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24 January 2007, 11:14 am
Two Upsets In Light Winds And Powerful Tides
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Auckland Match Racing Cup 2007
Auckland, New Zealand

On a day made challenging by light winds and powerful tides, the ISAF Grade 1 Auckland Match Racing Cup saw two major upsets as the regatta got under way in Auckland, New Zealand. Before racing began, Takumi NAKAMURA (JPN) declared his one ambition was to beat defending champion Dean BARKER (NZL) and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew on their home waters and in their first encounter of the regatta, the Japanese skipper achieved his goal.
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NAKAMURA and his crew led from start to finish on a track full of pitfalls with patchy winds and a very strong outgoing tide.

'We are very happy,' said NAKAMURA, who has raced BARKER twice before in match race events but never beaten him. 'However, we know it is just one win and we must keep going.'

After a good start, NAKAMURA and his crew adopted unconventional tactics to score their victory. 'We are not so good at tacking and gybing, so we did not try to cover BARKER. We just sailed our own race.'

SPITHILL Also Suffers Defeat

The other major upset of the day came when the Russian team led by Eugeny NEUGODNIKOV took another America's Cup scalp by beating James SPITHILL (AUS) and his Luna Rossa crew.

SPITHILL and his crew travelled direct from Valencia, Spain, where they have been in winter training for the America's Cup, while NEUGODNIKOV took time out from playing ice-hockey in -25°C conditions to compete in the ISAF Grade 1 regatta hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

'We arrived here a week ago and we did some training with the Squadron's Youth Programme,' said NEUGODNIKOV. 'That was very good. We have raced against SPITHILL five or six times before, but that was our first win,' added the Russian, who is ranked 7 on the ISAF World Match Race Rankings.

Tough Conditions

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© Ivor Wilkins/
Offshore Images
Racing took place on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour in light, fickle southwesterly breezes that seldom got above 6-7 knots. 'There are no easy races in these conditions,' commented BARKER. 'It is not going to be an easy race track for the next few days, if it stays like this.'

By the end of the day, six flights of the first round robin had been completed. BARKER was one of four skippers sharing the top of the leaderboard on 4-2. SPITHILL was also in that group along with world #2 Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) and world #3 Matthieu RICHARD (FRA).

Just behind them on a 3-3 record were the Russian team and the Simon MINOPRIO and Adam MINOPRIO, the two brothers who are both skippering leading New Zealand crews. Brian ANGEL (USA) and New Zealander Simon DICKEY were on 2-4, while NAKAMURA had to content himself with his sole victory over BARKER at 1-5.

Ten teams from seven nations are competing in the Auckland Match Racing Cup. The regatta format features two round robins, followed by a semi-final and final on the weekend.

Isabel Carlyon (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Eugeny NEUGODNIKOV and his crew lead James SPITHILL and his Luna Rossa team around the windward mark:© Ivor Wilkins/Offshore Images
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