Only 32 minutes and 10 seconds separated CRICHTON and his crew from breaking the 243-mile course record set by CRICHTON's former 90-foot Alfa Romeo maxi yacht in 2003.
By CRICHTON's own admission the race had been quite straightforward, 'Not too many adventures as we had light air right around the track,' he said, shortly after his arrival dockside at Yacht Club Italiano. 'I don't think we even had any water come up on deck, so it was just a very, very easy race. I don't really know where we could have gone any quicker to be honest, and, considering there was no wind, we are quite happy with our performance.'
It was 05:43 CEST on Thursday morning when Alfa Romeo rounded the Giraglia rock, 80 nautical miles ahead of her fellow competitors and sailing at a speed of 9 knots. Only better wind conditions could have helped the silver-grey maxi yacht to sail any faster as everything on board went smoothly throughout the race. 'We rounded the rock absolutely without a problem,' said CRICHTON. 'We didn't stop once during the race. No breakdowns, nothing. Everything went very well- we didn't even tear a sail.'
Alfa Romeo's race was made considerably easier by the absence of her main rival, Wild Oats XI, whose owner Bob OATLEY (AUS) had decided not to participate in the long Giraglia race. Even so, the crew of Alfa Romeo including tactician Michael COXON (AUS) had a true test on their hands in the prevailing light airs if they were to beat the course record set on the old, conventional keeled Alfa Romeo. The question whether or not the presence of Wild Oats would have spurred them onto a faster time should not take the gloss off another fine performance.
During the inshore race series in Saint-Tropez, the super maxis often found themselves short of space on the compact and crowded start-line. On one occasion Alfa Romeo fouled a smaller boat when trying manoeuvre and had to do a penalty turn to rectify the situation. So, as one of the largest boats in the offshore race fleet, Alfa Romeo was more than happy to take advantage of Wild Oats XI's absence to find more room at the start. 'We took it easy off the starting line, got clear, and once we got clear of all the little boats then we pushed the boat and had a great race,' commented COXON.
Early this morning at the Giraglia rock it was only a light wind and the sunrise that welcomed the sliver-grey maxi. 'We were very concerned about having a park-up,' COXON said in reference to their arrival at the iconic rock. 'We were approaching there a bit after 5 o'clock in the morning, and it's not unusual for the wind to shut down completely. As it was there was not a ripple on the water, it was a smooth as glass. But our rig is so high that there was a wind mixing a little higher up. Probably halfway up the rig we were actually receiving about 6 or 7 knots, which means we were only sailing in an average of 4 or 5 knots. But in that light breeze we kept the boat going almost double the wind speed and we were doing probably 8 or 9 knots in about 4 or 5 knots breeze.'
CRICHTON and his crew were welcomed at the docks of the Yacht Club Italiano by the YCI president Carlo CROCE, the claps of the spectators and big bottles of champagne. Alfa Romeo secured a number of trophies today including the Rolex Trophy, the René Levainnville Trophy and a Rolex Timepiece for being the first classified yacht in elapsed time, along with the Beppe Croce Trophy for being the first yacht to round the Giraglia. And, as the only boat to have finished so far, she is in pole position to win the IRC category on corrected time. CRICHTON will know from experience that this prize is in the lap of the wind gods and is already thinking ahead when asked about plans for the 2008 edition of the Giraglia Rolex Cup saying confidently, 'We're going to come back and break our own record.'
Behind Alfa Romeo, Carlo Puri NEGRI's (ITA) Atalanta II led a small chasing of boats around the Giraglia rock in second position at 11:14, closely followed by Damiani Our Dream at 11:16, and Silvano BORTOLI's (ITA) Quinta Santa Maria at 11:31. One hour later came Ernesto GISMONDI's (ITA) Edimetra VI at 12:35.