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18 February 2002, 11:22 am
Post Race Reflections
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Americas Cup International Regatta

A year out from the defence of the America's Cup, Team New Zealand have passed their first real test.

They cleaned up the matchracing competition in the America's Cup international regatta in Auckland, winning all but one of their matchraces in the four-sided contest.
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said the regatta has been fantastic for his team.

"It is a positive," he said. "But we know we have a long way to go before we are anywhere near ready to defend the America's Cup."

Seattle's OneWorld Challenge finished second, Sweden's Victory Challenge third and Britain's GBR Challenge fourth.

Victory Challenge, who sailed the first of their new-generation boats, won the first day's fleet race. Skipper Mats Johansson said his team were still very much in a learning phase. "This is a new world for us," he said.

"We have some ideas now on how we can go faster and we have to go faster to be competitive in the cup."

GBR Challenge, Britain's first challenge since 1986, found the regatta tough going.

"You are never happy if you lose and we lost," said skipper Ian Walker.

"We did say at the start of the event that the results weren't the most important thing. We were keen to make sure we started well, handled the boat well and sailed well as a team."

He said Team New Zealand clearly had a fast boat, but the regatta showed they were guilty of making mistakes.
"On one hand we are in awe of their speed, and on the other we are slightly encouraged that maybe they are not the perfect team right now."

For OneWorld's Craig Monk, the regatta was his first run against his old Team New Zealand mates. OneWorld beat New Zealand in both fleet races and in one of their two matchraces.

"I have been pretty lucky actually. I was on the three times we beat them and was taken off when they beat us. So it is a bit of joke that I am unbeaten against them.
"It was a tricky regatta, tricky weather-wise, but it was good to do some racing."

In yesterday's fleet race, which also included a second British boat, GBR44, and the old NZL40, OneWorld charged through at the end to take the win over Victory Challenge, Team New Zealand and GBR Challenge. GBR44 finished fifth and NZL60 sixth.

Though the Swedes, with their tongue firmly in cheek, were pushing for the America's Cup to be changed from match racing to a fleet race, Barker was not so keen.

Story courtesy of The Nwe Zealand Herald.
Julie Ash/News Editor
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