America's Cup: Barker calm despite bumpy ride

By Dana Johannsen

While Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill insists the tide is turning, Team NZ remain focused on wrapping up the series. Photo / Brett Phibbs
While Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill insists the tide is turning, Team NZ remain focused on wrapping up the series. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Dean Barker's famously even temperament has certainly been tested in this America's Cup match.

The Team New Zealand skipper has twice had the rug swept out from underneath him by the wind limits when his team were strongly positioned in the race. But yesterday, the weather gods played their cruellest trick yet.

On the verge of a historic Cup win with a commanding 1.5km lead over Oracle Team USA down the final run of race 13, the clock ran out. In the light and shifty conditions on San Francisco Bay, the 40-minute time limit came into play and the race was abandoned.

After coming so close to clinching the famous silverware they have been working towards returning to New Zealand for more than a decade, Team NZ suffered their biggest loss of the series when race 13 was re-sailed 30 minutes later. And so the Kiwi crew headed back to shore anchored on match point for the third straight day.

The Kiwi fans were gutted, the commentators outraged, the opposition could barely contain their smiles. Barker? Well, he just shrugged it off.

"You can either cry about it, or you can laugh and get on it with," he said.

While it was bad luck that cost Team NZ in the first race, it was some bad calls in the second. After Barker won the start, the team surrendered their advantage down the first run after failing to cover the Oracle boat early on. But they managed to keep it close heading into the bottom mark, before a poor decision at the gate saw them lose about 150m.

Oracle seized the advantage and sailed away to a one-minute, 24-second win - their most dominant performance of the series. That dreaded word in New Zealand sport - choke - is beginning to form on the lips of a few, but Barker said his team aren't getting anxious. With an 8-3 lead, the odds are still in stacked in Team NZ's favour.

"This is the third race now we've been in the lead and haven't won either due to hitting the wind limits or today time limits, so you sort of say any one of those three points would have been quite nice right now," said Barker. "There's no loss of confidence in the team. We know we can easily get this done - it's just a case of going out there tomorrow and sailing well."

While Team NZ may not have lost any confidence from yesterday's result, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said his team will get a massive boost after claiming their third win in five races.

He accepted the Kiwi crew were unlucky in the first sailing of the race, but he reckons his team has had their fair share of bad luck as well.

"If you look at the start of the regatta it really felt like everything was going against us, four days out from the start of the regatta we didn't know who we could start with. We then lost our wing trimmer, we were then told we lost two points and we hadn't even started to race," he said.

"It feels to me like the tide is starting to turn."

After Spithill's claims that lady luck is now with his side, Team NZ tactician Ray Davies later piped up:

"Luck's a great thing, luck beats skill every time," he said drolly. "Obviously the odds are firmly in our favour at the moment and we've just got to go out there and execute a day like we did in the first race. To get one and half kilometres ahead was pretty good. We've just got to go out there with the same sort of intent [today]."

Two further races are scheduled in San Francisco today. Team NZ will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky.

- Herald on Sunday

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