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7 July 2002, 07:51 am
Barker and Coutts To Face Each Other In Final
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Swedish Match Race Cup

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker and the man he replaced, Russell Coutts of the Alinghi Team, are set to meet today in the finals of the Swedish Match Cup. Could this be an early sign for the Americas Cup?
Barker dispatched American Ed Baird and his Team Musto 3-0, in today's semifinals. Coutts had a bit of a tougher time advancing to defend his event title as Team New Zealand's Bertrand Pace pushed him to five matches in their first to three wins semi.

"It was a good day, everything went our way," said Barker. "We hope we can sail that well or better tomorrow because you know you're not going to have an easy race with Russell. He is the yardstick when it comes to match racing."

Coutts, the only man to win an Olympic Gold medal (1984 in Finns) and skipper an America's Cup (1995 and 2000) winner, opened his semifinal by defeating Pace in Flight 1 only to watch the Team New Zealand helmsman battle back to win the second and third matches.

In the fourth match, Pace had a slight advantage at the start but Coutts sniffed out more pressure from the left side of the course. From there the two veteran match racers tracked around the course until the final beat when Pace split from Coutts to the left side hoping to get a boost from the stronger breeze. Coutts had too much boat speed for Pace to overcome however as the Alinghi Team skipper held off Pace, winning by 17 seconds.

In the fifth and deciding match Coutts pushed Pace over the line two seconds early forcing Pace to double back, providing Coutts with an advantage to start. Pace then hit the mark and copped a penalty while Coutts sailed a flawless match to advance to the finals and have an opportunity to defend his Swedish Match Cup crown.

"We're disappointed we won't be having an all-Team New Zealand final," said Pace. "We had quite a battle two years ago and it would have been fun to go at it again."

Today's Barker-Coutts match-up features the previous two winners of the Swedish Match Cup. Barker defeated Pace in 2000 in a thrilling five match final that saw the Kiwi down 0-2, before rallying to win three in a row to claim the title. In 2001 Coutts defeated Luc Pillot of Le Defi Areva, 3-1.

Yesterday featured lighter conditions on Marstrand's south inlet than competitors experienced on Friday. Winds were in the 6-8 knot range, with afternoon sun replacing early, overcast conditions.

"We've only sailed three days but we've faced a bit of everything this week," said Barker. His tactician Hamish Pepper agreed. "Its tough in these conditions to be consistent in getting the boats up to speed and get them to go where you want."

Today's racing begins at 9:30am with sail-offs for places 5-8. The finals and petit-finals are scheduled to commence at 1pm.

Semifinals Results
Flight 1
Barker def. Baird
Coutts def. Pace

Flight 2
Barker def. Baird
Pace def. Coutts

Flight 3
Barker def. Baird
Pace def. Coutts

Flight 4
Coutts def. Pace

Flight 5
Coutts def. Pace
Shawn McBride/ISAF Secretariat
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