SPORT — Alfa Romeo throws down gauntlet to Wild Oats

SPORT - Alfa Romeo throws down gauntlet to Wild Oats

Neville Crichton’s super maxi, Alfa Romeo, is leaving a trail of smashed race records across the Pacific as she heads towards a head-to-head battle with Australian maxi Wild Oats in December’s Rolex Sydney Hobart. The Kiwi yacht demolished the race record last weekend in New Zealand’s HSBC Coastal Classic, following annihilation of the TransPac Race Record in July.

Alfa Romeo set HSBC Premier Coastal Classic history when she crossed the finish line in Russell, Bay of Islands, to set a race record of 6 hours, 43 minutes and 32 seconds.

Starting at Devonport Wharf in Auckland, and finishing at Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands’ township, Alfa Romeo wiped more than 36 minutes off the 13-year-old record held by the pink multihull Split Enz, achieving an average speed of 17.9kts on the course.

The 30m boat owned by New Zealander Crichton has accumulated 142 line honours victories, and marked her return to NZ with line win number 143, all with Crichton at the helm.

Apart from a very early challenge put on by the 9m trimaran, Timberwolf, the super maxi commanded a lead from very early on, taking advantage of the strong southwest conditions to stretch her legs and power up the coast, reaching Flat Rock soon after 11am, about 15 minutes inside record time, and the Hen and Chicken Islands at around 1.30pm, 25 minutes inside record time. By the time they rounded Cape Brett the boat was 80 minutes ahead of the time she needed to set history.

Sailing a rhumb line course, apart from a slight detour outside the Hen and Chicken Islands, Alfa Romeo reached the last milestone, at approximately 3pm, passing inside the infamous ‘Hole in the Rock’, where she slowed down briefly, dropped from a jib top and staysail down to a jib, and tacked into the Bay doing speeds of around 12kts.

Crichton, a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and who takes pride in sailing under the NZ flag, said that by carrying a spinnaker on the first leg to Kawau they were able to put sufficient distance on the multihulls, so that even though the 25-knot beam reach from Tutukaka to Brett was better suited to the multis, they didn’t have time to make the required gains before the beat from Brett.

“We are very happy and it’s a nice homecoming to New Zealand,” Crichton said at the finish. “And it was a perfect preparation for the Rolex Sydney Hobart, our next major challenege!”

HSBC Coastal Classic
Top finishers on line

Boat name/elapsed time

1. ALFA ROMEO 06:43:32
2. TAEPING  07:30:59
3. X-FACTOR 07:37:03
4. FRANTIC DRIFT 07:58:35
5. ATTITUDE  08:01:06
6. TIMBERWOLF 08:09:41
7. DIRTY DEEDS 08:16:00
8. EXODUS 08:16:11
9. SUNDREAMER 08:26:19
10. LUCIFER 08:32:17