New Zealand Yacht Wins Classic Australian Race
Wind is slow, and that means some boats in the race will not finish until New Year's Eve, Thursday
Last updated on: December 29, 2009 12:14 AM
The New Zealand yacht Alfa Romeo has won the annual Sydney to Hobart race in Australia. Light winds made the race sluggish, with the winner crossing the finish line in the Tasmanian state capital about 15 hours off the record for the 1,163 kilometer voyage.
Alfa Romeo crossed the finish line at Constitution Dock in Hobart after just over two days and nine hours.
The boat's trip down Australia's southeast coast was hampered by fickle winds, but it managed to easily outrun its nearest rivals, including former winner, Wild Oats, which had won the last four years.
The slow winds mean that some boats in the race will not finish until New Year's Eve, Thursday.
Alfa Romeo skipper Neville Crichton also has won the race before, but says this time is much sweeter.
"Every win is a good win but it has taken me four years to come back and do it, so it was even nicer," Crichton said. "Twenty-two guys on (board) and we have got the best crew in the world. Sydney to Hobart is the ultimate and to win that it is a good one to have in your resume. We have done it twice and do not need to come back again."
The yearly run from Sydney to Hobart is one of the iconic events on Australia's sports calendar. This year saw 100 entrants, including boats from New Caledonia and Spain as well as the United States.
Yachts representing the British military also competed. They are involved in a yearlong training exercise for troops, many of them recently back from duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Another vessel was crewed by sailors with disabilities.
The race was first held in 1945 and the fleet has a long history of being tested by wild weather and monstrous waves.
This year, with the trip taking so long, some boats at the back of the pack are rationing food and water. One skipper says when the wind suddenly disappeared, he sent his crew off to play cards while the boat bobbed in open water.
The race record was set in 2005 when this year's second-place boat, Wild Oats, completed the voyage in one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes.
Participants invariably spare a thought for the six sailors who died when a storm hit the fleet in 1998, a tragedy which resulted in an overhaul of safety standards for this race.