Monday, March 08, 2010

Defending champion Barker predicts tough competition at Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland

[Source: Louis Vuitton Trophy] Louis Vuitton Trophy teams drew for race pairings at a press conference and cocktail evening at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron tonight, ahead of the first day of competition tomorrow.

The draw, before a packed house in the Squadron’s Westhaven clubhouse, also decided which teams will enjoy the preferred starboard entry before their starts.

The pairings for the first races tomorrow of the seven-day round robin are: Mascalzone Latino Audi Team (NZL92) vs. ALL4ONE (NZL84), Azzurra (NZL92) vs. TEAMORIGIN (NZL84), Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL92) vs. Artemis (NZL84), ALEPH Sailing Team (NZL92) vs Synergy Russian Sailing Team (NZL84),

The eight teams completed their second day of boat orientation and training in mixed conditions today in the waters off the mouth of Auckland Harbour. The crews encountered calms at times in the convergence zone at the harbour mouth as weak sea breezes from the Pacific and Tasman coasts fought to get established.

The forecast for the first day of racing is for light southeasterlies, increasing during the day. Winds are expected to increase later in the week.

Dean Barker, skipper of host team Emirates Team New Zealand, and the winner of last year’s Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, said his team had its work cut out for it.

“The fantastic thing about this event this year is that the standard has got better,” Barker said. “I think it’s a lot higher. Many of the teams have been training in the Version 5 boats in preparation, so I think the bar has been lifted. We have to keep pushing to get as better as everyone else is. All of the teams sitting here have the opportunity to win every time they line up.”

Ben Ainslie, skipper and helmsman for Britain’s TEAMORIGIN, said it was great to be back aboard the Kiwi boats despite the day’s challenging conditions.

“The boats are lovely to sail, with excellent helm response and all the mechanicals beautifully thought out,” Ainslie said. “We’ve been racing and training here for several days and we’re eager to get the first gun.”

Like Ainslie, Kiwi skipper Gavin Brady who is steering Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, has had months of experience in Cup boats in Auckland. While Ainslie formerly trained with Emirates Team New Zealand, Brady spent time working up BMW Oracle Racing’s USA98 in 2007.

Team Origin trains in very light conditions. Auckland, 8 March 2010. Photo copyright Paul Todd / Louis Vuitton Trophy

“The race course for this event is fantastic,” Brady said. “Most Cup sailors know it as the area they tow through behind the tender on the way to racing in the Hauraki Gulf. But it’s great. It provides passing lanes and you have to engage with your competition. It’s either that or hit the rocks at the harbour’s edge.”

Frédéric Guilmin, strategist for ALEPH Sailing Team, reported a northeast wind between seven and 12 knots today. “We've been lucky because the guys in the morning didn't have that much wind but the weather this afternoon was great for sailing," he said.

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