5:0 victory for the black boat, despite new helmsman

Team New Zealand overwhelmed their Italian counterparts to successfully defend the 2000 America’s Cup 5-0 after a dramatic final day of racing in Auckland on Thursday.

The outcome of the regatta had hardly been in doubt since the first race as Team New Zealand made mincemeat out of the crew of Luna Rossa. Russell Coutts and his crew made easy work of every race but on the final day, having equalled Charlie Barr’s record for the longest unbeaten run of nine races set between 1899 and 1903, Coutts dropped a race 5 bombshell.

When the team sheets were published on the morning of March 2nd, Russell Coutts’ name was missing. In its place was Dean Barker, Coutts’ 26-year-old Team New Zealand understudy.

Team New Zealand had hinted that Barker might get a chance to steer Team New Zealand in the Cup but no one expected his chance to come at match point. In the event Barker handled the start with aplomb, got the better of his rival Francesco de Angelis in the pre-start and marched away to a 48-second victory. Coutts’ record run was over but Barker’s name will go onto the record books as the youngest sailor to skipper a yacht in an America’s Cup race.

The crew returned to the Viaduct Basin and a welcome from a crowd estimated at 70,000 who celebrated the victory for New Zealand and hit the celebratory trail hard and long into the night.

By Friday morning it was almost business as usual at the Team New Zealand compound with many of the shore crews seen working on the racing boats. Barker’s initiation in such an intense spotlight was part of a long term strategy for Team New Zealand as Sir Peter Blake moves on from his position at the head of the syndicate and Tom Schnackenberg, Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth take up the reins.