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8 July 2005, 10:47 am
BARKER Tops Group B
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Swedish Match Cup 2005
Marstrand, Sweden

Dean BARKER (NZL), of Emirates Team New Zealand, won his final match of the group B round robin this morning to finish with a perfect 7-0 record. BARKER defeated World Champion Ed BAIRD (USA), of Alinghi (SUI), in a come from behind victory to win the group and advance to the quarter final round of the Open Regatta at the ISAF Grade 1 Swedish Match Cup in Marstrand.
Sailing in light east/northeasterly winds around five knots, BARKER trailed BAIRD by about 35 seconds at the first windward mark, but in a key move he jibed to starboard on the run before BAIRD and found more pressure in the middle of the racecourse. BAIRD did not jibe to starboard until he reached the southern edge of the racecourse, against the rocky shoreline.

BAIRD held starboard approaching BARKER in the middle of the racecourse and tried to hunt him into a foul. But BARKER sailed over the top. When they converged again moments later, BARKER easily crossed on starboard.

Baird rounded the leeward mark hot on BARKER's transom and the two split sides of the next windward leg, BARKER taking the right side and BAIRD the left. The right worked for BARKER the second time around and he survived the dying winds to capture the victory.

BAIRD finished the round second with a 6-1 record. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE) was third at 5-2, Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) fourth at 4-3, Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), of Emirates Team New Zealand, fifth at 3-4, defending champion Russell COUTTS (NZL), of Coutts Racing, sixth at 2-5, and Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) seventh at 1-6.

Iain PERCY (GBR), of +39 Challenge (ITA), lost his final match to COUTTS and finished 0-7 in eighth. He is eliminated from further competition.

While BARKER advances to tomorrow's quarter final round with Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), of Alinghi (SUI), the winner of group A, the knockout round is next up today. Each match is a first to two points series, and the match ups feature:

(A2) Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE) vs. (B7) Ian WILLIAMS (GBR)
(A3) Jesper RADICH (DEN) vs. (B6) Russell COUTTS (NZL)
(A4) Philippe PRESTI (FRA) vs. (B5) Kelvin HARRAP (NZL)
(A5) Bertrand PACE (FRA) vs. (B4) Bjorn HANSEN (SWE)
(A6) Peter GILMOUR (AUS) vs. (B3) Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE)
(A7) Lars NORDBJERG (DEN) vs. (B2) Ed BAIRD (USA)

Speaking yesterday evening before his loss to BARKER today BAIRD commented, 'We were very lucky… We were trailing in our first three races, but won them. We won one race when we couldn't steer.'

While BAIRD thanked his lucky stars, BARKER and crew were confident coming off the boat.

'We sailed well today [yesterday], we're pleased,' said BARKER. 'It's been a few years since I've been here, and we haven't sailed these boats [Swedish Match 40] before.'

The winner of tomorrow's showdown match will advance straight to the quarter finals, scheduled for Saturday. Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), of Alinghi, advanced to the quarterfinals yesterday when he won the Group A round robin with a 6-1 record.

Despite COUTTS's struggle to progress through the opening round robin the experienced Kiwi can never be counted out. He won the 2004 ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup after being placed last on day three. And he won this year's Elba Cup after advancing through the repechage round and sailing the maximum number of races possible. COUTTS likes a tussle, and it looks like he has got one on his hands.

Yesterday the crews began the day in an easterly breeze between twelve and 15 knots. It built to about 18 knots as the sun warmed the land to about 85 degrees when the crews returned to the water for the afternoon session. But it was very shifty.

Around 1500 hours local time a squall blew through and the race committee sent the teams to the harbour as the wind gusted up to 25 knots and lightning filled the sky. The crews returned to the water about two and a half hours later, but the wind was very light from the northeast and only flight six was completed.

BAIRD led his race against COUTTS in flight three when his steering broke. Sailing up the second beat, the pair was working the right side of the course in the easterly wind. There were large right-handers, and BAIRD was trying to block COUTTS from getting to the right of him.

'We went into a tack and the steering broke,' said BAIRD. 'Dean (PHIPPS) dove below and put it back together as we luffed head-to-wind. But then it broke again because he needed a wrench to tighten the bolts. So Dean sat below holding the thing together as we finished the race.'

'We're lucky to have the results that we have. It looks a lot stronger than it felt,' BAIRD said.

Despite his first time in the Swedish Match 40, BARKER seemed pleased with the design. 'They're quite maneuverable, but we're still learning what we can do with them,' said the winner off this year's ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup in Long Beach, USA. 'Some of the other guys who have sailed them know what they can do.'

Whilst the quarter final line up in the Open Regatta will be decide today, tomorrow sees the final race between Linda RAHM (SWE) vs. Malin MILLBOURN (SWE) to see who will meet Marie BJÖRLING (SWE) in the women's final.

Women's Semi Finals

Marie BJÖRLING (SWE) d. Clarie LEROY (FRA), 3-1
Linda RAHM (SWE) vs. Malin MILLBOURN (SWE), 2-2

Open Standings

Group A
(After 7 of 7 scheduled flights)

1. Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), Alinghi (SUI), 6-1
2. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge (SWE), 5-2
3. Jesper RADICH (DEN), Desafío Español (ESP), 4-3
4. Philippe PRESTI (FRA), Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA), 4-3, 3 points**
5. Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA), 3-4
6. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS), 3-4, 2.5 points*
7. Lars NORDBJERG (DEN), 2-5
8. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), 1-6

NB:
** PRESTI penalized 1 point for causing damage
* GILMOUR penalized 0.5 points for causing damage

Group B
(After 7 of 7 scheduled flights)

1. Dean BARKER (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, 7-0
2. Ed BAIRD (USA), Alinghi (SUI), 6-1
3. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), 5-2
3. Björn HANSEN (SWE), 4-3
5. Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, 3-4
6. Russell COUTTS (NZL), Coutts Racing, 2-5
7. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), 1-6
8. Iain PERCY (GBR), +39 Challenge (ITA), 0-7

Sean McNeill (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Ed BAIRD chases Dean BARKER across the line:© Anders Averdal
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