Monday, December 28, 2009

Alfa Romeo has taken line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart

[Source: Rolex Sydney Hobart] Neville Crichton’s New Zealand supermaxi Alfa Romeo has taken line honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, crossing the finish line opposite Castray Esplanade on the Derwent River at 22:02:10hrs for an elapsed time of 2 days, 9 hours, 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

Averaging 10 knots in a reasonably consistent N/NW breeze on the river, the silver maxi made easy work of the final stretch. At last the seasoned crew of twenty two Australian, New Zealand and British round the world and America’s Cup sailors could stop looking over their shoulders.

Crichton led the race from the early hours of Sunday morning when she opened a 20 mile lead on Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI and Mike Slade’s British supermaxi ICAP Leopard.

Alfa Romeo passing Tasman Island on her way to victory. Tasman Island, 28 December 2009. Photo copyright Rolex / Kurt Arrigo

The win is sweet revenge for the New Zealand yachtsman. Four years ago these same, near identical Reichel Pugh designed maxis staged a dramatic dual in the 2005 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

That year it was Wild Oats XI’s turn, beating Alfa Romeo across the line by 49 minutes. Ironically, then it was first use of a wind shift off the NSW coast that gave Wild Oats XI her decisive break. This year it was Crichton’s turn to get the jump, again off the NSW coastline.

After that heartbreaking near miss, Crichton took Alfa Romeo to Europe to campaign on the northern hemisphere circuit. This victory marks his triumphant return to the Australian ocean classic.

The Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI still had 16 miles to go when Alfa Romeo crossed the line, with ICAP Leopard a further 24 miles astern.

Crichton’s victory brings to an end an extraordinary run of four straight line honours wins for Wild Oats XI, including a rare double line honours and handicap win, plus a new course record set in 2005.

This is the second line honours victory for Crichton. He won in 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart with a previous Alfa Romeo.

Despite the late hour, one of the biggest spectator fleets in years, accompanied Alfa Romeo up the final few miles of the 628 nautical mile course, while a sizeable crowd gathered along the foreshore to welcome the victorious crew.

Tonight’s win caps an extraordinary tally of 143 line honours wins worldwide for the 100 footer. This year it has set new records in the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic and the TransPac race.

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