Dean Barker's comeback race ended in defeat as he donned Australian colours in a trans-Tasman battle on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour last night.
The Team New Zealand skipper was invited by Team Australia to help crew their 60-foot trimaran in a head-to-head duel with TeamVodafone, the top Kiwi trimaran.
The two boats were using the matchup as a warmup for tomorrow's Coastal Classic - the dash up the east coast from Auckland to the Bay of Islands where they are expected to battle for line honours.
A navigational error and sail selection problems saw the Aussies surrender an early lead as Simon Hull's TeamVodafone stretched out for a comfortable win over the second half of the race.
Starting in moderate westerly conditions Sean Langman's Team Australia looked in control, gybing from Westhaven down the Waitemata to be several hundred metres ahead when the boats reached Orakei and North Head.
Once they reached clearer air in the open harbour, both boats hit speeds of close to 30 knots with little advantage either way.
But once they rounded Rangitoto Light, the Australians' handed the lead to the Kiwis.
TeamVodafone, carrying a bigger headsail and making the most of local knowledge in the tricky upwind conditions in the inner harbour, was never threatened.
After setting a record run from Sydney to Auckland last week, it was a reality check for Team Australia.
Conditions for the Coastal Classic are likely to see north-westerlies for the start which will rule out any record attempts and will turn the race into a bit of a slog.
The two 60-foot trimarans are expected to complete the course in around eight hours. TeamVodafone has finished in less than six hours for the last two years, and holds the race record of five hours and 41 minutes.
There will be plenty of interest in the performance of Jim Delegat's Volvo 70, Giacomo, which won last year's round the world race as Groupama.
It is gearing up for the Sydney to Hobart in December and is expected to complete the Coastal Classic in under 12 hours.
A fleet of 170 boats are expected to start at 10am tomorrow.
- © Fairfax NZ News