Wild Oats XI to participate in simulated helicopter rescue exercise in preparation for Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

With the emphasis being on safety as much as speed for Rolex Sydney Hobart Race line honours favourite, Wild Oats XI, the yacht’s crew will take part in a simulated helicopter emergency rescue on Sydney Harbour on Wednesday, December 21 as part of their preparation for this year’s race, which starts on Boxing Day.

Working in conjunction with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, the 30-metre long supermaxi, which is owned by Bob Oatley, will be the focal point for a simulated rescue on the waters of Farm Cove, near Sydney Opera House, at 1.15pm on the day.

Key Wild Oats XI crew members will be briefed on rescue and recovery procedures by a helicopter rescue crewman who will be aboard the yacht. When those instructions are completed the helicopter will move in and execute the ‘rescue’ of a man in the water. To bring added realism to the exercise, the crew will fire off a smoke flare prior to the helicopter arriving on the scene.

The public will be able to watch all the activity from the shoreline around Farm Cove.

‘When things go wrong on a supermaxi like Wild Oats XI they go wrong very rapidly, so it’s imperative that we have all bases covered when it comes to safety,’ said Wild Oats XI skipper, Mark Richards. ‘This point was driven home to us with stark reality when the supermaxi, Rambler 100, lost her keel and went upside down in little more than a minute during the Rolex Fastnet Race, out of England, last August.

‘Fortunately Rambler 100 capsized during daylight and all 21 crew were rescued – 16 from the upturned hull and the remaining five from the water.’

The Chief Pilot of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service (Southern Region), Peter Yates, said the simulated rescue involving Wild Oats XI would also benefit his organisation:  ‘Just as is the case for the yacht crew, there is nothing better than practice, and while this exercise is taking place on Sydney Harbour it helps keep us sharp for any real emergency, be it in an offshore yacht race or part of any other water activity.’

Wednesday’s exercise has been designed to benefit all ocean racing events as it will be filmed by Rolex Sydney Hobart organisers, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. The plan is to use the ‘rescue’ vision as part of the syllabus for the CYCA Medical Management for Mariners course run in conjunction with Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital.