Had the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race started a day later, the 90-footer Alfa Romeo would have threatened Nokia’s 1999 race record, owner/skipper Nevile Crichton said in a dockside interview at Hobart’s Constitution Dock.
Whilst Alfa Romeo’s elapsed time of 2 days 4 hours 58 minutes 52 seconds was 9 hours 10 minutes and 50 seconds outside Nokia’s record, it was still the second fastest time for a line honours winner in the 58 year history of the race.
Crichton said that at times his boat reached speeds of 26 knots in the second half of the race, as the pressure built as they sailed around Tasman Island.
Nevertheless Crichton is very happy to have achieved line honours on his second attempt. “We didn’t break the record but we didn’t break the boat either,” he said.
Crichton said that he was confident of a line honours victory throughout the last day of the race despite the challenge from downwind flyer Grundig. “This morning the closest boat was 20 miles behind us and they had no tactical advantage. We sailed conservatively.”
He said the race had been “great fun” and “very easy”, and that they had only needed to change sails twice in the 630 mile race.
Five tonnes of keel had to be added to Alfa Romeo to make her eligible for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and the boat will now be reconfigured with water ballast for her international campaign. “We can get her up to 35 knots with water ballast,” he said.
However, even though the heavier keel slowed the boat down Crichton did not believe that cost him the race record.
“With water ballast the boat is capable of the mid-30’s but we never had the breeze,” Crichton said.
Crichton said he was delighted with the boat and its preparation. He said that if he had to sail the race again there is very little that he would change.
He said that, two sail reaching was the worst angle of sail for Alfa Romeo and that was what they had had to do for most of the race. Yet they still won!
The best part of the race was just before 6 pm tonight when he crossed the finish line, but reaching speeds of 25 knots under Tasman Island had been a great feeling as well.
After modifications in New Zealand the 90ft will compete in the Millennium Cup, Alfa Romeo will go to the northern hemisphere to compete in the Transatlantic Race and compete on the international maxi circuit.
Crichton said that he may return to do the Rolex Sydney Hobart in two years time but not with the current Alfa Romeo. He did not know whether it would be in a maxi next time.
As well as praising his boat, Crichton was also vocal about the quality of his 26 man crew, “They are mostly Australian and New Zealanders, with a couple of poms rejected from their cricket team.”