Crichton, Comanche return for Sydney Hobart Race
Published on November 29th, 2017
The 73rd running of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 628 nautical mile blue water classic, Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, will have amid the field two-time winner and one of the world’s most successful ocean racing yachtsmen, Neville Crichton, who is coming out of retirement for one last bid to achieve a hat trick of wins in the race to Hobart.
Crichton, who declared on the dock in Hobart after winning the 2009 race that it would be his last win and his last maxi yacht race, will be at the helm of the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winning yacht, Comanche.
Newly christened ‘LDV Comanche’ in honour of one of the brands his vehicle distribution business handles in Australia, the 100-foot super maxi will carry the colours of LDV’s latest product, the LDV T60 Ute, on its sails as it heads south on Boxing Day.
“I know I said back in 2009 that that race would be my last, but I am sure I am not alone amongst sailors arriving in Hobart who swear that they would never line up on Boxing Day for another race to Hobart,” says Neville Crichton, who been sailing competitively for 60 years. “The tipping point, what made the attraction of this year’s race overwhelming, was seeing that at the head of this entry list is a yacht I won with in 2009 and the yacht I beat to line honours that year combined with the ability partner with Jim Clark to enter the one yacht which, given the right conditions, will be able to beat both of them to Hobart.”
Neville Crichton has joined forces with the 2015 line honours winner, Jim Clark, to enter the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with the 2015 winner now called ‘LDV Comanche’ and for the 2017 race he will also be using most of the 2015 race winning team.
“Using Jim’s crew was the easiest decision to make,” says Crichton. “They know the yacht backwards and how to get the most out of her and, as sailors on the best super maxi in the world, they, too are the best sailors in the world.”
The crew on LDV Comanche reads like a who’s who of the sailing world. It includes two-time America’s cup winner and 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Winner Jimmy Spithill (Australia); Eleven time winner of the Transpac race and round the world race winner Stan Honey (USA); round the world race winner Brad Jackson (New Zealand); Olympic and round the world sailor Dirk de Ridder (Netherlands); Multiple America’s Cup sailor and Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Warwick Fleury (New Zealand); America’s Cup sailor, Nick Burridge (New Zealand); Olympic, America’s Cup and round the world sailor Shannon Falcone (UK); Rolex Sydney Hobart race winner on Comanche, John Von Schwarz (USA); six time round the world racer and seven time America’s Cup competitor, Tony ‘Trae’ Rae (New Zealand); Sydney Hobart winner on board Comanche and the sport’s ‘Mr Fixit’, Casey Smith (Australia); Extreme sailing expert Stuart Pollard (Australia); round the world sailor Justin Slattery (Ireland); Rolex Sydney Hobart winner on Comanche Keats Keeley (USA); round the world sailor David Rolfe (New Zealand); project manager Tim Hackett who has managed some of the leading teams around the world.
Launched as ‘Comanche and now called ‘LDV Comanche’ for the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the 100-foot maxi racing yacht holds a remarkable list of records, all of which show her to be the ideal yacht for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. The yacht holds the 24 hour sailing distance record for monohulls and the trans-Atlantic crossing record of 5 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes and 25 seconds.
In addition to the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, she won the no less tough Fastnet Race. This year she smashed the monohull record in the Transpac race with an average speed of 20.2 knots. The record she smashed was held by Neville Crichton in the yacht then called ‘Alfa Romeo’ and now racing as ‘Black Jack’ in the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.
‘LDV Comanche’s nickname, ‘the aircraft carrier’, gives away what sets her apart form her two rivals. Indeed, her beam at the stern is so great it could accommodate both Black Jack and Wild Oats XI. Her optimum heel angle is anything over 20 degrees and she has the same wetted surface as Wild Oats XI at 25 degrees. The 46 metre/150 feet high mast sits directly above the canting keel and she designed deliberately to be able to – just – slip under Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Suspended from the mast is a 410 square metre mainsail and in downwind configuration, this expands to a massive 1022 square metres and the largest spinnaker is 1100 square metres. Under the yacht is a canting keel that may be swung out 35 degrees in either direction in as little as 25 seconds, while there is space on either side of the hull for 6.5 tonnes of water in the ballast tanks.
Neville Crichton entered his first competitive yacht race in 1957, the Tanner and Tauranga Cup for P Class sailing dinghies. The trophy he won that day sixty years ago, is still in his collection, although at just a handle full of centimetres high, it is dwarfed by the literally hundreds of trophies he has won in the some of the world’s most famous races around the world during the intervening six decades.
In the 1970s and 80s he was contesting races such as the Admirals Cup, the American Big Boat series, the Southern Cross Cup, the Kenwood Cup and, win 1992, he won the Wold 2 Ton Cup representing New Zealand. It should also be said that at the same time he was also contesting the Australian and New Touring Car Championships, building luxury yachts that created an industry in New Zealand and running highly successful automotive and property businesses in Australia, New Zealand and the USA!
But it was with three generations of yachts named Alfa Romeo that he really racked up the race wins, starting in 2002 with Alfa Romeo 1 taking the Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours. With Crichton as skipper, that yacht went on to win line honours in the Giraglia Rolex Cup, the Fastnet, the Rolex Maxi Worlds, the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Alfa Romeo 2 arrived in 2005 and was even more successful, winning again over and over again, to the point where the Italian media branded him “yachting’s serial winner”. Alfa Romeo 3, a mini maxi, gifted Crichton the one title that had eluded him, handicap winner in the Rolex Giraglia Race, enabling him to claim every trophy in Europe’s preeminent yacht race.
“If someone had said me as I lined up to race that P class dingy 60 years ago that I would have the sailing career that I have enjoyed over the past six decades, it would have seen inconceivable, simply beyond my then imagination,” says Neville Crichton. “But here I am, 60 years after ‘Kurrewa’ took the line honours title in 1957 and I was sitting in the P class waiting for my first race start, aiming for a hat trick of line honours wins in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
“I believe I have best yacht and the best crew to take this year’s line honours and cap off my sailing career. All I need now is the right weather and a little luck and yes, I know, that is what every sailor sitting at the start line in Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day says!”
The race starts on Boxing Day at 1300hrs AEDT and will be broadcast live on the Seven Network throughout Australia.