Alfa Romeo smashes Coastal Classic race record

At 4.43pm on Friday 23 October, the supermaxi Alfa Romeo set HSBC Premier Coastal Classic history when she crossed the finish line to set a new race record of 6 hours, 43 minutes and 32 seconds.

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

 The 30m boat owned by Sydney-based New Zealander Neville Crichton, has already accumulated 142 line honours victories, and is visiting New Zealand for the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic.  Apart from a very early challenge put on by the 9m trimaran, Timberwolf, the supermaxi commanded a lead from very early on, taking advantage of the strong South West 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 an astonishing predicted 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, she 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 12 knots.  Owner/skipper Neville Crichton, a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron who takes pride in sailing under the New Zealand flag, says 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 ,” he says.

Twice winner Taeping was the next boat to Russell, fighting off third placegetting X-Factor and pushing hard to have her own chance at beating the 1996 record, but finishing just seven minutes outside the time required to claim the multihull record. Multihulls took out the next twelve spots on line.

Ran Tan II was the second keelboat to Russell, finishing 14th overall, followed by the new Georgia IRC52, and Wired.

Conditions have been nearly perfect for the fleet of more than 200 boats, most of which finished overnight, making way for the handicap winners to be determined throughout all divisions, but favouring the light, powerful designs that were able to excel in the downwind start but hold their own on the last upwind leg to Russell.

 “Congratulations to the winners,” says John Barclay, Head of Personal Financial Services HSBC New Zealand. “This is a very difficult event, and the sailors have participated in a long and arduous race. To be able to succeed in the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic demonstrates great seamanship, courage and perseverance, so well done to all who took part this year.”

“My team and I have enjoyed the community spirit here in Russell and the chance to meet participants and supporters of the event.” says John Barclay, Head of Personal Financial Services HSBC New Zealand. “We are delighted to be able to bring the New Zealand yachting community together with this significant event – the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic.”

The HSBC Premier Coastal Classic is the biggest coastal yacht race in
New Zealand , and one of the biggest in the world. It started life 28 years ago as a drag race between Auckland and Russell for just a few boats, and over the years attracted a bigger and more diverse fleet, consisting of grand prix racers, America ’s Cup boats, and small family cruisers. 

Organised by the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club, it is a race designed for speed: except for at the beginning and the end of the race, there are few opportunities to use tactics to overtake, and success can often depend on getting a good tactical start.

As well as welcoming back principal sponsor HSBC, the HSBC Premier Coastal Classic is supported by some of New Zealand’s pre-eminent marine companies: Orb, Jucy Rentals, Safety at Sea, Predictwind.com, Harken, Donaghys Southern Ocean, Southern Pacific Inflatables, Sail NZ, Mount Gay Rum, Steinlager, Sunday Star Times, Yamaha Motors NZ, De Walt, Dirty Dog and Trade a Boat.

Hundreds watched the start from Devonport
Wharf , North Head, Orakei Wharf . The race website,
www.coastalclassic.co.nz was updated regularly with photos, commentary and radio positions.

 Top Finishers on Line:

Boat name

Elapsed time
ALFA ROMEO 06:43:32
TAEPING 07:30:59
X-FACTOR 07:37:03
FRANTIC DRIFT 07:58:35
ATTITUDE 08:01:06
TIMBERWOLF 08:09:41
DIRTY DEEDS 08:16:00
EXODUS 08:16:11
SUNDREAMER 08:26:19
LUCIFER 08:32:17
Pantaenius Sailing
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Multihull Group
Pantaenius Sailing
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West Systems 2