Instincts keep Barker's team afloat

HANGING ON: Team New Zealand came desperately close to capsizing today.
HANGING ON: Team New Zealand came desperately close to capsizing today.

Dean Barker wasn’t too worried from where he was standing. He did feel for Glenn Ashby, Adam Beashel and Winston Macfarlane hanging precariously about 10m above him in the other hull. And it did cross his mind that boss Grant Dalton mightn’t like the view from his position in the chase boat.

But sailing instincts clicked into skipper Barker and his Team New Zealand crew to not only save their beloved Aoetearoa, but also their America’s Cup campaign that was on a knife-edge yesterday as they came within “half a degree” of capsizing.

A mistimed tack in a torrid duel with Oracle saw their usually precise co-ordination desert them. The cost of the mistake was a race loss when it could have been much more.

SO CLOSE: Team New Zealand came within 'half a degree' of capsizing yesterday.
SO CLOSE: Team New Zealand came within 'half a degree' of capsizing yesterday.

"I was thinking this isn’t going to be too hard to exit from here … I was on the right side. But I was sparing a thought for the guys on the other side who were a long way up," Barker said of any escape plans.

When it was raised that Grant Dalton’s absence through crew rotation had resulted in another loss, Barker chuckled, suggesting the CEO might have felt better to be involved in the on-board emergency than excused from the scoreboard blow.

"I'm sure it was harder for him watching in the chase boat, to be honest."

Barker thanked watching Kiwis for lending their mental weight to right the giant cat, too: "We needed all the help we could get."

Race graphics showed the boat titled at 44.5 degrees. Barker said he wasn’t sure what the tipping point was, "maybe half a degree more".

"It’s really in the hand of the gods then. We know we were about as lucky as we possibly could be. It could have been on its side and that would have had a pretty serious impact on our campaign. We are very thankful to have the boat back in one piece."

Tactician Ray Davies believed no one considered diving off. It was all about "saving the boat till the mast tip was in the water".

"We all had little jobs to play at that point and we managed to do them. It was a pretty precarious moment, but we did the right thing in that couple of seconds to salvage the capsize and get the boat back into the wind," Davies said.

That was definitely a hairy moment. At lest it would have been a very soft landing, not like some of the landings we have seen in other ptichpoles (of Oracle and Artemis Racing). But absolutely it could have been a hairy moment the whole campaign."

Barker said they had a plan in place for righting the boat in a capsize, involving the chaseboats. But it was untried and unproven and that’s the way he wants to keep it, especially with their backup boat decidedly inferior to Oracle who have now wiped out their two-point penalty with this second win..

"A lot would still depend on how you get the boat up … there is no guarantee that it would come up in one piece."

Fairfax Media