Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton's Reichel Pugh 100, set a new elapsed time record for monohulls in the Transpacific Yacht Race by making the 2,225-nautical mile crossing in 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes and 20 seconds (subject to ratification). The sixteen-man crew beat the previous course record set by Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory in 2005 of 6:16:04:11 by over a day. Alfa Romeo II crossed the finish line at 00:36:20 am HST on Saturday.
Crichton, who lived in Hawaii for a period of time, sailed his first and only Transpacific Yacht Race prior to this one 30 years ago. Crichton's sailing program has changed considerably since 1979 when he raced in a 42-footer and finished eighth in a 22-boat fleet. Crichton and his fleet of Alfa Romeo sailboats have taken line honors in 171 races. Crichton's wins include races considered the Holy Grail of offshore racing – the Fastnet and the Sydney Hobart. Crichton looking forward to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race said, “There will be six 100-footers in the race. Five are certainly capable of winning the race.”
Following the win when Team Manager, Murray Spence, was asked to elaborate on what it took to prepare the boat and team for the race, Crichton stole the microphone and responded, “Money.” Everybody laughed and no one could argue. Crichton said that he was very happy with the race. “We had no mechanical problems: not one.”
Crichton's team included Stan Honey, Ben Ainslie, Michael Coxon, David Endean, Ryan Godfrey, Stan Honey, Andrew Hutchinson, Phil Jameson, Lance Jenkins, Gavin McPherson, Peter Merrington, Murray Spence, Craig Sattherwaite, Joao Signorini, David Rolfe, Tony Mutter and Alfa's shore crew, Ian Goldsworthy.
Honey has a 50% batting average when it comes to winning the Transpac. He boosts his Transpac wins to 11 with Transpac 2009. Among the Transpac records that Honey set are the fastest corrected time of any singlehanded sailor in a monohull (set in 1994 on Illusion, a Cal 40 and superseded), the fastest Transpac passage in a monohull of any singlehanded sailor; and the fastest passage in a monohull (set in 1999 on Pyewacket, a Santa Cruz 70, in 1999, also superseded.) Honey has also been aboard fastest passage and fastest 24-hour runs in the Atlantic as a crew on ABNAmro One, a Juan K VOR 70 and Playstation, a Morrelli & Melvin catamaran. Those records have been superseded. Honey is on call with Franck Cammas and Groupama to go for a 'round the world record.
Honey's comment on his Transpacific crossing aboard Alfa Romeo and the weather conditions that enabled the team to break the previously set 24-hour run record in the Transpac, established in 2005 by Morning Glory , was “We had steady winds. We never had a slow spot.” During Transpac 09, Alfa Romeo had a 399-mile day, a 423-mile day and a 393-mile day.
When asked when he knew that Mother Nature had given Alfa Romeo the conditions to set a new course record, Honey said, “About three days before the start.” The weather shaped up perfectly for the 100-footer.
During the race, Murray Spence, the team manager, reported, “The Volvo guys on board are saying that this sailing is their reward for toughing it out around the world. This sailing is definitely a long way from sailing upwind in 45 knots with 3 degree temperature.” Over half a dozen members of the record-breaking team flew directly from the completion of the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race and having set 24-hour monohull records on Ericsson 4, a Volvo Open 70.
Transpac 09 was the first distance race in the open ocean that America's Cup helmsman, Ben Ainslie, has sailed. Ainslie got the team off to a roaring start when he nailed the pin at the start of the race on July 5 off of Point Fermi, the southernmost point in Los Angeles.
After the team received their leis and were chauffeured in vintage Alfa Romeo cars from a dock at Aloha Tower, romantic island gateway for the steamships that delivered travelers to Hawaii in the early 20th century.Tom Garrett, Vice Commodore of the Transpacific Yacht Club welcomed the sailors by saying, “It's one thing to beat a record, it's another thing to obliterate it.”
Mark Hazlett, the Chair of the 600-member Honolulu Committee from three clubs gave Crichton and his crew a genuine Hawaiian Aloha welcome when he said,”Welcome back to Waikiki Yacht Club.” Crichton, who lived in Hawaii for a number of years, was a member of the club. Garrett introduced Crichton and the crew to the newly deeded Merlin Trophy and invited Crichton to visit Newport Beach for a formal presentation of the Clock Trophy. The several hundred pound trophy permanently resides at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.
Following a press conference, the team and the well-wishers kicked off the first Hawaiian Aloha party of Transpac 09. Cades Schutte LLP and Jimmy Buffett's Restaurant & Bar hosted the party at Waikiki Yacht Club.
Among the many trophies that Crichton's Alfa Romeo team, also the top foreign entry in Transpac 09, will claim is the Merlin Trophy for the fastest elapsed time for the Unlimited Class of yachts competing in the Transpac Race. The Unlimited Class yachts are RSS 51 and 52 waiver yachts (exempt from the Racing Rules of Sailing limitations on movable ballast and/or stored power) up to 100 feet with the shortest elapsed time. These boats are ineligible for the Barn Door Trophy. The trophy, built by Ken Gardiner, is a scale model of Merlin, the famed Bill Lee-designed 68-footer.
Crichton will have the honor of setting back the Clock Trophy, or the Transpacific Yacht Club New Course Record trophy. The Clock Trophy was donated by Roy E. Disney and is awarded to any monohull yacht that establishes a new elapsed time course record. Tradition calls for the winner of the trophy to reset the clock to show the new course record. Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory established the current course record of 6:16:04:11in 2005.
The remaining 46 boats in the fleet are racing toward Hawaii and hoping to win elapsed time and corrected time honors within their divisions in addition to numerous other awards for completing and competing in the world's most enduring and greatest ocean race.