Barker sets course for Cup team

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - YACHT­ING

New Zealand sailor Dean Barker has gained a place in the pres­ti­gious Con­gres­sional Cup for his new Amer­i­can Magic team as he con­tin­ues to press his claims for a 2021 Amer­ica’s Cup job.

Barker qual­i­fied for the Con­gres­sional Cup to be sailed later this week when he won the Ficker Cup qual­i­fy­ing event at Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, yes­ter­day with a near flaw­less per­for­mance.

Barker beat Swe­den’s Johnie Bernts­son in the fi­nal and lost just one of 13 races over the three days of match-rac­ing.

He was at the helm for Amer­i­can Magic, the New York Yacht Club out­fit he hopes to join for the next Amer­ica’s Cup in Auck­land.

As far as au­di­tions go, Barker couldn’t have had a bet­ter start with his NYYC sail­ing boss Terry Hutchin­son along­side him as tac­ti­cian.

‘‘It’s an hon­our to win the tro­phy named af­ter Bill Ficker,’’ Barker said af­ter his vic­tory.

‘‘It’s been a fan­tas­tic week, it feels a lit­tle like com­ing home to Long Beach.

‘‘This has been a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for our Amer­i­can Magic team to go sail­ing in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, and get back into the match rac­ing game.’’

Amer­i­can Magic now stay on in Long Beach for the Con­gres­sional Cup re­gatta, one of the world’s pre­mier match-rac­ing events which Barker won in 2000 and 2005 and Hutchin­son claimed in 1992.

Barker, the former Team NZ skip­per who switched to Team Japan for the last Amer­ica’s Cup in Ber­muda af­ter be­ing snubbed by the Ki­wis for an on-board role, had fel­low Kiwi James Dagg on board the Amer­i­can boat.

Up-and-com­ing Ja­panese helms­man Leonard Taka­hashi, 19, was in awe of Barker’s ef­forts at the Ficker Cup.

‘‘I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out how we got into a po­si­tion to get to race Dean Barker. It was truly a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, and I’m thank­ful to Dean for giv­ing us a les­son,’’ Taka­hashi said af­ter fin­ish­ing fourth.

Amer­i­can Magic will see Barker’s Amer­ica’s Cup ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the Auck­land wa­ters as a real bonus if he can con­tinue to de­liver re­sults.

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