Barker denies Team New Zealand is choking
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Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says his outfit aren't choking as their grip on the America's Cup series starts to look increasingly shaky.
Defenders Oracle continued their unlikely fightback today, winning both races in convincing fashion by 23 seconds and 37 seconds.
They have won four races in a row and must win the next four to hold on to the America's Cup and complete arguably the greatest comeback in sporting history.
Oracle are on a roll while Team New Zealand have stalled after leading 8-1 in the race to nine points for glory.
Team New Zealand were in a position six days ago to be able to win the cup but haven't been able to seal the deal for a variety of reasons.
Weather conditions and the race clock have robbed them of three leads with those races abandoned. But Oracle's performance has improved dramatically to nail six of the last eight races and the Kiwis have been guilty of making errors under pressure.
After today's double blow, it didn't take long for the inevitable question to be raised at the press conference.
"Can you assure New Zealanders that we are not watching team New Zealand choke like the All Blacks have done in the past?" Barker was asked amidst groans from the assembled international media, some of whom would have been ignorant to New Zealand's rugby World Cup struggles.
"That's a tough question," Barker said
"We have absolute belief that we can win this and nothing has changed. The numbers are definitely in our favour but that's not what we are going to rest on.
"We are going to go out there tomorrow to perform as well as we possibly can and if we sail well, we will win a race.
"If we don't sail well, that will leave Oracle the chance to win.
"So we are very clear . . . very, very focused. We will go out there tomorrow to do the best we can.
"We have a huge belief in our team. The guys know that they are definitely good enough to go out there and win this thing.
"We have obviously had a tough few days, some ups and downs, things that have gone against us. But it is sport - we know we can bounce back. We are very excited about getting out there tomorrow and doing what we do well."
On a difficult day when conditions were tricky with light winds and big holes on the course, Team New Zealand didn't help themselves.
Barker was willing to admit they had made mistakes.
They lost both starts and made more decisions on the downwind runs that spoiled any chances of overtaking. They had also been caught out by a sail change between races, putting on a smaller jib expecting stronger breeze that never eventuated.
"We made a call on the jib, looked at the conditions and the forecast we were expecting," he said.
"It was a tough call . . . we were expecting the breeze to build more than it did. It was probably the wrong decision but it certainly didn't cost us the race, it wasn't the reason we didn't win the race."
That lay more in the starting box and what happened further down the course as they got swallowed up in three huge wind holes.
"Where we started in both races we were behind at mark one both times but we just gave up too much distance on the first two downwinds," he said.
"While the guys worked very hard and made some good gains upwind it was never quite enough to really put enough pressure on them."
And all the time, his cocky rival Jimmy Spithill gets more and more confident at the helm of Oracle.
They have now won four races in a row - the biggest momentum run in the final. And Spithill doesn't see it ending.
"It just feels like we are getting better each day," the Australian said.
"We made a couple of changes to the boat last night and it felt quick, seriously quick. But we aren't stopping there.
"The boat is just so much quicker than [when] we started this competition. We believe we have the boat and team to win this competition and we have a wave of momentum behind us.
"The crew can see the boat is up to it . . . it's a real mental thing at the moment."
- © Fairfax NZ News