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12 February 2003, 10:59 am
Alfa Wins Kawau Island Race
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Alfa Romeo©Max Ranchi

Millennium Cup 2003

Kiwi Neville Crichton's water-ballasted maxi-racer Alfa Romeo powered away from her more stately performance cruiser sisters today to handsomely win the corrected and elapsed time trophies for the Kawau Island race.
The superyachts staged a dazzling display as they marched in close company out of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on the opening leg of the race north through the Hauraki Gulf Islands. The starting gun for the 30 nautical mile race marked the beginning of day three of the New Zealand Millennium Cup Superyacht Regatta 2003.

Powered by a brisk 15-knot southwesterly breeze, some of the biggest, fastest and most luxurious sailing vessels in the world romped down the harbour, threading a lane of waiting spectator craft and watched by crowds on vantage points ashore. As they cleared the starting line, brightly coloured spinnakers and staysails blossomed as skippers fought for position in the confined waters.

Just two hours five minutes and 34 seconds later, the 90-foot Reichel/Pugh-designed racer crossed the finish line off Kawau Island after logging a speed of nearly 15-knots for the run. Just five minutes and 23 seconds behind her, Bob Miller's 146-foot ketch Mari Cha III finished in second place. Three years ago Miller's famous record-breaker was first to finish in the Kawau Island Race.

The112-foot performance cruising superyacht Ipanema, from Brazil, steered by Prada Syndicate's tactician Torben Grael was the third placed boat in Division One.

Prada personnel featured in Division Two as well, where Kiwi-born alternate helmsman Gavin Brady steered the Nautor Swan cruiser/racer Innovision from Holland to an early lead and kept it all the way. The 80-footer owned by Hans Eekhol finished ten minutes ahead of her nearest competition to take elapsed and corrected time honours. Second place went to the custom New Zealand 65-foot Davidson sloop Antaeus, owned and steered by Charles St Clair Brown.

Two boats share the honors for overall winner in Division One after two days of racing. Canon Leopard, a 96-foot fully-fitted racer cruiser owned by Briton Mike Slade and steered by Louis Vuitton Cup winner Paul Cayard, is first equal with Ipanema. In Division Two, the overall winner is Innovision. The series will wrap up with a race tomorrow from Kawau Island to Auckland.

After waiting in vain for wind yesterday, the international fleet of 35 superyachts enjoyed ideal conditions, with a spinnaker run flanking Auckland's East Coast Bays, rounding the Whangaparoa Peninsula and traversing the Inner Channel to a finish off Kawau Island's Mansion House. The owners and their guests dined ashore tonight at a banquet in the grounds of the historic Mansion House.

Jim Pugh, co-designer with John Reichel, reported that Crichton was delighted with the performance of his newest boat. "She's a rocket,"Pugh said. "We were hitting speeds of 20 knots on the run up here. We can fill or empty six tons of water from our ballast tanks in 15 seconds and we were playing with the trim all the way up here."

Miller graciously conceded the race to Crichton. "Alfa Romeo sailed a fine race," he said. "We had some trouble at the start but after we got clear of the harbour we were able to hang to them and even gain at times."

Miller confirmed that he will be launching a bigger Mari Cha IV. "She's still under wraps," he said. "You'll have to wait until June to learn more."

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NZL-20 © Max Ranchi

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Travelex © Max Ranchi

Overall Results Day 3 - Division 1

1=, Canon Leopard, Mike Slade, GBR
1=, Ipanema, Antonio Dias Leite, BRA
3, Unfurled, Harry Macklowe, USA
4=, Ulisse, Mr Bertelli, ITA
4=, Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, NZL

Overall Results Day 3 - Division 2

1, Innovision, Hans Eekhol, NED
2, Antaeus, Charles St Clare Brown, NZL
3, Sariyah, Isam Kabbani, NZL
4, Maya Ray, Dave Wagner, CAY
5=, Tabasco, Pat Farrah, USA
5=, Moonblue 2, Peter Churchouse, HKG

Keith Taylor/ISAF News Editor
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