The Wild Oats team is looking for answers following its dismasting on Wednesday at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Peter Rusch speaks to the crew…

Wild Oats, the ‘super’ Maxi yacht which currently holds the record in the Sydney to Hobart Race dismasted on Wednesday at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia.

Conditions seemed benign when racing started on Wednesday, with the previous day’s Mistral breeze giving way to a moderate Northeasterly by start time. Wild Oats had just started the race and was challenging rival Alfa Romeo for the lead early, when the carbon fibre mast exploded with a bang into three pieces and tumbled over the side.

“We’re not really sure what happened,” said helmsman Mark Richards after the boat returned to Porto Cervo. 
“We came out of the start, had a reasonably good start, sailed for about two minutes and then the whole thing came down around our ears. We’re not sure what broke. We have no idea to be honest with you. Obviously some part of the rigging has let go.”

In a statement the crew reported hearing one relatively small ‘bang’ then what was literally an explosion as the hollow carbon fibre spar broke into pieces and crashed down around them.

One crewman, Peter Shipway, was slightly injured with suspected broken ribs. Four other crew went over the side when the boat moved violently as the 12-tonne canting keel, suddenly with nothing to counterbalance it, rolled the boat violently to windward.

The crew who had been tipped overboard either swam back to the race yacht to be pulled back on deck or were picked up by support boats. The team then worked quickly to jettison the shattered rig and sails to ensure the hull wouldn’t be imperiled by the rig.

“The number one priority is to make sure everyone is OK, do a quick head count make sure no one is injured and if they are to attend to them quickly,” Richards explained. “And then to start getting rid of the rig. The boys – it’s a very experienced crew – and they dealt with the situation brilliantly.”

Indeed, within the three hours the boat had been stripped down and was all but ready for packing on a container ship back to Australia. The goal is to be ready to challenge for the Sydney to Hobart race which starts on boxing day.

“It’s a pretty major (setback). Our goal is the Sydney Hobart again this year,” Richards said. “We have to get a mast built in three and half months which is a pretty hard thing to do. So it’s just ‘pedal to the metal’ and do the best we can, and hopefully we can carry on with our Sydney-Hobart ambitions.”

The conditions on the water today were certainly not expected to be a problem for boats and crews of this caliber. This afternoon, the Wild Oats team is exploring the idea of sending divers down tomorrow in an attempt to salvage the rig and find out just what happened. There is hope that television footage may prove helpful in this as well.

“Today, there was only 11 knots of breeze, so for it to go over the side is quite unusual,” Richards said. “We’ve never had anything like this happen in ten years of offshore campaigning,” he continued. “We could understand it more easily if we were pounding upwind in rough seas and strong winds, but that wasn’t the case here.”

Hear Wild Oats’ helmsman Mark Richards talk to Peter Rusch after the dismasted boat returned to Porto Cervo. 


Rolex Maxi World Championships Day 3

Wind Strength: 15 knots decreasing to 6 by the end of the day

Sea State: Big swell to start, decayed in the afternoon

Race : Up the east coast, around the top and a thread back through the islands – 65 miles


CLICK HERE for Keeping the Maxi Show on the Road 
CLICK HERE for Day 2 Report – Racing Postponed 
CLICK HERE for Day 1 Report 
CLICK HERE for Preview 

Matthew Sheahan and Peter Rusch talk to some of the key players during the week. You can also subscribe (free) to updates through iTunes.

CLICK HERE for Wild Oats’ helmsman Mark Richards telling Peter Rusch about their dismasting 
CLICK HERE for Wild Oats’ shore manager Iain Smith on keeping the show on the road 
CLICK HERE for Alfa Romeo Tactician Michael Coxon on Day 1 
CLICK HERE for Mani Frers on Day 1 
CLICK HERE for ALL Audio Stories & Podcasts 

****** RESULTS ******
CLICK HERE for Official YCCS Website & Full Results