OFFSHORE SUMMER 2023/2024 | Wild Thing 100

In the world of 100-footers, it is not often that we get to welcome new members. With rising labour and material costs, these yachts, which regularly steal the spotlight, are scarce. However, this year we were able to add another one of these spectacular racers to the roster. ‘Wild Thing 100’ is the brainchild of proud owner and skipper Grant Wharington, better known as ‘Wharo.’

The recently rebuilt ‘Wild Thing 100’ has been transformed over the previous six months, extending its Length Overall (LOA) from 80 to 100 feet. The goal in mind? Complete the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as a 100-footer. With this massive task ahead of the crew and owner, there wasn’t much time to spare to finish the extensive modifications and deliver the yacht to Sydney from the Gold Coast. To fully appreciate the effort of the team, let’s put it into human terms. This change would be the equivalent of having open-heart surgery, rolling out of the hospital, and then completing a marathon or a wrestling match. Wharo told us everything about what inspired this drastic change and what makes his program
tick. It’s safe to say that this story is a pretty wild thing…

WILD THING 100, Sail no: AUS 100, Owner: Grant Wharington, Design: Maxi, Country: AUS

Reflecting on earlier yacht design, Wharo explained that you had to come up with ingenious ways to have a long boat with a low handicap. Owners were rewarded for innovative features such as eliminating spinnaker poles or reducing sets of spreaders. The first rig on the original Wild Thing featured two sets of spreaders on a 40-metre mast. The turning point came when handicap limits were lifted; one of the main changes that this brought was that maxis were becoming much wider.

Quickly jumping to 2018 when Wharo purchased a Botin 80 called ‘Stefan Racing.’ He said, “I had the idea of extending the boat to 100 feet pretty soon after buying it. As an 80-foot yacht, it had a very wide beam, which was the new trend for maxis like LawConnect and Comanche. And in all honesty, it was quite an average 80-footer, but I saw its potential. The hull had a great foundation to extend it, especially when compared to the costs of building a new hull.” With this realization, the game was afoot, the million-dollar question that was left to answer: “How do we make it longer overall and not blow out the handicap too much?”

SAILING – SOLAS big boat challenge 2022 – Cruising Yacht Club of Australia – 6/12/2022
ph. Andrea Francolini/CYCA STEFAN RACING

Having previously sailed on Syd Fischer’s the rebuilt Ragamuffin, he shared, “Syd had a hands-on approach, and I learned a lot from sailing with him. During the rebuild of Wild Thing 100 I was in between projects at work, so I was at the yard helping every single day. Wharo’s hands-on approach and trade background played a pivotal role in this process.” Despite doubts from others, Wharo and his team remained optimistic and passionate about this project.

To avoid delving too deep into the technical aspects of boat building, we asked Wharo to explain the mods in layman’s terms. “We cut the boat in half in front of the mast and stuck four metres of midbow in between those pieces, and then we put another two metres of stern at the back.” Now that doesn’t sound too complex, does it? Unfortunately for the Wild Thing team, it was. What the team accomplished with these specific changes was, of course, extend the LOA, but it also moved the mast further back by two metres. Ticking another box that is popular in modern yacht design. With the mast further back, you can run larger headsails while improving airflow when overlapping sails, the foot of each head sail is consequently two metres longer and all of this eventually translates into speed, lots of it. The number one hurdle for the team would prove to not be the actual rebuild but getting their compliances approved by the DNVGL. The biggest driver for boat speed is LOA; an increase in that would theoretically mean that the boat would be able to go faster. Consequently, the hull gets put under more stress. Because they started life at 80 feet, all the panels on the hull and deck had to be rechecked to see if they would be able to withstand this potential additional load as a 100-footer.

Wharo laughed: “In the 2022 RSHYR, we reached up to 32 knots in Stefan Racing, so we were not sure how much faster we would be able to go. Anyways the engineers had to calculate what the new pressure would be like at 100 feet, and this meant we had to reinforce parts of the boat with stringers and bulkheads.” Compliance sorted, new sails flaked, team ready, let’s go training then right? Don’t think so!

With unforeseen additional work, Wild Thing 100 would only be actually sailed while delivering it to Sydney ahead of the RSHYR. “We pulled the sails up as we left the Gold Coast; it was a building nor’easter, so that was an exciting. Nothing major failed, and we made our way to Sydney quickly. We were greeted at the CYCA by friends, family, and media. It was a great moment, but we still had work to do, so we put our heads down and got the boat as dialed in as we could.”

WILD THING 100, Sail no: AUS 100, Owner: Grant Wharington, Design: Maxi, Country: AUS

The pro-am crew is mostly the same from Stefan Racing; this meant that Wharo knew how people would fit in and how the mindset and team works. “You soon figure out who you want to sail with. I am very lucky with my team; I just want to thank everyone that joined in with Theo, Paddy, and Tylor for putting in the hard yards and never giving up.” Matt Pearce, Wild Thing 100 team member, professional sailor and sailmaker at Doyle Sails Australia vouched for the quality of the build: “The boat operated faultlessly, a few small things happened but that is the case for Andoo Comanche or LawConnect too – that’s just sailing. We had a few gaps in our performance, but we are ready to tackle those areas head on”.

Admittedly the boat did not place where a 100-footer should. Is that an issue? Not necessarily, under the creed of finishing the boat, getting to Hobart, not break sh*t (Wharo’s words), and building a solid team, this campaign was extremely successful and truly one-of-a-kind. As the 6th boat across the line in between the 80 and 60 footers, the team is now focused on working out the kinks and making this giant go fast: “We are nowhere near knowing the full potential of the boat, so we are keen to figure it out. The biggest change will be adding a J0 to our sail inventory.” A sail that is flown from the masthead to the end of the bowsprit; this sail can be used to sail upwind in light wind and then it gets used again when sailing downwind in heavier breeze. “Not having the J0 was why our performance was not as good as it could be, so we are excited for this sail to arrive.” Many have asked if the boat will get a new rig as it still has the same mast as Stefan Racing, and the answer is not quite yet. There is undoubtedly too much to figure out, and as the lightest 100-footer, they want to keep that advantage, and a taller rig will mean a bigger handicap and more weight.

Not surprisingly, there were many doubters: “There ain’t enough time mate.” However, addressing the skeptics, Wharo stated, “There were a lot of doubters, but those who know me best knew it wasn’t going to not happen.” Drawing parallels to his past experiences such as getting “Brunel” ready for the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in ‘05/’06, he emphasized the importance of proving one’s capabilities through actions, saying, “The proof is in the pudding. I’d like to be known as someone who bites off more than they can chew and then chews like hell.”

WILD THING 100, Sail no: AUS 100, Owner: Grant Wharington, Design: Maxi, Country: AUS

So, what’s the takeaway from the Wild Thing 100 story – listen to your instinct, work for what you hold dear, map out a plan and then jump into action. An incredible congratulations to the entire Wild Thing 100 squad for the journey they have completed over the last six months and a special shoutout to Wharo for generously sharing his insights and stories. Wishing you all smooth sailing, you wild thing!

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