Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Club Barker: Team NZ's biggest fans

Framing the TV set is a makeshift banner where someone has scrawled "Go Dean-Go Ray" with a marker pen on pieces of paper.

Intently watching the set, huddled up like one big family, are 60 adults and children sitting in plastic stacker chairs, some of the smaller kids still in their pyjamas.Wafting in from the outside deck is the aroma of a barbecue breakfast.

This is the Murrays Bay Sailing Club - humble right down to its sand-blasted 1950s weatherboards, yet proud of its success and sense of purpose. This is the place where Dean Barker and Ray Davies learned to sail.

Framed photographs of them as youthful champions leaning out of dinghies dot the wall and their names are inscribed on the slab of kauri that is the club's honours board.

The section for Olympic and world champions has 26 entries, starting in 1973 - barely 15 years after the club started in the infant suburbs of the North Shore's East Coast Bays.

One photo shows Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton, wearing a tie, as coach of the 1988 NZ Youth Team in the P-Classes.

Also in the photo is a teenage Ramon (Ray) Davies who, the year before, won the P-Class premier inter-provincial trophies.

His younger friend, Barker, had his first big wins in yachting in those P-Class events too.

Looking at them on television is the club's next generation of sailors and their intensity shows they are inspired.

The youngsters clap loudly for their heroes when Barker and Davies are shown after the first race yesterday - though they lost.

Working in the kitchen, Sheryl Rogers and Leslie Egnot recall Barker and Davies as young club members.

Barker grew up in nearby Castor Bay and Mrs Rogers, who is on the events committee, said she appreciated how he had never forgotten the club which gave him his start.

"When we invite him to big events for the kids, if he can, he will come."

Ms Egnot won the 1979 top P-Class trophy and went on to achieve international success, including winning an Olympic silver medal in the 470 class and being skipper of an America's Cup challenger against Dennis Conner in 1995.

She is now a high-performance coach.

"I remember Ray as a little toddler wandering around when I was in P-Class and I competed against his older brothers Michael and Len. I did not have much to do with Dean until I got involved in keel boat racing but in the Olympic class sailing regattas, I saw him as the young up and coming through."

Ms Egnot is in no doubt that Murrays Bay and small boats honed Barker's and Davies' skills to the highest professional level. "Out on the race today their reaction on tacking would be instinctive for those who have sailed P-Class; it's the same basic principles; keep everything simple."

- NZ Herald

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