by Edward Rowe
Alfa Romeo, the Australian-built super maxi owned and skippered by Kiwi yachtsman, Neville Crichton, has smashed the race record in the TransPac race by more than a day, arriving in Hawaii in the fastest time in the 103 year history of the event, further confirming Alfa Romeo as the yacht to beat in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart race in December.
Neville Crichton - Transpac 2009
Alfa Romeo and Neville Crichton crossed the finish line just after midnight on Saturday 11 July Hawaii time, with an elapsed time of 5 days, 14 hours and 36 minutes, beating the previous race record by one day, one hour, 27 minutes and 51 seconds. Indeed, so quick was Alfa Romeo’s completion of the 2225 nautical mile race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, she came tantalisingly close to beating the multihull record – an amazing feat for a monohull.
The only issue faced by the crew was the problem of ocean debris. Six times they had to stop – or back down – and take down all the sails so that fishing nets, sheets of plastic and seaweed caught up in floating debris could be removed from the keel and the rudder. Each time they stop it cost more than 30 minutes, or more than three hours in total, around the same time Alfa Romeo came within the multihull record.
But Alfa Romeo has added the two prizes that really matter – her 141st line honours and a new race record to – her race record.
'It was a very good race, no problems, other than having back down to clear litter from the keel and the rudder,' said Skipper Crichton at the finish.
'The highlight? Crossing the line in Hawaii, winning the race and smashing the race record. Alfa Romeo performed faultlessly, taking everything that the race threw at her in her stride.
'At the start we decided to steer a course north of the rest of fleet to look for more consistent wind and then come back down with a good push behind us: in fact the boat sailed at speeds of up to 25 knots, only a little under 50 kmh. The tactics paid off and the yacht and her crew responded as they always do, in other words giving their all.'
For Crichton it was also a form of home coming, with the Kiwi businessman living and working in Hawaii from 1977 to 1982 and competing in the TransPac 30 years ago, when he promised to come back – and win.
'I have waited 30 years to come back and do the TransPac and the team and I have enjoyed this event at every level, from the welcome we have had from the people running event, as well as the spectators and the public, to the professionalism of the event team, which has been excellent,' says Crichton. 'It has exceeded all our expectations and I am honoured to be added to the winners list – and to have laid down a new challenge for future yachts to try and beat.'
On board with skipper and owner Neville Crichton were some of the top names in sailing: from Olympic champion Ben Ainslie to members of the Ericsson Ocean racing team and Stan Honey, the great TransPac expert who dictated the tactics for the race.
This edition of Transpac will go down in the history of the event with maxi yacht Alfa Romeo as the undisputed star for the whole of the race. She received a huge send off in Los Angeles from crowds of well-wishers and hundreds of thousands of American sailing fans following her progress via internet.
Neville Crichton's début in US waters certainly lived up to his many supporters' expectations: he crossed the line first, smashing the record set in 2005 by Morning Glory.
And so in her first race of the 2009 season, sailed in relatively unknown waters against many opponents she had never met before, Alfa Romeo won her 141st Line Honours, underlining once again that she really is the fastest maxi in the world and preparing the ground for the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
'The Rolex Sydney to Hobart is very different race to the TransPac and although this win must place us as the front runner in December, there are still some five yachts that could reach Hobart first,' says Crichton.
'However, we have just completed some four times the distance of the Sydney to Hobart with total reliability, with a crew who now have a vast range of experience in a wide range of conditions. In a race as tough as Rolex Sydney Hobart that is extremely significant and important. I can’t wait to be at starting line with Alfa Romeo for the Rolex Sydney Hobart. I think it will be one of the best races the event has ever seen.'
For more than a century the Transpacific Yacht Race has seen teams from across the world brave 2225 nautical miles - or more than 4100 kilometres - of the open Pacific Ocean. In other words the distance separating the 'City of Angels' from Honolulu, capital of the marvellous Hawaiian archipelago and wonderful setting for this unique event.
The Transpac was first raced in 1906 and takes place every two years. It has become a byword for challenge, competition and adventure, each race a display of great team spirit and top level technical skills.
The last edition of the event in 2007 was won by Pyewacket skippered and owned by Roy E. Disney, one of the heads of the famous US Studio and nephew of Walt Disney, the renowned animator, cartoon artist businessman and filmmaker.
Competitors come from across the globe, with Australia, China, Japan, Mexico, Peru and Spain providing some of the very best teams.
ALFA ROMEO II RESULTS
Skipper: Neville Crichton
July 2009 TransPac Line Honours, Race Record
Oct 2008 Barcolana Race Line Honours
Sept 2008 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 4 x Line Honours, 2 x Corrected time wins
June 2008 Boat International SuperYacht Regatta 3 x Line Honours, class & event wins
June 2008 Rolex Giraglia Race Line Honours, new race record
June 2008 Rolex Giraglia Cup 3 x Line Honours, 2 x Handicap win
May 2008 Rolex Capri Race Week Maxi Class Event Win, 2 x Line Honours
May 2008 Pirelli Cup Maxi Class Event Win, 4 x Line Honours
Oct 2007 Barcolana Line Honours, race record
Sept 2007 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 5 x Line Hons, 1 x Handicap
August 2007 Rolex Fastnet Retired
August 2007 RYS Trophy, Scandia Race Week Line Honours, Class win
June 2007 Superyacht Cup 1 Line Honours Win
June 2007 Rolex Giraglia Cup Offshore Race Line Honours
June 2007 Rolex Giraglia Cup Regatta 2 x Line Honours to take event
April 2007 Hublot Palmavela Regatta 5 x Line Honours to take event
October 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race – offshore race Line Honours
October 2006 Barcolana Race Line Honours
Sept 2006 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 4 Line Honours, event win
June 2006 Rolex Giraglia Cup Offshore Race Line Honours
June 2006 Rolex Giraglia Cup Regatta 2 Line Honours, 1 Handicap win
April 2006 Hublot Palmavela 4 x Line Honours wins
Dec 2005 Rolex Sydney