|HOBART, AUSTRALIA-(28-12-2005) A disappointed Neville Crichton, skipper of Alfa Romeo, said the race was won and lost at Green Cape in South East Australia at daybreak yesterday. Alfa Romeo finished an hour and sixteen minutes behind race winner Wild Oats XI.
With his boat just slightly ahead as the two maxis approached Bass Strait, Crichton opted to protect his position offshore and head out to sea while Wild Oats chose to head inshore. “We thought the breeze would come in from offshore”, Crichton said,”All our weather routing told us that it would be offshore. We made a blue. They got the breeze before us. They were doing 18 knots and we were doing 8.”
From then on Alfa Romeo would have to play catch up in a downwind contest that was always going to be difficult. “Before the race we thought we were quicker upwind and they were a bit faster than us downwind. They have bigger spinnakers than us. We went for smaller spinnakers to get the rating advantage.
“Wild Oats is slightly narrower and has more of a banana curve. It means she runs faster (downwind) and we are better upwind,” Crichton said. “Unfortunately this was a downwind race.”
“We threw everything we could at it. We gybed in and out trying to make them follow us, hoping they would make a mistake. But they didn’t make a mistake.”
Crichton was driving Alfa Romeo so hard that last night they blew out three spinnakers.
Both Wild Oats’ Bob Oatley and Crichton concur that their boats, worth about $10 million each, designed by the same designers and both built by McConaghy’s yard in Sydney, are almost identical. Crichton launched Alfa Romeo six months ago. Wild Oats XI first hit the water in December.
So is Crichton disappointed about being beaten by an almost identical boat?
“Maybe they’re smarter than I am. Maybe if we had had someone we could have copied with a perfect boat we would have done the same. I would rather they hadn’t copied the boat but they’ve done it. That’s life unfortunately.
“They sailed a good race and they beat us.”
And will he be back with Alfa Romeo next year? “Right now not in a million years, but who knows…”