Barker back in the drivers seat
Tuesday July 4th 2006, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selectedA final practice race this afternoon in close to perfect conditions off Castellon not only offered a final chance for crews to check in with their opposition, but it immediately proved again that racing at this week’s Breitling MedCup is going to be close and exciting.
Of the 19 boat fleet, 11 raced part or all of the informal windward-leeward practice race that ,was contested in a steady 11 knot sea breeze which kicked up a slight chop. Ominously the first to show was Peter de Ridder’s Mutua Madrilena which broke smartly from the pin end of the start line and went to the left to round the first mark first.
If that was all to familiar for those who sailed at Punta Ala in May, so to was the steady progress through the fleet of Steve and Fred Howe’s series leading Warpath.
The Punta Ala winner rounded the first windward buoy in sixth place and steadily worked through the fleet to finish hard on the stern of Bribon, the TP52 class winner at the Sardinia Cup last month. Bribon were happy to bury any superstition about not winning the practice race and kept Dean Barker and the Warpath crew astern to cross the finish line.
Superstitions were also hopefully buried for Siemens. The Rolex TP52 Global Championship winners had a less than stellar regatta in Punta Ala, finishing 15th carrying their fleet bow number 13. In the stronger breeze this afternoon they proved to have good speed. With Ian Walker taking over steering and Dee Smith on tactics, Siemens crossed the finish line third.
“In Italy 13 is a lucky number and so we will stick to that and be happy," said Siemens charterer Pedro Perello. "We have made some changes and we seemed to have good speed this afternoon and are much more confident. If you are confident then we sail better. We need the same confidence we had in the worlds and Malaga. I think we lost that confidence in Punta Ala, and I think we do our jobs better."
Dean Barker was happy with his afternoon’s work. After an all too brief break since winning Act 12 at the weekend, and clinching the overall America’s Cup season 2006 with Emirates Team New Zealand, Barker was happy to be back behind the wheel of Warpath, relishing the chance to try to put his Emirates Team New Zealand team-mates aboard Mutua Madrilena in the shade again.
“The last few weeks have been pretty intense but we were delighted with the way the semi-finals and the finals went, and it is was really good racing and we were happy with the end result," said Barker. "I think that here we will see that teams will be very much improved since the last time we raced. A few boats did the regatta in Sardinia and some raced in Valencia so the standard will definitely be higher. The fleet is very, very even. I wouldn’t say it is hostilities, it is more of a rivalry between us. It is pretty friendly. We have done a few minor tweaks since the last regatta, but we are just learning how to sail it better, learn how to do it.
“I think between the top few boats there is really not much between them and when you line up you really can’t tell too much different. I think that everyone will have their bad race and you just have to try to minimise the damage from those. It will be more down to boat positioning and how you sail your boat.
“If we had those conditions it would be fantastic. The boats are just great in that 10-14 knot wind range. I think the course lends itself to good racing between many boats and I think it would be difficult to put your money on just one or two boats.
Mutua Madrilena’s, Peter de Ridder said: “We got a little tied up with Anonimo, which did not start properly and lined up alongside us and cost us a couple of places. I think we were a little rusty and we need to de-rust a bit. It was good, though, with Vasco on board and with Cheese and Jono.” Said .
Racing is due to start Wednesday with the priority being to complete a maximum of three races if breezes permit on the first day.