Saturday, 16 July 2011

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week : Supermaxi Showdown

At speed: Bob Oatley’s recently modified Wild Oats XI will be put to the test at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week next month. Image copyright Andrea Francolini/AUDI

by Rob Mundle

Australia’s big guns of ocean yacht racing, the 30.2 metre long supermaxis Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal, will renew hostilities next month when they clash at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

Both yachts have undergone extensive modifications in Sydney to ensure they are given the best opportunity to claim the much touted Race Week bragging rights at the completion of the eight days of racing. The regatta is scheduled for 19 – 27 August.

Wild Oats XI, owned by winemaker Bob Oatley – who also happens to own Hamilton Island – has undergone the greatest change of the two since she took line honours over Investec Loyal in last December’s Rolex Sydney Hobart race. She will be relaunched this weekend following significant hull surgery over the past two months: the forward rudder has been removed and replaced with twin retractable centreboards. These changes have been made to improve the yacht’s speed both upwind and down.

At the same time, Investec Loyal, owned by prominent Sydney accounting firm head, Anthony Bell, has already claimed bragging rights of sorts over Wild Oats XI in that she was the 100th entry registered for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2011. Since then the fleet has grown rapidly to 139, and on current projections an impressive line up of between 180 and 200 can be expected this year.

Major makeover: a big-budget modification will bring a new lease of life to Anthony Bell’s supermaxi, Investec Loyal, at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2011. Image copyright Andrea Francolini/AUDI

When Bell took sole ownership of Investec Loyal after the last Hobart race he immediately committed to lifting the yacht’s performance to its full potential. In what can only be described as a highly commendable effort, he has coordinated a project which has seen the yacht undergo modifications to the hull, keel and rig. He has also ordered new sails and added some high-calibre crew to his already strong line-up.

“We are really looking forward to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week because it is going to give us the ideal opportunity to get the Loyal racing team together in a perfect environment of competitive racing,” Anthony Bell said. “We are already in training in Sydney and more than keen to get to the island so we can line up alongside Wild Oats XI in a world renowned regatta.”

Apart from going for top honours at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the intensity of the competition that Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal will enjoy on the island-laced tropical waters of the Whitsundays will be a highly beneficial build up for their next big clash, the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December.

Wild Oats XI will be transported on a huge truck across Sydney, from Bankstown to the harbour, in the very early hours of this Sunday. Once the yacht is launched and rigged skipper Mark Richards and the crew will begin extensive trialling of the new centreboard configuration.

The first test for both supermaxis will come on Saturday, 30 July, when they set sail in the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast Race. Once they finish they will continue north on a course to Hamilton Island.

The Notice of Race, including the entry form, has been posted on the regatta website –

Race Week accommodation can be booked at Alternatively please call 13 REEF (13 7333) within Australia, +61(0)2 9433 0444 from overseas, or email

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week