Cup field lacks quan­tity, but has qual­ity — Barker

The Northern Advocate - - Sport - Matt Brown

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.

Jamie-Lee Price

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