Alfa Romeo finally got the gun, but the weather was the winner in the opening race for the small fleet in the IRC Class Division A of the Savills Short Ocean Racing Championship, which began off Sydney this morning.
In a race that saw the wind die away from an 8 knot nor'easter to near dead calms and switch direction 180 degrees, the 30 metre all carbon fibre super maxi took line honours and then won on corrected time by the extraordinary margin of 17 minutes 11 seconds.
Second place went to Geoff ROSS' Yendys which in turn beat Stephen Ainsworth's new Loki by 13 minutes 11 seconds.
Alfa Romeo, Neville CRICHTON's Reichel/Pugh-designed 98-footer, recovered from going 'into irons' on her first tack shortly after the start. The 30m super maxi stalled mid-tack, her huge mainsail depowering. She sat almost dead in the water for about three minutes before getting under way again the light 8-knot northeasterly breeze.
Observers on the water at first thought the big boat might have lost engine power, leaving the crew without hydraulical power to operate the main winches, steering and the canting keel. This had happened during a gybe at Hamilton Island Race Week,
However, owner/skipper Neville CRICHTON said after the race there had been no mechnical problems. 'It was just a stuff-up... lack of co-ordination between myself (on the helm) and the trimmers... and I got her into irons,'
Alfa Romeo overtook her smaller rivals before the first windward mark but as she rounded, the wind fell away to only 3 knots. As she rounded the leeward mark for the second windward\leeward leg, the boats astern of her carried a new breeze, with Sean LANGMAN's Open 66, AAPT, carrying a huge spinnaker before a westerly breeze.
With the wind (what there was of it) coming from three different directions, the Reichel/Pugh 60, Wild Joe, skippered by Stephen DAVID, rounded in second place with Stephen AINSWORTH's Reichel/Pugh 60 and AAPT rounding almost together. Yendys, Geoff ROSS' Judel Vrolijk 52, brought up the tailend.
Alfa Romeo continued to open up a commanding lead, with Crichton confident that 'despite giving the boys a bit of a start'
Alfa Romeo had won the race on handicap as well.
He was right - by a huge margin!