‘Alfa Romeo' and its skipper, Neville Crichton, are literally racing across the Pacific Ocean to take part in the 2009 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race.
Crichton, who won the 2002 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race and the 2003 Fastnet race, and ‘Alfa Romeo', which came second in Australia's blue water classic in 2005 with Crichton at the helm, are taking part in the USA's oldest and longest ocean race, the TransPac, from Los Angeles to Hawaii which starts on June 29.
The return of ‘Alfa Romeo' to Australia for the 2009 Rolex to Sydney to Hobart sets the stage for an epic battle with Crichton and ‘Alfa Romeo' out to break ‘Wild Oats' hold on the event and it will provide the most exciting race in 2005 – the last time ‘Alfa Romeo' and ‘Wild Oats' went head to head in the run to Hobart. Since that race ‘Alfa Romeo' has beaten ‘Wild Oats' every time that have competed, so both super maxi yachts and their crews will have something to prove.
“The TransPac is the ideal preparation for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart,” says Crichton. “We have been racing – and winning – in Europe for the past two years with Alfa Romeo, but tough as some of these Mediterranean races are, they just don't compare to open ocean races in either conditions or length. The TransPac does not have the range of conditions of the Sydney to Hobart, but, even if – or should I say when! – I break the TransPac race record, it's still a much longer event in both time and distance than the Sydney to Hobart. This means ‘Alfa Romeo' will arrive in Sydney fully prepared to smash the record for the run from Sydney to Hobart.”
Its taken 30 years, but Neville Crichton, the leading maxi yacht skipper in Australia and New Zealand, to return to the USA's most important single yacht race and this time, at the helm of Alfa Romeo, he's determined to win.
The Transpacific Yacht Race runs for 2,225-mile (4120 km) course from Los Angeles to Honolulu and is the USA's answer to the Rolex Sydney to Hobart, but its nearly four times longer and heads out into the Pacific Ocean with nowhere to come ashore in case of problems, making it the USA most important single yacht race.
“It has taken me the best part of 30 years to get back to the Transpac Race, but I can't wait,” says Neville Crichton, who, at the helm of two generations of Alfa Romeo super maxi yachts is one of the world's most successful yachtsmen as well as 2003 Yachting New Zealand Sailor of the Year.
Neville Crichton was the skipper of the 42-foot Uin-Na-Mara in Transpac 1979, finishing eighth in the 22-boat B Class. “We were up with the frontrunners until the middle of the race when the winds turned against us – something we will be lot better equipped to avoid this year!”
This summer he returns to the Pacific in Alfa Romeo, the 100-foot Reichel Pugh design some call 'the fastest yacht in the world' … certainly the fastest monohull ever to grace the Transpac race course. And after dominating the racing scene in Europe (having won line honors in 170 races to date in both Alfa Romeos) Crichton no doubt has his eye on Transpac line honors too, and hopes of upsetting the monohull record of 6 days 19 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds set in 2005 by Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory.
“Given the right winds, I firmly believe the race record is achievable, something we could only dream about back in 1979!” Crichton adds. “Alfa Romeo has clearly established itself as the yacht to beat in Europe and, after all our success in Europe, the Transpac will provide our team with a fresh challenge and a race that is unlike anything in which we have competed in Europe, in terms of both the event and our competitors.”
Alfa Romeo will compete in the new “Unlimited” division of RSS 52 waiver yachts (exempt from the Racing Rules of Sailing limitations on stored power) up to 100 feet in length. This class does not qualify for the Transpacific Yacht Club Perpetual Trophy (AKA 'Barn Door') but instead a newly deeded trophy which will debut this summer.
It marks a momentous homecoming for the yachtsman and automobile importer, who purchased his first boat at age 11 from change collected gathering and selling empty beer bottles in his native New Zealand; and who later moved to Hawaii for several years.
Crichton's passion is typical of Transpac racers: once they've had a taste of the competition and downwind thrills, they come back again and again – and from all over the world. Other returning entrants include Ruahatu, from Mexico; Lawndart, Canada; Bengal 7, Japan; and Hawaii's Ragtime – competing in a record 14 Honolulu Races. Forty-seven yachts have already entered this 45th running of the Transpacific Yacht Race, with Close of Entries still two months off (May 27). Transpac 2009 starts begin Monday June 29 with subsequent starts for faster rated boats Thursday July 2 and Sunday July 5.
The Transpacific Yacht Race, 2,225 nautical miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii, is sailed in odd-numbered years as the oldest and longest enduring ocean race in the world. Originally, it was the vision of Hawaii's King Kalakaua as a way to build the islands' ties with the mainland U.S., although he didn't live to see his dream come true in 1906, when Clarence MacFarlane organized the first race. The many famous celebrities who have sailed and won the 44 Transpacs include Roy E. Disney, actor Frank Morgan and such business tycoons as Hasso Plattner, Larry Ellison, Richard Rheem, Doug DeVos, Jim Kilroy and Philippe Kahn. In the past 100 years, Transpac has become synonymous with challenge, adventure, teamwork and excellence.