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Oats set for busy lead-up to Sydney-Hobart

AAP logoAAP 30/11/2016 Adrian Warren

Eight-time line honours winner Wild Oats XI is poised to have her busiest December racing schedule leading into the Sydney to Hobart, as her crew seek redemption for last year's retirement.

The 2016 fleet stands at 93 and contains four supermaxis and 12 international yachts.

With last year's line honours winner Comanche not returning, Wild Oats XI looms as the one to beat in the 72nd version of the race starting on Boxing Day.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards stressed the supermaxi would be much better prepared than last year, when the campaign ran out of time to fully test its vastly remodified boat.

Richards attributed the retirement to crew issues rather than technical failings and said there was a different attitude to 2015 when some crew flew in shortly before the race rather than committing to the program through the year, as had happened in 2016.

"We've done a lot of quality sailing, a lot of quality miles, thousands of miles and good racing up at Hamilton Island race week," Richards told AAP.

He said apart from its annual appearance in the Big Boat Challenge, Wild Oats XI was likely to contest the two CYCA trophy races two weeks before the Sydney-Hobart which it didn't normally do, making it potentially one of the boat's busiest December racing schedules.

Wild Oats XI's owner Bob Oatley died a couple of weeks after last year's race, but Richards said there was never any doubt the boat would contest the 2016 event.

"They (the Oatley family) have the utmost respect for his passions and this was one of his biggest passions," Richards said.

"To have not finished the race last year, it would be a crime not to give her the opportunity to redeem herself ... everyone is very positive."

The biggest opposition to Wild Oats is expected to come from the other three supermaxis, Perpetual LOYAL (LOYAL), Scallywag, which was formerly Ragamuffin 100, and CQS, which took line honours in 2004 as the 90ft-Nicorette, but has been lengthened and revamped.

Ludde Ingvall, who skippered Nicorette to line honours 12 years ago, will be in charge again, but the rebuilt boat remains something of an unknown quantity despite getting line honours last week in New Zealand's Round White Island race.

"There's no point even worrying about it (CQS) until you get to line up against them," Richards said.

The TP52 boat Balance will endeavour to be the first yacht in 51 years to win back-to-back overall titles.

The international line-up includes two boats representing both Hong Kong and China, plus entrants from Germany, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom.

Adrienne Cahalan will become the first female to contest the race 25 times.

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