Grand Prix Launches: Alfa Romeo
After lauching his sixth Shockwave last July, Neville Crichton took a moment to admire the 90-foot Reichel/Pugh design. Then he started systematically beating the heck out of it.
Feeling that he and his crew had never quite gotten the hang of his previous maxi, Crichton put Team Shockwave through an aggressive schedule of more than two dozen races and regular practices during the last five months of 2002. "We actually went looking for bad conditions," says Crichton, who signed a sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo not long after launching the boat. "When the weather came in bad off Sydney, we went out and sailed the boat aggressively for four or five days to see what we could break."
Equipped with a heavier keel, and sailing without the water ballast—to meet the IRC limitation for the 58th Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race—the 90-footer still won every race it entered from Hamilton Island Race Week in August through Hobart race in late December, which Alfa Romeo finished in 2d:4h:58m:52s. Though pleased with his first Hobart victory in five tries, Crichton’s convinced they could’ve challenged the course record with a little help. "If it had been any sort of [windy] conditions we would’ve been gone," he says. "No one would’ve seen us. That was the worst conditions we could’ve experienced for the boat."
|© Andrea Francolini|
|Decked out in the livery of its sponsor, Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo sails off Sydney.* * *|
For the 2003 Millennium Cup, Alfa Romeo was one of the smallest boats in Division 1. To make up for the lack of waterline, Crichton stripped 5 tons off the keel bulb—dropping the displacement of the pre-preg carbon fiber boat to 24 tons, a few thousand pounds less than an 80-foot America’s Cup Class boat—and activated a water-ballast system capable of pumping in 13,000 pounds of water in 15 seconds.
Using its maneuverability to ensure great starts and then its speed to escape the from the pack of mega yachts, Alfa Romeo won each of the three Millennium Cup races by an average margin of 3m:24s.
Crichton’s next challenge will be the Fastnet Race this summer. Keeping the winning streak alive through that race will be difficult; potential competitors include the new Mari-Cha IV and Bols Sport, a recently completely 93-foot maxi.
DSPL 48,500 lbs.
Water ballast 13,227 lbs. [three tanks per side]
Design Reichel/Pugh, San Diego
Builder McConaghy Boats, Sydney
Structural engineering SP Technologies, Southampton, England
Spar system Southern Spars
Winches/deck hardware Harken