Cup field lacks quantity, but has quality — Barker
A lack of challengers for the 2021 America’s Cup is a disappointment but not a surprise to Kiwi sailor Dean Barker.
Only Challenger of Record Luna Rossa, Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK and Barker’s New York Yacht Club entry American Magic have submitted challenges for the Auld Mug, despite Team New Zealand’s hopes of receiving five or six.
While the late entries deadline doesn’t close until December 31, Barker didn’t anticipate any more credible challengers.
“It’s been difficult; we are back to the same level we saw in San Francisco,” Barker told Radio Sport. “But that was obviously a bit of a ho-hum event until we got to the match.
“There are many factors I suppose in determining how many teams will turn up. But I suspect the big part of the reasoning for not having as many teams as people hoped or expected is probably the choice of boat.
“It’s a challenge for many people to look at the boat and say that’s an achievable thing to accomplish.”
The America’s Cup boats will be 75-foot foiling monohulls; a radical concept capable of reaching speeds faster than that of the foiling catamarans raced at the 2017 regatta in Bermuda.
Barker saw a silver lining in a lack of challengers, though. He felt if there were only four teams, the budgets and expertise available to them would mean all four were competitive.
“Without question, the nice thing is, although there are very few entries, the quality of the entries is very high.
“The other three teams have all got a history in the event in recent times so I think being slightly more established they have a head start on us right now, but we are working really hard to break down that little gap.
“It all starts when we put the first of the 75 footers in the water some time next year.”
While there was initial disappointment when Team New Zealand abandoned the foiling catamaran concept for the Cup defence, Barker has come around to the idea of foiling monohulls.
“It’s certainly pioneering the way yet again. It’s an aggressive choice in terms of the class of boat which will have its challenges and will be very difficult to sail and race but that also makes it pretty interesting to purely from a sailing, design, engineering and a competitive standpoint because you always want to keep challenging yourself.
“But from what we are seeing from within our design group, it’s going to be a very hard boat to sail well particularly with the type of course we going to sail in Auckland Harbour. It’s got everyone talking.
“We have seen the test boat that Ben Ainslie and his British team have been sailing around in and that’s the first time we’ve seen a boat of this type on the water and everyone’s been checking out to see how a boat of this type responds.” Netballer Jamie-Lee Price has been waiting years to make her debut for the Diamonds but captain Caitlin Bassett says she and fellow Australian players are almost as excited at the prospect of it happening in tomorrow afternoon’s Constellation Cup match in Hamilton.
Price, the daughter of NRL star Steve Price, lived and played netball in New Zealand as a teenager when her family was based in Auckland for her father’s career.
But Price later decided she wanted to represent Australia and now plays for the Greater Western Sydney Giants in Super Netball.
The decision paid off with a late call-up to Diamonds side, who are playing their final two matches of the annual Constellation Cup series in New Zealand tomorrow and the following Thursday.
Bassett said she and fellow Diamonds players are looking forward to the moment Price earns her first Australian cap and is predicting the athletic netballer to make a big impact.
“I love it. I find my most enjoyable games are when there is a player debut,” Bassett said.
“There is a real sense of excitement. And most players have an absolute cracker.
“It does lift the team. The excitement of a debutant is very contagious.”
Bassett said she was excited about the prospect of Price realising her dream.
“It brings you back to why you are playing for Australia and what it all means.”
Coach Lisa Alexander is experimenting with new combinations in the series which concludes with the match in Hamilton and the October 18 game in Wellington.
Alexander has just this series and the first part of the Quad series with New Zealand, South Africa and England in the new year to prepare for next year’s World Cup.
Australia can lock up the Constellation Cup with a victory tomorrow, having won both games across the Tasman.
The dearth of America’s Cup challengers has come as no surprise to American Magic skipper Dean Barker.