A View From The Top
Sure, big money won this one. It doesn’t make it any less impressive….
The last day of the Transpac onboard Alfa Romeo began dodging a few rain cells at dawn. It is a case of trying to stay in the pressure on the front edge of the clouds and avoiding the hole behind the clouds. Stan revised his tactics slightly as we were generally sailing fast enough to run with the pressure in front of the cloud, whereas slower boats would need to gybe back and forth to stay in the favoured pressure.
By now we were far enough along the Trades that we could start gybing to the south on favoured shifts. It was around this time also that we realised that not only was the race record within our grasp, but that there was a strong possibility of beating it by more than 24hrs. This was something that we had consciously pushed to the back of our mind to stay focused on sailing the boat.
Late in the day we ran through various scenarios for the approach to the Molokai Channel and the expected increase in wind. The increase turned out to be enough for an exhilarating ride averaging around 23kts boat speed, but not too much to require a sail change and we were able to hold the A2 gennaker until a couple of miles from Diamond Head when we peeled to the R2 reacher to cross the finish line at just past midnight local time.
That last part of the race was unforgettable. The boat handled like a dream and reveled in the fast surfing conditions as the bright tropical moon illuminated first Molokai and then soon after Oahu with its cascades of yellow street lighting flowing down the hillsides to the waters edge.
We were met at the finish by escort boats that guided us into the commercial harbour to our berth below the Aloha Tower. We had made it.
After a short presentation of Leis to the boat and crew at the dock we were driven in vintage Alfa Romeo cars to the Waikiki Yacht Club for a press conference and the traditional welcoming party sponsored for us by Jimmy Buffet’s restaurant.
Neville was right when he jumped in and replied "Money" when I was asked at the press conference what it took to prepare the boat for the race. But what this answer glossed over was the way he spent the money. Making sure every detail was covered to make Alfa Romeo excel in the Transpac race. New lighter mast, six new sails and numerous other small changes to optimise the boat for the race.
There are not many owners prepared to spend this amount of money keeping a yacht in peak racing condition while actively having the boat for sale.
There was also the gathering of a talented crew that could not only drive the boat hard, but also hold it together for the 2,225nm of the race, something that Neville always takes on personally.
At the end of the day we are ever in the hands of the wind when records are aimed to be broken, however Neville gave the crew the weapon to use when the suitable conditions prevailed and we thank him for it.