Neville Crichton, owner and skipper of the super maxi yacht 'Alfa Romeo' and one of New Zealand and Australia's leading businessmen, has been awarded the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy as the Yachting New Zealand Sailor of the Year.
Judged by an international panel lead by renowned yachting commentator Peter Montgomery, International Yachting Judge Richard Gladwell, and Yachting New Zealand's President Geoff Thorpe, Crichton beat a hotly contested field that included Barbara Kendall, Brian Petersen, Ben Morrison, Jon-Paul Tobin and Sarah Macky.
Thanks to a remarkably consistent series of wins that started in Australia, Crichton won almost all the local races he could find to compete in, including the gruelling 2002 Rolex Sydney to Hobart.
From there, he and the team headed to Europe where he picked up line honours in every race at the Rolex Giraglia Cup, smashed the Giraglia Race Record and has just recently won the Rolex Middle Sea Race, being the first ever to take the European Grand Slam of these races in a 12 month period.
These races are highly rated offshore events and are regarded as the 'must do' big boat races in Europe. Add to this impressive list winning the Rolex World Maxi Cup and the renowned Fastnet race, and it is no wonder that Alfa Romeo has been dubbed the world's fastest super-maxi.
Following local support by Italian car maker Alfa Romeo in Australia and New Zealand, Crichton put together one of the largest sponsorship deals signed in 2003 to support an Australian or New Zealand sports team to take the yacht to Europe.
The yacht, Alfa Romeo, provided the car maker with the centrepiece of its Northern Summer marketing and public relations programme, with the yacht starring not just in regattas, but also at motor shows, in car dealerships across Europe and at the international launch in Monte Carlo of Alfa Romeo's newest product, the Alfa GT, in November.
"I am deeply moved and honoured to win this award because it recognises our success by my fellow sailors,"
Crichton said after collecting the award.
"I must also say that it is also an award for the entire crew on Alfa Romeo, as well as the people who designed and built Alfa Romeo. I do not regard any member of the team more or less important than anyone else, everyone is essential to our success and the quality and level of teamwork on Alfa Romeo has been remarkable.
This is an Australian and New Zealand built yacht, crewed by Australians and New Zealanders that has taken on the best boats and crews in Europe and convincingly won. This award recognises this achievement for everyone involved,