Neville CRICHTON has smashed his own course record in the Giraglia Race, after steering Alfa Romeo across the finish line at Genoa at 08:03 hours this morning.
This means the 100-footer completed the 243-mile course in just over 18 hours, a massive improvement on the record set by CRICHTON's previous Alfa Romeo, a 90-footer which set a time of just over 22 hours back in 2003.
The New Zealand skipper said they had a good run all the way up to Giraglia Rock, off the northern tip of Corsica, before 'parking up' for three hours. Then the wind filled in again close to the Italian coast and the supremely efficient Alfa Romeo finished off the job.
The line honours favourite had led the fleet of 170 boats out of the Gulf of St Tropez on Wednesday afternoon. After winning two of the three inshore races of the Giraglia Rolex Cup, CRICHTON also has high hopes of notching up a handicap victory in the offshore race to Genoa.
The fleet bobbed around on a windless Gulf of St Tropez for two hours yesterday until the Race Committee was satisfied the wind had settled down enough for a fair start. The big boats came off the line at 14:00 in 5 knots of wind, although as they made their way to the first Rolex mark about 1.5 miles from the start, the breeze dropped away again to almost zero. Alfa Romeo ghosted her way to the windward mark in first place. The crew sneaked the Code Zero headsail up to the top of the mast and when it set, the 100-footer accelerated like a greyhound, sailing at almost twice windspeed as the breeze returned. However, no sooner had they hoisted but the increase in pressure with a windshift forced them to lower the sail again as CRICHTON bore away to maintain control. A lot of effort for not much reward. Still, it was all slickly done and Alfa Romeo sailed serenely away from the fleet, most of whom were still drifting in less wind back in the Gulf.
Second around the Rolex buoy was Igor SIMCIC's Open 60 Esimit Europa, closely followed by Maxis Atalanta II and Edimetra VI. Gilles ARGELLIES's Brenta 55, Imagine, had just rounded the second turning mark, little more than 2 miles from the start, when the mainsail tumbled down the mast track, most likely due to a broken halyard. It was unclear how long it would take the German team to repair the problem and rehoist the mainsail as they made painfully slow upwind progress under jib. Once out of the Gulf of St Tropez, the breeze increased to 10 knots, with the fleet tacking their way to the Porquerolles Islands before they turn to set spinnakers toward the Giraglia Rock off Corsica.
On Tuesday night, more than 2,000 guest were treated to a spectacular dinner, fireworks and entertainment at La Citadelle, the ancient battlements which look over the town of St Tropez. The winners of the inshore racing from the previous three days received their Rolex timepieces. There was a surprise winner of ORC Group A, when Carlo PURI NEGRI went up to receive his prize for Atalanta II's victory in the division. A number of boats had pointed out an error in the calculation of the length of race 2 on Monday. When the correct distance was factored into the handicap system, Atalanta II was one of the beneficiaries, and the points change elevated her to first overall, displacing Andromeda from the top of the rankings.