Jimmy Spithill's ORACLE TEAM USA continues to impress in Newport, but were denied a fourth consecutive fleet race win by a hard-charging Emirates Team New Zealand.
"We had a good solid day,"
Barker said. "It's nice to win one and we have some good momentum going into tomorrow. The ORACLE TEAM USA guys are sailing well, but we'll do what we can do and if we can win the race we'll be happy."
Newport delivered another perfect afternoon of racing conditions, with a sea breeze near 15 knots under sunny skies. Thousands took advantage of the warm afternoon to enjoy the sight from Fort Adams as well as in the hundreds of spectator boats crowding the Narragansett Bay course boundaries.
In fleet race three, Spithill threaded the needle at the start, barely squeezing between the Race Committee boat and two of his competitors, hitting the starting line as the gun fired at top speed.
"It was a risky start, but in this type of racing you really have to push things now and then,"
Spithill said. "We knew if we got off the starting line well we'd have a shot for being top three in the race, so we've been pushing hard."
From there, Spithill extended away while his rivals were engaged in battle behind him. Young Nathan Outteridge and his Team Korea crew had an impressive race in second place, holding off Emirates Team New Zealand, as Dean Barker threatened early, but couldn't make the passing move and settled for third. Artemis Racing made its way up from near the back of the fleet to take fourth.
Fleet race four started like the previous one, with Spithill barging across the starting line to take an early lead. But this time Dean Barker's crew had an answer on the first upwind leg, working a favorable path up the shoreline, away from the adverse current running down the race course, to take steal the lead. Loïck Peyron's Energy Team too, passed Spithill and then Nathan Outteridge squeezed by on the next leg. But the ORACLE TEAM USA crew fought back to ease around the top mark just behind the Kiwis. Barker and crew held their position however all the way to the finish, with Spithill relegated to third, his worst result of the series.
With a second and a fourth place finish, Nathan Outteridge's Team Korea climbed off the bottom of the leaderboard and now sits just two points out of a podium position.
"It was much better today,"
Outteridge said. "I think we got what we deserved. We had some better starts and gave ourselves a chance in both races. There was a bit more breeze so we were really able to be more physical on the boat. The guys on our boat are awesome when the breeze is up, there's never an issue with the crew work on our boat. Today has given us a good chance to get right in there and if we sail like we did today, we have every chance of getting on the podium and that's what we're here for."
Meanwhile ORACLE TEAM USA COUTTS withdrew from the first race of the day at the halfway point with equipment problems, after hitting one of the turning mark boats.
"I never did like the anchors on those boats,"
Coutts joked. "But at least the hull that I was sitting on missed it!"
Coutts went in for repairs, and although he made it out for race four, he was late to start and never in contention, with the last place finish dropping the team to the bottom of the leaderboard.
Before racing started, the teams engaged in the AC500 Speed Trial. Here too, Spithill proved the class of the fleet, his second run setting the standard ahead of Energy Team and Team Korea.
Racing starts at 14:30 on Sunday with the final of the Newport Match Racing Championship between the two ORACLE TEAM USA crews.
"It's a high-pressure race,"
Spithill joked. "For whoever loses, it's going to be brutal!!"
Then it's the fifth and final fleet race to determine the Newport Fleet Racing Champion as well as the overall 2011-12 AC World Series Championship. There are 30 points on offer to the winner of race five, meaning the Newport fleet racing title is wide open.