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Battle lines drawn between Wild Oats XI and the 'beast'

WILD OATS XI skipper Mark Richards is confident he has just about every base covered as he strives for a sixth Sydney to Hobart line honours victory and revenge against a boat described as a beast by its new skipper.

Wild Oats XI has notched five firsts and two seconds in her seven-year history in the race, and is two victories from equalling the record tallied by Morna/Kurrewa IV.

Last year, Bob Oatley's boat trailed Investec Loyal, as it was known then, by just three minutes in a titanic race to get to Hobart first. Modifications have Richards convinced her weakness in light air has been eliminated and left her with no deficiency in other conditions.

''We're confident we've got just about everything covered,'' Richards said.

Ragamuffin Loyal has had no major changes. ''We've just made it work a little bit better,'' said Syd Fischer, who has chartered last year's line honours winner and added his traditional Ragamuffin tag to the boat. ''The boys have worked very hard, they have been right through the boat and found lots of little things that need fixing.''

Fischer is still coming to terms with the awesome power of his super maxi. ''It's a beast and … I'm bloody bewildered how were going to sail this thing.'' Richards said: ''The first night is critical, getting through that and then doing a good job in the nor-easters.''