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Match Racing: NYYC's Dean Barker (NZL) looks strong at the Ficker Cup

LONG BEACH – To the surprise of absolutely no one, at the end of Day 1 (Friday) of Long Beach Yacht Club's Ficker Cup, veteran match racing pros Dean Barker (NZL) Johnie Berntsson (SWE) were tied at the top of the leaderboard on 6-1. We hear that Barker and Berntsson are crushing it again today; likely they will be among the top four moving into the semi-finals if not also the finals tomorrow (Sunday). The two finalists qualify for next week's Congressional Cup, the grandaddy of the international match racing regattas.

The group behind Deano and Johnie includes young Leonard Takahashi (JPN/NZL, age 19), a rising star in international youth match racing, who is holding his own against the big boys.

Quotes after yesterday's racing from Mr Barker and Mr Takahasi, courtesy of the LBYC Press officer Betsy Crowfoot:

“It’s been a while since we’ve done any serious match racing, so it’s great to be back,” said Dean Barker, who sits in first place at the end of the first Round Robin. Barker won the Congressional Cup in 2000 and 2005; his tactician Terry Hutchinson won in 1992. “But definitely, I think any racing is good racing, and with a new crew like American Magic (the NYYC challenge for the 36th America’s Cup) it’s good to go through the process of developing the communication and everything else,” he added, “and just a good opportunity to come out and do some racing.”

“We’re having the time of our lives,” said Takahashi, 19. “It’s a great venue, the club’s very hospitable, and the host families are great. The racing is great as well, we’re having so much fun.” About the custom fleet of one-design Catalina 37s, he noted, “The boats are cool. We’re still getting used to them; hopefully in the next few days we can crack down and get them to go fast.” Takahashi said it was his first experience helming with a wheel. “My first time ever, ever!” he laughed. “All the boats we sail are tiller steered. The boys have been doing a great job adjusting - they’re having great fun.” He added, “Obviously I grew up watching Dean Barker race, and Johnie Berntsson, since I was young. It’s great seeing them; and racing against them is a dream come true.”

Jeffrey Petersen (USA, age 16), is a rising young match racer in his own right. From Balboa Yacht Club, he is a regular contributor to Sailing Illustrated. He grabbed brief video interviews with Dean and Leonard on the LBYC docks after their successful opening day of Ficker Cup racing (more on the LBYC website, here)....

Dean Barker (NZL) interviewed by Jeffery Petersen at Long Beach Yacht Club's Ficker Cup after Day 1. He continues to lead in the Round Robin phase during today's (Saturday) racing.

Upcoming match racing star Leonard Takahashi (NZL) was also interviewed about racing in the Ficker Cup against two of top match racing pros like Mr Barker. "We are having the time of our lives."

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