A new big contender? Team New Zealand suffer first defeat as old rival shines

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 8:30PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

A new big contender? Team New Zealand suffer first defeat as old rival shines

Author
Michael Burgess, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 8:30PM

Dean Barker expects rival INEOS Team UK to still be a force in the upcoming America's Cup World Series, but it's his American Magic team that claimed the most impressive win today in practice racing.

American Magic claimed victory over the troubled British squad to start the day, and ended it in style, with a win over Team New Zealand late in the day.

After several planned practice races were abandoned due to a lack of wind, Barker managed to get a victory over his old team - their first loss of warm-up racing.

Team NZ had earlier edged Luna Rossa in what was a mixed day for the defender, but Barker outfoxed the Kiwis in the windshifts in the last race of the day to claim a morale-boosting win for the American squad.

Also having a mixed outing was INEOS Team UK, with the struggles of the British syndicate having been an underlying theme of the warm-up period, with the team not completing a trial race until Tuesday, when they finally faced off against Barker's American Magic.

American Magic in action today. Photo / Dean Purcell

American Magic in action today. Photo / Dean Purcell

Ben Ainslie's team took no part last week and pulled out halfway through the pre-start on Monday against Team New Zealand, due to unspecified hardware problems.

They finally managed to complete a trial race and also won the start against American Magic, with Ainslie timing his run to the line perfectly.

But Britannia ll still looked a shade off the pace and seemed to struggle to get optimum lift and speed on the foils.

Early in the first leg the British were forced to tack, as the Americans gained speed on the other side of the course.

It was slightly ungainly, and the Ainslie's boat didn't get close again, as Patriot powered away, though both teams appeared to be more focused on their own set manoeuvres in the second leg.

However Barker downplayed any suggestion that INEOS Team UK could have long-term issues.

"We've had our own problems as well, lots of little things that you're trying to get on top of. I don't think you can read too much into it," Barker told NZME after Tuesday's opening ceremony. "I'm sure they would've liked to be out racing but we certainly don't underestimate any of the boats.

"You look at the quality of the guys they have and their design team. I'm sure when we turn up to go racing in January (Prada Cup), they're going to be strong."

Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa in practice racing. Photo / Dean Purcell

Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa in practice racing. Photo / Dean Purcell

Rival helmsman Francesco Bruni, who is sharing the driving duties with Jimmy Spithill on Luna Rossa, echoed Barker's sentiments about the UK syndicate.

"We have been sailing these boats for two years now and you have some weeks that are particularly harder, you keep breaking things," Bruni told NZME. "I think it is just a coincidence that it has all been happening [recently] and they didn't have a lot of luck. I'm sure they will put it all together and be strong. They will be fine."

Barker, on the eve of his sixth Cup campaign, says it is too early to draw definite conclusions, even if there is already a lot of positive talk about the home syndicate.

"We've changed a lot on the boat so we're just getting used to the set-up, but we'll get there and hopefully we can be competitive during the racing later this week," said Barker.

"[Team NZ] did some racing against Luna Rossa last week and they seemed to have a pretty good advantage over them in those conditions, but we've spent months and months comparing boats in previous campaigns and it's always hard to get a read, so one or two days doesn't give a clear indication.

Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa in practice racing. Photo / Dean Purcell

"There is no question that Team New Zealand look strong," added Barker. "They have a good boat and obviously a strong sailing team. [But] we'll probably get a better feel at the back of the [World Series] on who's going well."

The World Series gets underway from Thursday with the Christmas Race on Sunday.