Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker is keeping himself busy with a brief return to monohull racing in Florida this week.
Barker has accepted a late SOS from American owner Austin Fragomen to helm the glamour yacht Interlodge in the second round of the US 52 Super Series in Miami.
Fragomen is usually at the helm himself but injured himself in a skiing accident and didn't want to compromise his crew. He sent out the message for a hired gun and netted Barker.
"To Austin's credit there was never any talk of not doing the regatta. He wants to support the class and all the guys had put in all the work and so he said 'let's see how good the boat is, let's get someone good. The boat captain Kris started calling around and Dean was really keen and said he could be on a flight and be here in the morning and so that is cool," explained Interlodge's tactician Andy Horton.
"It is great for all of us who have sailed the boat, and it will be good to see how good the boat really is and what the next step is. Dean is a good guy and pretty nice with it. We will just have the practice race with him and then be into it, but he has done this a couple of times before and he is not too bad at it!"
Barker is no stranger to this class.
Team New Zealand won the 2009 and 2010 Transpac circuits in the 52s, entering a crew to keep themselves busy as the next phase of the America's Cup mapped out.
They then had to switch to catamarans to prepare for the 34th America's Cup where they lost the match to defending champions Oracle last September.
The Super Series has attracted some big names in the Cup game, including Americans Ed Baird and Ken Read and Luna Rossa tactician Francesco Bruni.
There are seven yachts in the fleet this week. The 52s have become regarded as the top monohull inshore race class and attract some of the world's bets professional sailors. The carbon fibre boats with large sail areas are capable of more than 20 knots.
Barker will be back in action with Team New Zealand for the second leg of the Extreme 40 Series in Oman from March 19-22. The Kiwis finished the opening event of the catamaran series in Singapore in fourth place, their first competitive outing since last year's America's Cup.
- Fairfax Media
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