It turns out that our story about Neville Crichton calling his new baby Alfa Romeo III a "pig" and complaining about the builder ‘see ‘Crikey, Croakey below) was based on some seriously faulty journalism in the Sydney Morning Herald, when a SMH automotive writer decided to dabble in yacht reporting for a day. The newspaper removed the story and already has printed a retraction, so now it’s our turn. We figured we’d get it from the horse’s mouth, so we called Crichton today to help sort things out.
SA: So what did you actually say to the Herald journalist?
NC: I told him the truth, and he wrote something else. Sometimes journalists do that!
SA: Can you explain exactly what happened with AR3 and how you modified the design?
NC: We knew pretty quickly that it was just wrong. The chine only seemed to produce more drag in all conditions and the balance of the rig and keel was all wrong. Bella Mente had similar problems with their new boat, and they chose to modify it. We just felt it would be easier to start with a new hull, and Reichel/Pugh stepped right up to design it while of course we brought it straight to McConaghy’s. The comment in the SMH story about the boat being a pig were taken totally out of context, and referred to the boat when we first got her. The redesign is longer, a bit wider, has no chine, and the keel and rig position are totally different.
SA: So McConaghy’s didn’t screw anything up?
NC: Look, I’ve had four boats built now at McConaghy’s and I’ll be going back to them for the next boat. They do a great job and I have no complaints at all with them, they’re great at what they do. Reichel Pugh also deserves respect, they messed up, they fixed it, and we’re very happy with the boat now. Quite clearly, it’s a good one.
SA: So what are your plans with the little Alfa?
NC: Well as you know she’s for sale, and there’s definitely some interest. With business going as crazy as it is, I’m keen for a year off from racing, but if she doesn’t sell, we’ll race her in Europe at Giraglia, Copa del Rey, and then Maxi Worlds in Sardinia. We’ve already ordered a new set of sails and done some other modifications since the first 2010 event in Palma.
SA: What needed to be changed this year?
NC: The biggest change is to the main – the old mainsail was a cut-down and we’ve generally struggled in under 7 knots, so we’ve gone to a 3DL with a bigger head and a different shape. We’ve got new spinnakers and a new zero as well. We’ve also moved the rig position a bit, we think she’ll be a bit quicker all around than she was in Palma.
SA: Assuming you can sell the boat, what’s next for you?
NC: I’d like to stay with the Mini-Maxis, it’s really a great fleet. The owner/driver rule gives people like me a class to go sail in without having to race against all the Cup guys. So hopefully we’ll go back to McConaghy’s to build our fifth boat and race her next year in Europe.
SA: Speaking of the Cup, what would it take to get you involved as a Challenger?
NC: If there was a high performance option for the cup that was affordable for someone like me, of course I’d be keen to get involved! So long as anything I did wouldn’t disrupt what Team New Zealand is doing now.
SA: So you’re a fan?
NC: A huge fan, of course I am – a thousand per cent. They’re great guys, all mates of mine, and many of them sail on my boat.
SA: So if not a Kiwi challenge, would a Neville Crichton challenge come from Australia?
NC: Well it all depends on where the money’s coming from doesn’t it? With all of our time in Europe, we’ve met a lot of potential sponsors in Italy, so my gut feel is that it would come out of there if it came from anywhere.
SA: One more thing Neville – that same SMH story quoted you as calling Bob Oatley "the most unsportsmanlike" of everyone you’ve sailed again.
NC: That was bullshit, like a lot of that article. The question was put to me "what did Oatley say to you after you won the race," and I told them I never heard from him. They said something like "that’s not very sportsmanlike," and I probably agreed, but that’s all. Bob Oatley isn’t one of my mates, but I’ve got no problems with him. And his boat’s full of my mates! Ricko, the skipper of Wild Oats, was over my house for Christmas dinner the night before the Hobart, so that’ll tell you how close many of us are.
SA: Thanks Nev, you rock.
NC: Thanks for helping clear up the confusion, and make sure you come sailing with us next time you’re around.