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26 January 2007, 10:48 am
SPITHILL Out
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Auckland Match Racing Cup 2007
Auckland, New Zealand

Defending champion Dean BARKER (NZL) and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew continued their march through the ISAF Grade 1 Auckland Match Racing Cup by winning the double round robin and earning top place in the final four. But fellow America's Cup skipper James SPITHILL (AUS) is out of the running, beaten to the semis by rising star Adam MINOPRIO (NZL).
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It was a close run thing with three teams completing the 18 matches with 13 wins each. It took race officials some time to work out the countback and declare BARKER the round robin winner, which gives him the right to choose his semi-final opponent.

WILLIAMS And RICHARD Through

World #2 Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) and Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) also completed the round robin phase of the regatta on 13 wins, while local young gun, MINOPRIO and his Blackmatch crew took the fourth slot on 10 wins.

BARKER said the plan for today was just to keep solid results going. 'It is tough to be consistent in the conditions we have had. We have not had our best day, but we have done enough to get through to the semis.'

He will decide who to race against before the start of the semi-finals tomorrow. 'It is a tough decision,' he said. 'All of them have their moments. There are definitely no easy choices.'

At the conclusion of three days of intense racing on Auckland's tide-dominated Waitemata Harbour, the four semi-finalists in the Auckland Match Racing Cup regatta had one surprising absence.

SPITHILL Misses Out

Coming into the regatta, the form guide probably favoured the two America's Cup works teams, BARKER and SPITHILL with his Luna Rossa team. In the event, it was SPITHILL who was the surprise omission from the top four.

Halfway through the second of two round robins, SPITHILL was still in with a chance, but an uncharacteristic run of losses today put him out of the hunt.

WILLIAMS, ranked #2 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, usually sails with a crew of British sailors plus one American, but he came to Auckland alone and raced with a pick-up crew of New Zealanders. 'We struggled a bit a first,' he said.

'We have been working on our communications and we had a much better day today.' In fact, the WILLIAMS team put together the only perfect score of the day, winning six out of six matches.

'There are five or six teams here that have had very tight battles with each other, all slugging it out for a place in the semis,' he said.

Starts, Crew Work, Boatspeed

RICHARD, who is ranked # 3 in the world, attributed their success in the round robins to good starts, good crew work and good boatspeed, all vital match racing ingredients. 'We expected the racing to be very close,' he said. 'I was sure it would be tight with so many good teams competing here.

'It is obviously satisfying to get through to the semis, but it is not going to be easy. Our plan is to continue as we have in the opening days and hopefully keep our momentum.'

MINOPRIO's result proved his top-four finish behind three top America's Cup crews in the New Zealand Match Race nationals last year was no flash in the pan. However, he did not like today's performance with three losses.

'We were pretty upset with ourselves. A whole lot of little mistakes cost us races,' said the young skipper, who with a team of Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth Programme sailors embarked on a professional match racing career a year ago.

But, even if the day started badly, it ended with a place in the semis, which was always the first objective. 'We just have to hope for a better day tomorrow than we had today,' he said.

Ten teams from seven nations are competing in the Auckland Match Racing Cup, which is hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Tomorrow's racing will see the two semi-final pairs racing off in best-of-five matches to decide the two finalists. The rest of the fleet will sail best-of-three matches, 5 vs 6, 7 vs 8 and 9 vs 10 to decide the minor placings. The final and petit-final are scheduled to be raced on Sunday.

Round Robin Standings

1. Dean BARKER (NZL), 13-5
2. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), 13-5
3. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), 13-5
4. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), 10-8
5. Eugeny NEUGODNIKOV (RUS), 9-9
6. James SPITHILL (AUS), 9-9
7. Simon MINOPRIO (NZL), 6-12
8. Brian ANGEL (USA), 6-12
9. Simon DICKEY (NZL), 6-12
10. Takumi NAKAMURA (JPN), 5-13

Isabel Carlyon (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Mathieu RICHARD and his crew power round a mark:© Ivor Wilkins/Offshore Images
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