WEEKEND WEB - Punters jump onboard Wild Oats XI

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Favorite dominates pre-race Rolex Sydney Hobart betting

WEEKEND WEB - Punters jump onboard Wild Oats XI
WEEKEND WEB — Punters jump onboard <I>Wild Oats XI</I>

Wild Oats XI, the Rolex Sydney Hobart race record holder and winner of four consecutive line honours in five starts, is the punters elect to win line honours for this year’s edition, starting 1pm Sunday.

Alice Springs based bookmaking company Centrebet has Wild Oats XI tightening to almost unbackable odds as a $1.36 favorite. Her nearest dangers, according to punters are Investec Loyal ($5) and Wild Thing ($9), the only two yachts at single figures in betting charts.

That’s no surprise, considering her record, current race form and the fact Wild Oats XI will be crewed by one of the most talented teams imaginable.

Owner Bob Oatley, in conjunction with skipper Mark Richards, has assembled some of the best ocean racing talent from Australia and New Zealand — 17 men and two women — for the 30m long supermaxi’s bid for top honours in the 628nm classic. Between them they have a total of 201 Sydney Hobart races to their credit, and their background takes in almost every major event on the international sailing calendar — the Olympics, the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race, world championships, and world records.

Chances are that every ounce of this accumulated experience will be called on this year if the race forecast from yachting meteorologist Roger Badham holds true. His latest prognosis for what Wild Oats XI and other frontrunners can expect in Bass Strait predicts headwinds from the southwest of up to 40kts and punishing seas. Such conditions will provide the ultimate test for yacht and crew and will almost certainly erase any chance of the race record — which was set at 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds by Wild Oats XI in 2005 – being lowered.

Of the crew aboard Wild Oats XI this year, Steve Jarvin and Sven Runow claim the highest number of starts: 22 and 21 respectively. Navigator Adrienne Cahalan has 18 races behind her — a record for women who have contested the classic — Iain Murray 16 and co-navigator Ian "Fresh" Burns 15. It will be skipper Mark Richards’ seventh race south.

Here is a potted profile of some of the Wild Oats XI crew:

Iain Murray (Aus): Probably the best-known name in Australian yachting. Winner of six consecutive 18ft skiff world championships; competed in the Star class in the last Olympics; winner of world keelboat championships and America’s Cup competitor.

Adrienne Cahalan (Aus): Internationally acclaimed ocean-racing navigator (and mother of two young children). Australian Yachtswoman of the Year 2004-2005; four Sydney Hobart Race line honours; navigator, Volvo Ocean Race round the world; navigator aboard 125ft maxi catamaran Cheyenne, which broke the round-the-world non-stop speed record in 2004 of 58 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds.

Ian ‘Fresh’ Burns (Aus): An outstanding navigator, sailor and yacht designer/engineer. Was the internationally acclaimed design coordinator for BMW ORACLE Racing, the revolutionary trimaran that won the America’s Cup this year.

Stu Bannatyne (NZ): Has raced around the world five times and is the only person to have won the Volvo Ocean race (previously the Whitbread Race) on three different classes of yacht — maxi ketch (New Zealand Endeavour), Volvo 60 (Illbruck) and VO70 (Ericsson). Recently named a watch captain for kiwi entry, Camper, for the next Volvo race. Tactician aboard Alfa Romeo, when she took line honours in last year’s Sydney Hobart race.

Robbie Naismith
Known as "Battler". Considered to be one of the best sail trimmers in the world. He has sailed in five America’s Cups, four Volvo Ocean Races and contested almost every major offshore event in the world. Raced more than 250 days during the past 12 months.
Matthew Mason (NZ): A highly experienced offshore sailor, boatbuilder and shore-team manager with six America’s Cups to his credit.

Wild Oats XI

LENGTH: 30m or 98ft
BEAM: 5.1m
DRAFT: 5.5m
WEIGHT: 27,000kg (dry); 31,000 (fully laden)

MAX SPEED: 35kts
CREW: 19

BETTING (from Centrebet)
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2010 line-honours winner

Wild Oats XI
Investec Loyal
Wild Thing
Ichi Ban
Limit, Loki

Photo: Wild Oats XI.


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