GBR Challenge take first match

Nigel Cherrie reports on a day of light breeze matches from the Hauraki Gulf

Thursday February 14th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia

Ten minutes in the first race, GBR 52 and Team New Zealand squared up. The pre-start was an anti-climax but Beadsworth won the pin end of the line and headed off to the left hand side of the course while Dean Barker sailed the black boat over to the right.

Fundamentally, the race was won and lost there as Barker and tactician Hamish Pepper found more pressure. When the two crossed, known as the moment of truth in match racing, NZL-60 was over 15 boat lengths ahead.

The gap at the windward mark was three and a half minutes. At one stage Team New Zealand looked so far in front that it was hard to distinguish them from the OneWorld and Victory match up ahead. Credit where it is due though and by the finish the crew of GBR-52 had closed to within two minutes of the America's Cup holders.

By the second set of matches, the breeze had reached a respectable 11 knots. This time it was Dean Barker versus Jesper Bank. Both know a thing or two about match racing and it showed in the pre-start scuffle. Barker held Bank out to windward of the startline and over three minutes passed before NZL-60 officially crossed the start line and led Orn up the windward leg.

Barker applied loose cover for the rest of the race to win by one minute and four seconds, maintaining his unblemished match racing record. That itself is a worry prospect for the challengers.

Barker, in his usual understated fashion, heaped praise on his crew who he said had "done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances" and gave him "the best opportunities to win the race".

"The crew is really strong. If you are behind there is a really good chance there will be an opportunity somewhere to pass," continued the Team New Zealand skipper.

However Jesper Bank, who has won two Olympic titles in match racing, was frustrated with his form. "It is obvious that we can not engage in any tight duels, either on the race course or before the start because, speaking for myself, I am not sharp enough yet. I think they (Team New Zealand) do a marvellous job and we do try our best but they set themselves up perfectly every time. I was hoping for more from our side".

Continued on page 3...

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