HOBART // New Zealand's Alfa Romeo won the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race yesterday, completing a start-to-finish victory ahead of four-time defending champions Wild Oats XI. Alfa Romeo, skippered by Neville Crichton, crossed the finish line at Constitution Dock in an unofficial time of two days, nine hours and two minutes, well off the race record due to light winds. Wild Oats XI, holder of the record of one day, 18 hours and 40 minutes, set in 2005, finished more than 90 minutes behind, followed by British yacht ICAP Leopard.
Alfa Romeo led the 100-yacht fleet out of Sydney Harbour on Saturday and never relinquished the lead. The New Zealand yacht made it interesting in the final hours, seeing their lead of more than 37km cut to 14. But Alfa Romeo re-established a sizable lead at the end, crossing the finish line to the sounds of the horns of nearby yachts in the harbour. Crichton said several hours earlier that he considered his yacht and Wild Oats XI in a match race, and would follow the Australian yacht if it decided to change its course in an effort to pick up more wind. "We will cover them whenever we possibly can," he said. "We won't let her go out on a flyer without us being there."
Investec Loyal, who have a crew that includes the former Olympic 1,500m swimming gold medallist Grant Hackett and world boxing champion Danny Green, were expected to finish fourth early this morning. Alfa Romeo finished second to Wild Oats in 2005, the yacht's only other Sydney-to Hobart-race and the first of Wild Oats' four successes. At the back of the fleet yesterday, the smaller, slower boats were finding no breeze in the normally challenging Bass Strait and the calm conditions were forcing skippers to restrict food and drink.
* With agencies