HOBART - Neville Crichton, the skipper of triumphant New Zealand maxi Alfa Romeo, says it takes the best sailing crew in the world to win the globe's ultimate off-shore classic.

The Kiwi titan took line honours in the 65th annual Sydney to Hobart race overnight, her first in the event, for her 146th consecutive ocean classic victory.

Never headed after leading the 100-strong fleet out of Sydney Heads on Boxing Day, Alfa arrived in Hobart at 12.02am (NZT), completing the slow 630 nautical mile voyage (1,170km) in two days, nine hours, two minutes and ten seconds.

Asked what made the winning difference, Crichton said: "We've got the best crew in the world.

"The Rolex Sydney to Hobart is the ultimate. To win that is a good one to have in your resume," he said, adding it was hard work.

The 100-footer was last defeated in 2005 by Wild Oats XI in this race, when the record was set of one day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds.

"It was nice to come back and beat them," he said.

The masterful victory by the internationally accomplished crew ends the four-year consecutive line honours reign of Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, set to finish more than two hours behind the winner in second place this year.

Crichton said Alfa asserted her staggering credentials from the start, gradually building its lead throughout the race and holding off a late charge on Monday from Wild Oats.

But the winner of just about every other off-shore race in the world also caught a decisive breeze in waters off the NSW/Victoria border on the first morning that eluded her rivals.

"We were in front at that stage and that wasn't what did it ... it wasn't just one puff that did it, I can assure you," Crichton said.

Although, the Kiwi salt lauded the race he said he would not be returning next year to defend the title in preference to racing in Europe.

His crew is about 50-50 New Zealand-Australian but Crichton said he felt a sense of Kiwi pride taking the Aussie race.

Should Alfa win the race on handicap she will be only the seventh boat in the history of the classic to take the double of line honours and overall winner on corrected time.

Yendys, Ran and Shogun were heading the handicap honours predictions late on Monday.

Richards said Wild Oats, chasing a record fifth consecutive line honours win, reduced its deficit to Alfa from 32 nautical miles to 11 on Monday.

The boats are almost identical in their construction.

"The boys have just been fighting the whole way, trying everything we possibly can," he said just before rounding Tasman Island for Hobart.

Richards said it was a dignified defeat and not the thrashing that was shaping on Sunday.

"The boys know we've been the fastest boat on the racetrack today," he said.

ICAP Leopard will take third place after a decision to change course to find a breeze in the race's overwhelmingly light conditions becalmed her on Monday, costing second place.

Fourth-placed Investec Loyal, a yacht crewed partly by sporting stars including boxer Danny Green and Wallaby Phil Waugh, was more than 70 nautical miles off the pace, followed closely by Ran, Ichi Ban, Lahana, and Yuuzoo.

There have been five withdrawals from the race so far, leaving 95 competitors.

- AAP