New Zealand’s losing America’s Cup skipper Dean Barker grabbed his opportunity to get even with Sir Ben Ainslie today in their first clash since the dramatic America’s Cup climax last September and finished all square at the end of the first day’s racing in the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series in Singapore.
A stressful day of eight races, all lasting less than ten minutes on tight stadium courses in front of packed city centre crowds, saw Ainslie of JP Morgan BAR and Barker who is once again at the helm of Emirates Team New Zealand continue the compelling sporting contest that captivated the world five months ago, with Barker finishing the first of four day’s racing with a small lead over Britain’s sailing superstar.
|Ben and Deano - before the bunfight!!|
Both teams posted two outright wins from eight races but both struggled with the fickle winds and compact race tracks by also taking the wooden spoon in several races in a contest likened by some of the 12 Extreme 40 skippers to ‘rolling a dice’.
“We’re all having to learn pretty quickly, and certainly in this tight venue - even for the experienced guys it’s pretty tough,” said Ainslie.
“It’s a really strong fleet, it’s one of the toughest fields we’ve ever had and we’re obviously very new to this so we really learnt a lot today.”
Winds reached no higher than a gentle 10 knots with tricky 90 degree shifts and not surprisingly, the day was dominated by crews who are more used to sailing on lakes than open seas so it was the Swiss teams Alinghi and Realtstone, who both train on Swiss and Italian lakes, who fared best and now occupy the two top slots on the overall leaderboard.
There were plenty of start line errors and near collisions as the close quartered racing proved entertaining but for some, it was also costly.
Defending champions The Wave Muscat suffered damage to their bow when they collided with GAC Pindar which earned the Omani boat a 45 second penalty and consigned the Australians to a night in the boat shed making repairs.
|The 12 strong Extreme 40 fleet in Singapore. Great pic!|
“GAC Pindar put in a tack, and at the last minute they looked like they weren’t going to avoid us,” explained skipper Leigh McMillan.
“I tried to smash it into a tack but there wasn’t anywhere to go – plus I lost grip of the tiller and tripped over, and unfortunately went into them.”