Wednesday July 2, 2003
Alfa Romeo, the high-tech Australian built and crewed super maxi that won the 2002 Rolex Sydney to Hobart, found strong winds and changed sails an amazing 24 times in smashing the race record by more than two hours in one of Europe's leading yacht races - the Rolex Giraglia Cup.
Last weekend's victory in the 243 nautical mile race from St Tropez to Genoa in the Mediterranean came at the end of an outstanding week for Alfa Romeo, her skipper Neville Crichton and the 24 strong crew from Australia and New Zealand, which saw the 90 foot super maxi win line honours against 120 of Europe's top boats in the three inshore races that support the main race.
Alfa Romeo, which was the only yacht in the race from the southern hemisphere, left St Tropez with favourable winds enabling what is arguably the most advanced racing yacht in the world to average more then 20 knots.
After passing Giraglia skipper Crichton sailed on a more easterly route than the rest of the fleet and benefited from strong winds, which took him to within 50 miles of Genoa, when winds dropped and Alfa Romeo entered Genoa Harbour at 11 knots some 22 hours and 13 minutes after leaving St Tropez, two hours ahead of the race record that has stood since 1998.
"Winning the Giraglia was one our aims in our European season and we have achieved it," said Crichton at the finish. "We raced to win right from the start. Alfa Romeo demonstrated how she is equally at home in strong and light winds, but it did mean that during the race we changed the sails 24 times, more than once an hour, so that we could maximize the new Code Zero sail specifically to meet the needs of the high changeable Mediterranean winds.
"The Giraglia and the Fastnet race are the two top races in Europe and, along with the Sydney to Hobart, are the three top races in the world," explains Crichton. "Alfa Romeo has now won the Hobart and the Giraglia, which leaves the Fastnet in August. Frankly, we cannot wait to get to Cowes and try and make it three out of three!"
Alfa Romeo will now leave the Mediterranean and head for the Cowes in the United Kingdom for Cowes Royal Yacht Regatta in the first week of August with the Fastnet Race the culmination of a week of world class racing on 10 August.
In one of the largest sponsorships of an Australian team or event in 2003, Alfa Romeo is sponsored by the Italian performance car maker which has made the Australian yacht the centre piece of its marketing and advertising programme for 2003 across the whole of Europe.