Monday, 15 December 2008

New Zealand National Match Racing Championships 2008 - Day Three

by Barry Davies

Competitors were greeted with a fresh easterly breeze of 15 – 18 knots as they sailed out into the third day of the Match Racing Nationals. The heavier conditions made for exciting spectator viewing, as boat handling and crew work was critical to maintain control of the boats.

Another brilliant performance from Dean Barker today saw him leave the water with 17 wins, and is yet to lose a race. If anyone was to disturb this winning streak, it was the young team helmed by Phil Robertson, who really put the pressure on the Emirates Team New Zealand crew during the early stages of the day. After a very tight and exciting pre-start, both boats sailed neck and neck to the top mark, where Barker rounded in front by a mere three seconds. Robertson, known for his fast downwind sailing, managed to creep past Barker on the downwind leg, coming out just in front at the bottom mark. With only one leg to go, Barker fought his way back in front and extended his lead to a 12 second victory at the finish line.

Robertson continued to threaten the leading sailors, with a tough race against Ben Ainslie. On the last downwind leg the boats gybed all the way to the finish, and after an intense luffing dual just before the finish line Robertson was given a penalty which saw Ainslie claim the race. The penalty which was given to Robertson occurred after serious contact causing damage to their two boats, thus both teams were deducted half a point for failing to avoid a collision. Unfortunately for Robertson, he still had to complete his penalty before he could finish the race. Nevertheless an excellent effort from the young helmsman!

While Barker and Ainslie look safe to make the semi-finals, the next three flights are critical in deciding who will fill up the other two spots. With Rod Davis on 12 wins and Adam Minoprio on 11, they will be fighting for the spots as Laurie Jury and Phil Robertson are not that far behind. The Race Committee got six flights away today, so still have three flights to complete the round robin. With Ben Ainslie, Rod Davis and Dean Barker yet to match each other in this round, we are looking at an exciting start to tomorrows racing!

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

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