The supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI is here at the museum for a short visit. Wild Oats and its crew have become an Australian sporting brand, recognised by the public as Australia’s premier racing yacht and team through their dominance of the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race, since Wild Oats XI was launched in 2005. This is Australia’s team, in the eye of the public Wild Oats XI is defending the country’s pride in the nation’s major ocean race – and its public adoration is thoroughly deserved.
Robert Ian ‘Bob’ Oatley AO BEM was a well-known and respected businessman, winemaker, yachtsman and philanthropist. To the Australian public he was best known for his first winemaking company, Rosemount, and his last yacht, the eight-time Sydney to Hobart winning super maxi Wild Oats XI. His business background has been widely covered in the media since his passing was announced, but his wide-ranging support for yachting deserves to be highlighted as well.
The 70th Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race had its heritage well and truly acknowledged when the media launch was held at the museum on Tuesday 25 November, a month and a day before the fleet heads south. The race start is a public ritual; for decades huge crowds have turned out every Boxing Bay to watch the fleet sail down the harbour, and it only took one race for it to become an institution.
That first race in 1945 was a highlight in the drab aftermath of World War II. It captured the challenges, drama and intensity of ocean racing and brought the sport directly into the public’s view. Within months A C Cooper, the secretary of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, indicated that it would be an annual event starting each Boxing Day, and it has never missed a year.