Four way tie

Lively day of racing for stars at Swedish Match Cup reports James Boyd from Marstrand

Friday July 5th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Scandinavia

Dean Barker was the force to be reckoned with today

It was a tired but happy Dean Barker who strode ashore this evening as today's leading points scorer to get through to tomorrow's semi-finals in the Swedish Match Cup - the final event in the 2001-2 Swedish Match Tour.

A flat calm has descended over the bay off Marstrand yesterday so the final races of the first Round Robin had to be squeezed in early this morning with the crews having to then follow this with the whole of the second Round Robin. In total an impressive ten flights were held for the eight remaining competitors and it wasan't until 7pm this evening that the crew able to get ashore on this popular Swedish island.

In complete contrast to yesterday's racing the wind this morning piped up to 25 knots and surrounded by white horses, the DS37 match racers had to be reefed. Aside from making the sailing faster it made from some action-packed pre-starts with the crews throwing their boats into manoeuvres with a speed that would never be seen in the America's Cup. "It made it a tough job for the umpires," Oracle's John Cutler told madfor sailing as he tucked into his first beer of the evening (they're off the hook - they didn't make it through to the semis). "It was a tough day," he added. "The racing out here is very close. It was windy and they're very physical boats to sail".

The final races of Round Robin 1 were dominated by American Ed Baird's Stora Enso team, who won all three of their races. Baird is sailing with a crew made up of former Volvo sailors including illbruck's Jamie Gale, Stu Bettany and Stu Bannatyne and SEB's Jon Gunderson. "They commented it was the longest they'd sailed in one period," joked Baird. "They're all used to going off watch after four hours." He acknowledged that their concentration had slipped in the afternoon for the second Round Robin.

The afternoon's racing in slightly lighter conditions belonged to Team New Zealand's Dean Barker and Bertrand Pace, both of whom won five of their seven matches, Barker losing to Peter Holmberg and Jes Gram Hansen and Pace again to Gram Hansen and to his boss. "It looked better than what it was," said Barker. "I wasn't starting well, but the crew work was fantastic. We came from behind to win in two races." Barker is sailed with fellow men in black Hamish Pepper, Tony Rae, James Dagg and Chris Wood. The most hotly contested races were once again between Barker and his former mentor Russell Coutts.

Remarkably once the points had been tallied up after the racing it left four teams fighting for the third and fourth place spots in tomorrow's semi finals. With Barker on 15 points, Pace on 12, the toss up wasa between Ed Baird's team, Coutts and his Alinghi AC crew including Ernesto Bertarelli, Oracle's Peter Holmberg and Jesper Radich Johansen. In the end it was Coutts and Baird who made it through. Coutts commented that the standard of racing has got much higher compared to a year ago when he won this event. "You have to earn your victories this year," he said.

Barker and Peter Holmberg perform before the assembled crowd and the Swedish Match floating hospitality suite (white affair to the right)

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