race, finishing third. Kyle is the wing trimmer for Australia SailGP.
Ricko has skippered the mighty silver bullet since its first line honours win in 2005. Known for his precision starts at the pin end, he’s excited to line-up with the team for what will be a tough quest for a 10th line honours victory.
“You must concentrate on your job to ensure that you’re doing it well. It’s a big team effort onboard and it only takes one person onboard a boat of 20+ crew to have a little lapse of judgement and it snowballs from there.”
“It’s a relief more than anything to get underway, because all you’ve been doing for the longest time is training.”
Murray Jones is one of the most respected and decorated keelboat sailors in the world, and a member of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame with six wins with three teams.
“I always feel a little anxious, but it’s an exciting time. The final five minutes before the start gun go pretty fast; you don’t get to hear much because of the helicopters overhead.”
Paul is the primary caretaker of Hamilton Island Wild Oats, coordinating the maintenance and logistics programs and keeping the boat in top condition year-round.
Another founding crew member, Flipper says continuing the Wild Oats legacy is a fantastic feeling.
Kiwi Robbie is a trimmer who has been part of the Wild Oats XI program since its inception in 2005.
“One thing I always remember to take on this race is a pair of thermals and a good head torch… plus plenty of sunscreen. There are no lucky charms!”
“Exhilaration, anticipation, nerves, excitement. All those emotions and it’s the same when you arrive in Hobart. They are the two great moments of the race – everything in the middle is a bit dodgy.”
Another Pittwater offspring among the crew, Crackers has been part of Australia’s most successful 100-foot maxi campaign since the beginning. In his downtime he enjoys wing dinging and cycling.
“So much time, effort and emotion goes into preparing a boat and crew for this race. The thing that I am looking forward to the most, is being able to celebrate together, as a team and recognise all that has gone into getting the yacht and team ready for such a massive undertaking; it’s a huge job to get that boat to Hobart in one piece!”
“It’s the public embrace for me! Having that many people wishing you ‘good luck’ and joining you in that adventure is pretty special. There’s lots of other big races around the world, but none of them have the spectator participation element so strongly and so close.”
“There is an extraordinary amount going through my head on the start of the Big Race. A great sense of pride to see the boat on the start line, admiring what we have achieved as a team.”
“It’s the pinnacle of yacht racing in Australia and one of the most famous races in the world. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and being a part of it all again.”