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Page last updated at 22:17 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Alfa Romeo claims Sydney to Hobart race line honours

Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo took line honours in the 2009 Sydney to Hobart race

New Zealand yacht Alfa Romeo was the first boat across the line in the 2009 Sydney to Hobart race on Monday.

Alfa Romeo, skippered by Neville Crichton, reached Constitution Dock in the Tasmanian capital in two days, nine hours, two minutes.

Defending champion Wild Oats XI, a four-time winner, was two hours behind in second, with British boat Icap Leopard eight hours back in third.

Wild Oats XI holds the race record of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes.

It was the second line honours victory in the Sydney to Hobart for Crichton - he won the 2002 race with another yacht named Alfa Romeo.

He also finished second to Wild Oats in 2005 with his current boat.

"It was nice to come back and beat them," Crichton said. "We've got the best crew in the world. This race is the ultimate, a good one to have on your resume."

Alfa Romeo led from start to finish but its advantage of 20 nautical miles (23 miles, 37 kilometres) on Sunday and early Monday was reduced to just 12 nautical miles over Wild Oats XI late in the race.

But by the end Crichton's team had re-established a sizable lead, crossing the finish line to the sounds of the horns of nearby yachts in the harbour and cheers from spectators on shore.

At the back of the fleet on Monday, the smaller, slower boats were finding no breeze in the normally challenging Bass Strait.

"We are in a parking lot," said Michael Bellingham, the navigator of Loki. "It's time to break out the cards."

The calm conditions were forcing skippers on the slower boats to restrict food and drink, while some yachts are likely to spend New Year's Eve at sea.

The annual classic began in Sydney, Australia, on Boxing Day.

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