Ben Ainslie leads Omega Auckland regatta on opening day
[Source: Emirates Team NZ] Shifty winds and strong tides on Auckland’s Waitemata harbour tested the teams competing in the opening day of the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta today and produced a results board that defied any form guide.
Spectators were treated to extremely close racing, with spectacular luffing duels, tight finishes, penalties and collisions as teams fought for ascendancy. At the end of a full day’s racing, Ben Ainslie of Great Britain topped the leaderboard with a 6-2 score while Dean Barker (NZL, Adam Minoprio (NZL) and Bertrand Pace (FRA) were on 5-3 each.
“The level is very high,” commented America’s Cup veteran Pace. “Everybody can beat everybody else.”
Ben Ainslie is the overall leader in the opening day of the Omega Auckland match race. Auckland, 3 March 2010. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team NZ
This regatta has pitched young rising stars Adam Minoprio of New Zealand and his arch rival Torvar Mirsky of Australia against a fleet of more seasoned America’s Cup campaigners. Minoprio and Mirsky, who are ranked one and two in the world, are having their work cut out against more experienced match racers with lower rankings because of their infrequent appearances on the world match racing circuit.
One of the closely watched battles of the day involved Minoprio against Dean Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew, with the young BlackMagic team claiming a valuable victory by 8 seconds. The match saw two lead changes and a penalty against Barker, before the outcome was decided.
“That was pretty good,” said a relieved Minoprio afterwards. “That is a big win for us.” In the close racing, every point was gold and Minoprio predicted a very tight tussle to decide the four semi-finalists at the end of the double round robin.
Adam Minoprio beat Dean Barker in the opening day of the Omega Auckland match race. Auckland, 3 March 2010. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team NZ
Barker agreed and said if the conditions continued it was going to be very difficult for one team to leap clear and dominate. “It is very hard to win races. Everybody is sailing well and everybody is losing some matches.”
Barker won the tightest match of the day, coming from behind to beat Sebastien Col of France by just 1 second. The biggest margin of the day saw Ben Ainslie of Great Britain defeat Bertand Pace of France by 1 min 31 secs after a fiery match in which Pace was penalised twice during a fierce luffing match. Fireworks also marked the match between Karol Jablonski of Poland and Sebastien Col, with Col penalised after a pre-start collision.
Dean Barker is second overall in the opening day of the Omega Auckland match race. Auckland, 3 March 2010. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team NZ
Results after eight Flights
Ben Ainslie (GBR) 6-2
Dean Barker (NZL) 5-3
Adam Minoprio (NZL) 5-3
Bertrand Pace (FRA) 5-3
Karol Jablonski (POL) 4-4
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) 4-4
Chris Dickson (NZL) 3 / 5
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) 3 / 5
Sebastien Col (FRA) 3 / 5
Francesco Bruni (ITA) 2 / 6