New Zealand's past, present and future yachting stars are among the top international names lining up in the Omega Auckland match racing regatta this week.

With 10 of the biggest names in the world competing in the regatta, which begins on the Waitemata Harbour today, there are a number of juicy match-ups to contemplate.

But it is the battle between the local heroes - former America's Cup sailor Chris Dickson, Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, and Kiwi sailing prodigy Adam Minoprio - that is shaping up as the most hotly anticipated.

Dickson returns to the match-racing scene after a fairly quiet couple of years following a disappointing campaign with BMWOracle in the 2007 America's Cup. One of Dickson's first battles this week will be against young gun Minoprio, who he meets in today's second match.

Minoprio may be one of the youngest in the field this week, but his position atop the world rankings means it is unlikely the other competitors will take it easy on him.

The 24-year-old and his BlackMatch racing crew last year won the world match racing tour, and Minoprio believes the other teams will be gunning for him.

"I think everyone going into this event will be seeing us as the ones to beat. We're world champions, so they'd love to be able to claim our scalp as much as we'd like to take theirs with them being the old hands and sailing legends themselves," he said.

Many of the names Minoprio will face this week are involved with America's Cup syndicates and therefore do not race regularly enough on the tour to gain the points needed to hold down a top ranking.

The youngster admits he is feeling some pressure to justify their position atop the world rankings with a strong performance against the some of the legends in the fleet.

"We want to show the New Zealand public that we're top sailors and we can beat the world's best," he said.

While no doubt all teams are keenly eyeing up the winner's cheque, which comes from a total prize pool of US$75,000 ($107,000), for Minoprio and his team it is an even bigger carrot as they look ahead to their title defence on the 2010 world match racing tour.

"In the past few years we've had a great sponsor - FedEx - supporting us as well as support from Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

But because we're so young we've never got the full funding we require so we've always relied on prize-money to keep ourselves going so we don't have to work in between events and we can focus on the world tour."

Minoprio said the skipper he is most looking forward to duelling with is his mentor Barker, who appears to be the number one target for a number of skippers.

"I'm not quite sure why everyone is targeting us," Barker said.

"There's a lot of guys here that have been doing a heck of a lot more match racing than us. But at the same time it is our home club, our home waters and we know the boat and we're keen to sail as well as we possibly can."

ON THE WATER
AUCKLAND MATCH RACING REGATTA
Today-Saturday, Waitemata Harbour
Competing skippers:
* Dean Barker (NZL)
* Ben Ainslie (GBR)
* Francesco Bruni (ITA)
* Sebastian Col (FRA)
* Karol Jablonski (POL)
* Magnus Holmberg (SWE)
* Chris Dickson (NZL)
* Bertrand Pace (FRA)
* Adam Minoprio (NZL)
* Torvar Mirsky (AUS)