Dean Barker won his second Auckland Match Racing Cup title today amid fierce competition from some of the world’s top skippers.
His back-to-back successes in the Auckland Match Racing Cup framed a win in the New Zealand Match Racing nationals late last year. He won the inaugural Auckland Match Racing Cup this time last year.
“It makes a nice start to our year, defending this title,” Barker said after he had beaten British challenger Ian Williams 2-1 in the final. “It is nice to know that when it gets tough we can come out on the right side with a win.”
Event organiser Dave Stewart said the event had been a success and it was a great achievement for so many of the world’s best skippers to be in Auckland. He thanked the many people who have supported this year’s Auckland Match Racing Cup. “Planning is already underway for next year’s Auckland Match Racing Cup, which looks set to be held in the last week of February, 2008.”
It was a tough final day of racing with Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew of Terry Hutchinson, Don Cowie, James Dagg and Jeremy Lomas first having to dispatch Adam Minoprio and his crew of young guns in the best-of-five semi-final.
Minoprio proved a worthy contender, taking the first match from start to finish and then shutting Barker out of the start in their third encounter. But small mistakes proved costly and Barker clinched his place in the final with a 3-1 win over Minoprio.
The 21-year-old mechanical engineering student was disappointed, but philosophical. “We were pleased to make it this far,” he said. “This is only the second Grade One event we have done and to make it to the semi-final is quite satisfying. It gives us confidence going forward because we know we have beaten some of the big guns and can do it again.”
In the other semi-final, the world’s second and third ranked match race skippers went head to head as Williams and Frenchman Mathieu Richard slugged it out in a series that went all the way to five matches before it was decided.
Richard was 2-1 up and needing just one more win to advance to the final, when Williams and his crew staged a remarkable come-back. The British skipper won the next two in a row and took a come-from-behind win in a series of matches that had the umpires busy dishing out more penalties than they had for the entire regatta.
The day began with light airs and then a lengthy delay as the wind settled into a building north easterly, rising to 20 knots by the end of the afternoon.
In the final, Williams took first blood. The British skipper led around the top mark and then Barker attacked from behind on the downwind run, establishing an overlap and looking set to overtake. However, as the yachts charged into the leeward mark, Williams luffed hard, forcing Barker away. Barker was unable to mount another attack and Williams took the win.
However, Barker and his crew were not to be denied. They came back with guns blazing to win the next two encounters, both of which featured spirited tacking duels, and take the title.
“We had a great final,” said Williams, who sailed with a pick-up crew of local New Zealand sailors. “It was great to get one match under our belt. Dean was smoother through the tacks than we were and a little bit faster, but we threw plenty of tacks at them and never gave up.
“We were close all the way round the track, but couldn’t quite get the jump on Barker.”
In the petite final, Richard secured 3rd place with a 2-0 win over Minoprio, who finished 4th.