Tim Jeffery reflects on the Kiwi's win
‘OBJECTIVE ACHIEVED’ was writ large in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour on Saturday. Emirates Team New Zealand were towed back into the harbour hero-status restored in the eyes of the New Zealand public. Amid a din of horns, Dean Barker’s crew returned to the fold as vanquishers of Alinghi 3:1 in the final. Yes, THAT Alinghi, the Swiss team which took the Cup away from them in the it-all-went-wrong TNZ campaign of 2003 and who fended the Kiwis off again in Valencia in 2007.
To the Kiwi fans the fact that this wasn’t racing for the America’s Cup didn’t matter one jot. Nor did it to Louis Vuitton who are leaving their racing marks and other kit in Auckland as a big hint there will be another LVPS event in the future. Despite the America’s Cup Cold War, everyone here agreed that it was great to have the show back on the road again.
Barker and his boss Grant Dalton made the Kiwi public a few butterflies overnight Friday, left to dwell on the one race that sailed in which the Kiwis had failed to convert three strong situations in the pre-start and first leg of the race into winning ones.
“When you up against a team equally as good as picking the side and getting the plan that they want, it makes thing very difficult,” said Barker of the Race 1 disappointment.
Saturday was a different story, in which Barker and his tacticians Ray Davies and Adam Beashel made the right choices in three races straight to give them the openings to turn a sliver of an advantage into a controlling lead. Baird was clearly outgunned in the second start of the day, Race 3, collecting a penalty for carving a gybe too aggressively and failing to keep clear.
In all respects it was Barker’s day. “We had a sat down last night and again this morning and just figured that we just needed to keep doing the things we were doing and at some point things would change,” he said.
Change they did, TNZ winning the three races by 29, 33 and 20 seconds to win the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series. On tight courses in the Rangitoto channel, these margins were close and represented excellent boat on boat racing, especially with the wind puffing between 15-18 knots, a lead didn’t seem safe at the boats barrelled down the runs.
“We were just a little bit behind the curve all day and never quite got into the rhythm of it,” admitted Baird of what seemed to be an off-colour Alinghi performance. Butterworth made light of it. “We don’t sail that well in the rain,” of the weather, the only thing was dismal about the regatta’s conclusion.
TNZ’s celebrations will continue all the way through the weekend with a new Cookson-built TP52 goes in the water on Monday, to keep the sailors competing during the coming European season.