Maxi and now supermaxi yachts that compete in the Sydney-Hobart, the Whitbread and the Volvo ocean races have more freedom to incorporate new innovative technology and designs. Unrestricted by class limits they enable their billionaire owners a freedom that competitions such as the Americas Cup impose. They are unique custom built boats of 90ft to 100ft capable of impressive speeds.
Freedom from quirky class rules permits the energy and effort to go into winning the race and the race is won on the water - not in a courtroom.
Wild Oats XI is a state-of-the-art IRC supermaxi yacht designed by Reichel/Pugh with a Carbon/Nomex composite hull. As a distinctively narrow sloop at 5.1 m (17 ft) beam, she originally featured "canting ballast twin foil" appendages enabling her to carry a large sail plan without compromising stability.
Her underbody has been updated continuously and now features a bow centerboard, twin dagger boards amidships, a canting keel with vertical winglets on the torpedo bulb and a centreline single aft balanced spade rudder.
In 2013 Wild Oats XI was equipped with a Dynamic Stability System (DSS) which is a retractable horizontal foil deployed on the leeward side of the boat.
All mechanical systems onboard are powered by a continually running Diesel engine. The design decision was made to exclude manual backup systems and the boat is entirely dependent on the auxiliary. This severely limits the boat's endurance as it cannot be sailed once the diesel fuel is exhausted. This design compromise was seen as worthwhile as it allowed a large amount of additional weight to be avoided and allowed a higher ballast ratio for a given displacement.
Comanche is a $100 million supermaxi yacht built ‘to be a record breaker’. The 100-foot long cutting edge vessel has a wide, shallow hull that is extremely light and strong. Constructed of pre-preg carbon fiber, it features a 38° canting keel, dagger boards, water ballast, a 154’ mast and a large sail area. It has a 25 ft beam, 19’ draft, and displaces 35M tons. Designed by VPLP and Guillaume Verdier, it was built in the biggest marine oven in the United States, by Hodgdon Yachts in Maine.
Intended to be the fastest monohull ever built, it is capable of sailing at 40mph and it was designed with speed in mind, using the design skills available to its owner, Jim Clark – a co-founder of Netscape. Jim Clark has high hopes of not just winning events such as Transatlantic, Transpac, Fastnet, and Middle Sea, but breaking records as he takes the top spot. He came very close this time.
WILD OATS XI the top Australian ocean racing yacht has just won the Sydney Hobart race for the eighth time. It came in ahead of the new American racing yacht Comanche in a close race.
What makes this race so fascinating is the sailing skills and the boats that race in challenging conditions. It is all about the boats, the skippers and crews - and the challenges of sea and weather! Sailing!
By comparison the Americas Cup is just a Hi Tech freak show - a bit like the circus coming to town. The Aussies are shunning it on a cost basis. Hamilton Island Yacht Club - home of Wild Oates XI - officially withdrew its challenge on July 18 2014.
And even though the tech know how of the last event in San Francisco was from the universities in New Zealand, the Kiwis are now questioning the value of continuing to chase the Cup as well. The New Zealand government saw no value in continuing to back Team New Zealand but finally gave their support under pressure. It will be interesting to see if this lasts.
Will the sailors from Down Under go back to sailing? Or will the Americas Cup move back to ocean racing? The 2017 Americas Cup is still promoting catamarans on foils.
Forbes magazine says that the owner of Wild Oates XI Robert Oatley plans to challenge the US team for the 'ocean racing' Americas Cup in 2016! Curiouser and curiouser! I think they need to check their facts! The Americas Cup is in 2017. And ocean racing on foils?
It will be interesting to see whether the Bermuda venue produces the intense interest the Americas Cup used to generate.