The start of the 2022 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
The long-range weather forecast has left plenty of question marks for Sydney to Hobart racers. Image by Jeremy Ng/AAP PHOTOS
  • sailing

Boxing Day miracle as Wild Thing set for Sydney-Hobart

Jasper Bruce December 25, 2023

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 she can challenge her 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 eight feet longer at the stern and 12 feet 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 her first competitive hit-out.

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

Wild Thing crew member Carl Crafoord.
 Carl Crafoord expects Wild Thing to make his heart sing as he contests his 37th Sydney to Hobart. Image by HANDOUT/SUPPLIED 

“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, told AAP.

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

Until she 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 been sailing 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 told AAP.

“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 her 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.”