America's Cup: Skippers set about scoring points during torture time

By Paul Lewis

The Jimmy and Dean show is getting lively.

The two America's Cup skippers could not be more different: Jimmy Spithill outgoing, talkative, more pugnacious in attitude, striking an American pose to get US support on board - disarmingly frank even when he is on the defensive, like yesterday; Team New Zealand's Barker is much more introverted, careful with his public pronouncements, never departing much from the party line - he prefers less talk, more action on the water.

Their interaction - apart from that on the racecourse - only takes place in the after-race press conference, a necessary but refined bit of torture for the skippers. It has nonetheless been an interesting platform from which to watch them score points off each other.

So far, all national bias aside, Barker - who has a droll sense of humour and wry put-downs that still stay within his less-talk, more-action format - probably has a narrow lead in the thrust-and-parry stuff.

Spithill is good value overall, however. He fronted up yesterday at the media conference knowing he'd cop it for pulling out of Race 6 because the team is not performing well.

He also scored points earlier by refusing to blame the absence of banned wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder for the defeats in the first two races, nor a slightly damaged wingsail and he admitted Oracle were being beaten by the Kiwis in tacking.

JS: "We want to keep the Cup here in the Bay. These guys don't. They want to take it to New Zealand, which is a long way away. We want all the people of San Francisco to get behind us; it makes a big difference and gives us a competitive advantage."

DB: (with wicked grin) "If we take it to New Zealand, you can just buy a new house down there [Spithill has an American wife and kids and lives in San Diego]."

JS, asked whether tactician John Kostecki would be on the boat for Race 6 after some questionable tactics yesterday: "You can be a rooster one day and a feather duster the next, mate ... I don't even know whether I'm going to be on the boat."

DB, asked whether he'd replace the tactician after a race like Oracle's yesterday: "Oh, I don't think you can blame any one person. It's a team thing."

JS (on preview video, before America's Cup racing began): "I wouldn't say we're particularly close; he comes from a more privileged background whereas I had to fight and earn almost every single thing I have today."

DB (same video): "We know they are a very strong team, he's got a very strong group of guys around him - there's no doubt they will be formidable opponents."

JS (same video, released before the match but after the ACWS cheating saga): "For the past couple of years we have been match racing each other in multi-hulls; he hasn't beaten us once when we've faced each other head to head." ETNZ won the first two America's Cup races and now lead 4-1 after five races, 4-0 on the official scoreboard.

DB (same video): "We know each other well, have raced each other in the America's Cup World series, and there was mixed results there between both teams."

JS, asked a wonderfully theatrical, made-for-TV question about two minutes long from CNN's Richard Simmonds about whether he was sailing aggressively: "These boats are either full throttle or nothing. It's like trying to park a car with the accelerator down."

DB grins when asked by the same reporter whether Spithill was the more aggressive sailor: "Whatever you say, Richard." Laughter.

- NZ Herald

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