Alfa Romeo took line honours in Genoa at just before 8pm (local time) on Thursday evening, after 243-miles of excruciatingly slow sailing from St-Tropez.
The Kiwi 90-foot Maxi finished in a time of 31 hours, 32 minutes and 11 seconds, over nine hours outside the course record she set last year in more favourable conditions.
But owner Neville CRICHTON was relieved just to have finished before sunset, when there was a danger of the light breeze vanishing altogether. The crew's decision to re-rate the boat under the IMS handicap system and bring on a large Code 0 sail paid dividends. Crichton commented: "Coming into the coast, if we hadn't had that big genoa we'd have struggled quite hard. We ran completely out of breeze at the Giraglia rock, and it helped us then, too."
With Atalanta II and Black Dragon match racing for second place and still some distance from the Genoa finish line in a dwindling breeze, Crichton even held out some hope of winning the race on corrected time. "I think they'll struggle out there. We're glad to have got in when we did."
Crichton said he'd start his celebrations with a shower. "Then the team will find a restaurant and we'll have a few beers. We haven't been drinking all week, so it will be good to relax.
Alfa Romeo won the Beppe Croce Trophy by being first to round the Giraglia Rock at 0915 this morning, almost an hour and half before Magic Carpet Squared, the Wally Maxi owned by L'Oreal CEO Lindsay OWEN JONES. Rounding the rock just three minutes after the Wally was Nokia Enigma, Charles DUNSTONE's lightweight Maxi.
Alfa's line honours victory was made all the more easy by the shock retirement of close rival Idea SAI, after the failure of the Italian Maxi's spinnaker halyard block system less than two hours after the start in St-Tropez.
Another disappointed crew will be that of Damiani Ourdream, the rebranded Maxi which won last year's race to Genoa on corrected time, when she was still known as Alexia. Massimo de LUCA and his team may yet be unaware that they have been penalised for breaking the line early in St-Tropez.
Meanwhile, the smaller yachts in the 186-boat fleet will still be rounding the Giraglia Rock. A mile from the northern tip of Corsica, this tiny craggy outcrop is the home of a lighthouse and nothing more. And yet the Giraglia has come to symbolise this challenging race, which after 52 editions has rightly become established as a classic in the Mediterranean offshore racing calendar.
The Giraglia Rolex Cup has been sponsored by Rolex for the past seven years, with BMW and San Pellegrino as co-sponsors. The Giraglia Rolex Cup 2004 is the largest yet, with 186 teams from 15 countries, and more than 20 yachts competing in the spectacular Maxi division. The regatta reaches its climax with the 243-mile offshore race from St-Tropez in France to Genoa in Italy, via the ancient Giraglia Rock a few miles from the northern tip of Corsica.