Veteran hails Boxing Day miracle as Wild Thing ready for Sydney-Hobart

Stefan Racing has been extended and renamed Wild Thing for  the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Stefan Racing has been extended and renamed Wild Thing for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Photo: AFP/Getty

Sydney to Hobart veteran Carl Crafoord has hailed Wild Thing 100’s journey from the workshop to the start line as a “miracle” and insists it can challenge its rival supermaxis for line honours in the venerable yacht race.

Property developer Grant Wharington, one of sailing’s liveliest characters, spent six months this year extending his 2022 Sydney to Hobart entrant, Botin 80 Stefan Racing, into a fully fledged 100-footer.

Newly christened Wild Thing, the boat is 2.4 metres longer at the stern and 3.7 longer at the bow, sporting new sails to match her heftier size and a fresh pink and black paint job on her hull.

Wharington’s upgrade mission meant Wild Thing missed racing against rival supermaxis Andoo Comanche, LawConnect and SHK Scallywag in the pre-Sydney to Hobart events.

The 628-nautical mile journey to Hobart’s Constitution Dock that begins on Boxing Day will mark its first competitive hit-out.

But Wild Thing’s crew did have the chance to test its sails and get a feel for the new boat when they sailed it down to Sydney from Brisbane just over a week ago.

“We could just tell it’s a huge improvement in the speed but also getting the bow up,” Crafoord, sailing his 37th Sydney to Hobart race, said.

“We had some heavy air downwind and the boat was great.”

Until it made it to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney’s Darling Point, where most of the fleet is docked, there was serious doubt Wild Thing would be ready to race on Tuesday.

Crafoord, who has sailed with Wharington for 30 years, hailed his long-time mate’s dedication to the project.

“Everyone is a doubter, but Grant wasn’t,” he said.

“Grant is a visionary, he’s put this thing together. No one believed he could do it.

“You’ve got to give all the credit to Grant and his team because they’ve done it all and it’s ready, which is absolutely a miracle.”

The mad dash to the start line has been enough to impress Wild Thing’s rivals.

LawConnect sailing master Tony Mutter has known of Wharington’s get-it-done attitude since the pair met in 2005 in Spain.

“I met him when he was busy doing hands-on work,” Mutter said.

“He had five rented chainsaws and he was altering lead bolts with them.

“As each one broke, he picked up the next one. He gets stuff done. I’m a big fan.”

Wild Thing looms as an entirely unknown quantity for the other three supermaxis, of which Andoo Comanche and LawConnect appear the best bets for line honours.

But Crafoord is adamant that despite its haphazard lead-in, Wild Thing is not there to make up the numbers.

“The boat’s actually in very good shape,” he said.

“Is it finished? Probably no. Is it a construction site below? Yes.

“But the boat will be able to sail and there’s a lot more sailing to do.

“We’ve got some very skilled people on board who can sail the boat very well.

“If we can get some good breeze, with the breeze behind the beam, we’ll be in very good shape.”

Sydney to Hobart facts and figures

Fleet: 103

Reigning line-honours winner: Andoo Comanche

Reigning overall winner: Celestial

International entrants: 10

Race record: Comanche, One day nine hours 15 minutes 24 seconds (2017)

Largest boats: Andoo Comanche, LawConnect, SHK Scallywag, Wild Thing 100 (9 metres)

Smallest boats: Currawong, Sylph VI (9 metres)

Oldest boat: Sylph VI (1960)

Boats launched this year: 7


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