29 December 2014

Wild Rose (Farr 43)

Congratulations to Roger Hickman and his crew aboard Wild Rose, a 29 year old Farr 43 (rating 1.047 IRC), for their fantastic corrected time victory in the 2014 Rolex Sydney-Hobart race, the 70th edition of this ocean racing classic. Wild Rose finished in a time of 3 days, 7 hours and 4 minutes, and took out her corrected time victory by just 39 minutes from Chutzpah (Reichel Pugh 40), and 45 minutes over third placed Ariel (Beneteau First 40), earning her the coveted Tattersall's Cup. 
Wild Rose on Day 4 of the 2014 Sydney-Hobart race (photo Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi/Daniel Forster_Sydney Hobart 2014)
The silverware does not stop there, however, with Wild Rose also taking out Division 4 IRC honours, as well as the IRC Veterans 20 Years division, and first in ORCi Division 4, and second in ORCi overall (to Ariel).

Wild Rose was originally commissioned by Bob Oatley and christened Wild Oats, the first of his impressive lineage of yachts to carry the name, and there is a nice synergy with the fact that Oatley's 100ft super maxi Wild Oats XI took out line honours for the eighth time in this famous race. Wild Oats (the original) was Design #159 in the Farr design list, and followed the success of Design #151 that had spawned such successful boats as Drake's Prayer, Snake Oil and later New Zealand versions such as Switchblade. The Farr 43 had been conceived in the wake of Farr's very successful One Tonners which dominated the 1983 Southern Cross Cup in Australia, the 1984 Pan Am Clipper Cup and other European contests throughout that year. Wild Oats had been a triallist for the Australian Admiral's Cup team in 1985 (the trials were won by Drake's Prayer), and has gone on to compete in the Sydney-Hobart race many times, winning the race overall on IOR in 1993.
Wild Rose in her original guise as Wild Oats, circa 1985 (photo McConaghy Boats)
Wild Rose appeared on the leaderboard early in the 2014 race, along with two other older and lower rating yachts Quickpoint Azzurro, an IRC-optimised S&S 34 and Maluka of Kermandie, the most unlikely of contenders - 80 years old, gaff rigged and just 9 metres long. These early challengers stumbled in the closing stages and the clock ticked remorselessly on, and the 40 footers Chutzpah and Ariel came in fast to grab second and third. As Sail-World observed, the performance of the smaller yachts this year was testimony to the unusual nature of this year's race. Normally the bigger, faster boats race away from the smaller and heavier displacement yachts, and then when they are safely tucked up in port, a monster southerly front is likely to rip through the back half of the fleet for good measure. This year, however, when southerlies made for a more equal fleet, light weather plagued the bigger boats in Bass Strait while further back fresh northerlies whipped the small yachts along in good time. 

Wild Rose surges towards Hobart (photo Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi_Sail-World)
But the 2014 win was not without its dramas. "We had a massive broach in 30 knots this morning with the spinnaker up," Jenifer Wells, Wild Rose’s navigator reported. "We laid her over a couple of times, broke the steering cable and it was looking very dicey. We got out the emergency tiller and pulled the kite down, repaired the cable and we were back racing in 12 minutes." The boat was soon trucking along again and recording bursts of 20 knots over the ground. 

An extensive interview with Hickman by Geoff Waller of Boats on tv, featuring footage from the race aboard Wild Rose can be seen here.

Wild Rose in an earlier Sydney-Hobart race (photo Rolex Sydney-Hobart.com)
According to the official Sydney-Hobart 2014 website, Hickman has long admired Wild Rose since she was first raced by Oatley. There may be no fiercer or cannier competitor than Hickman in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA). He is famous for driving his boat and crew to the limit. At the conclusion of the 2013 Sydney-Hobart, Wild Rose was crowned Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS) champion of the CYCA. She was also in the winning Southern Cross Cup team with Victoire and Patrice, the title riding on the trio's Hobart race results, in which Hickman finished 11th overall for his third consecutive Division 4 win.

Video: Rolex Sydney Hobart Day 5 - Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2014

Hickman’s BWPS season scorecard with Wild Rose reads like a dream: third in the Sydney Gold Coast, followed by consecutive wins in the Flinders, Bird and Cabbage Tree Island races. His worst result for the series was third in the Port Hacking Bird Island race. It was a fifth time in the BWPS winner’s seat - the second as an owner, with Wild Rose. He also claimed the BWPS Cape Byron Series (sailed under ORCi) and the Tasman Performance Series (PHS) of the BWPS. Prior to the 2014 Sydney-Hobart Wild Rose had won Division 2 of the NSW IRC Championship, and one week later was declared winner of Class C in the Australian IRC Championship.

Wild Rose's victory in the 2014 Sydney-Hobart caps off an amazing two years for Hickman and his crew, and demonstrates what can be achieved with an older IOR yacht with good pedigree and constant improvements and optimisation. 

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