Rainbow - yacht for sale at YPI

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My Life In Boats: Sailing enthusiast Neville Crichton on his latest 40m J Class purchase

11 November 2022 • Written by Grace Trofa

The serial builder and sailing enthusiast tells Grace Trofa that he is ready to jump back into the fray with a J Class

I was born on a farm on the South Island in New Zealand and didn’t get into sailing until we moved to a house at the mouth of the Whakatāne River in the Bay of Plenty. I started sailing on a 2.3 metre P-Class every Sunday when I was 12. At 15, I went to work, and it was a long time before I could get back into sailing.

In 1977, I bought my first used boat, a 44ft Sparkman & Stephens called Inca. She was a successful ocean racer. When I started with new boats, I could not get a shipyard in New Zealand to build what I wanted, so I put together my own team and in 1982, I built Chanel. She was a William Garden design, 32 metre, and in those days, that was pretty big. That’s how Alloy Yachts came about. I went on to build nine big sailboats with Ed Dubois. In all, I’ve built 50 to 60 yachts, maybe 25 for myself. With racing yachts, the technology is always improving, so there is a constant need to upgrade.

Alfa Romeo
Credit: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The last maxi boat I owned was a 30 metre called Alfa Romeo, launched in 2005 with a canting keel, twin rudders and capable of speeds up to 35 knots. The previous 27 metre Alfa Romeo had been very successful in both the European and Australian circuits. The memory of winning the Transpac sticks in my mind because  I always wanted to do it and it was the easiest distance race; we went downhill all the way and in very good conditions. In the same boat, we also won the Fastnet and the Hobart race. Every race we do, we go into it intending to win. I don’t like coming in second. My most frightening experience was when a crew member went over the side during a Middle Sea Race in rough seas at night with 58-knot winds. He was off the boat for 12 minutes before he was rescued.

Credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

Because of Covid-19, we’ve done no boating for two years now. My current motor yacht, Como, a 49.8 metre Heesen, has been in New Zealand for maintenance. I live on Sydney Harbor, so we have been able to get out on my nine-metre inflatable Sealegs. I can park it right under my house, which is convenient. I just enjoy being on the water.

We will use Como for Christmas and then cruise in Fiji for the new year. I also decided to jump back into racing because I’m stupid. I bought a J Class. I’ve had a few mates who have sailed on J Class and talked me into doing the deal, although I was quite a co-operative listener, I must admit. We are refitting Rainbow to compete in the 2024 season. Erle Williams, who has sailed with me for many years, will be with me on the project. I would like to be successful in the America’s Cup regatta with it and we plan to do all the J Class regattas.

Credit: Jasper Faber

I have been so fortunate in my life, sailed in most of the major ocean races in the world, and won a good percentage of them. I was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, which is like a knighthood, and that was a good moment. I have had challenges, but I just run with them. You make some mistakes; you get on to the next thing. You can’t fix what happened yesterday.

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