Barker bites his way into the lead in the Medcup

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The Independent Online

A shark patrolling the course did nothing to upset the stride of New Zealand America's Cup skipper Dean Barker as he powered his way to the lead of an opening Audi Medcup regatta approaching its halfway stage yesterday.

Barker, like so many, forced to race other tracks while the America's Cup is resolved, has taken over at the helm of the King of Spain's Bribon while the regular skipper, Dutchman Bouwe Bekking, is engaged in preparations for Spain's double entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts from Alicante in October.

Barker has never been out of the top four in the opening five races and even a pair of wins in yesterday's three races for Peter de Ridder's Mean Machine left the Dutchman fifth, with 30 points, compared with Barker's 15.

With 16 of the expected 19-strong fleet already racing and the soon to be completed America's Cup challenger syndicate, Oracle, with James Spithill on the helm, planning to join at the second regatta in Marseille at the beginning of June, there is no room for errors on courses that are relatively short and races which last barely an hour.

Other America's Cup affiliates include Paul Cayard's Desafio Espanol team, seventh after five races, and Jochen Schuemann with an equally sidelined Team Germany one place ahead. Carrying the flag for Britain is John Cook's Cristabella, searching for consistency in tenth.

There is a total of six regattas, five of them in the Mediterranean with the finale at Portimao, Portugal, in September. That should produce an overall winner and, in addition, there is a one-off world gathering in Lanzarote in October.

Going into the fourth day of the Artemis singlehanded transatlantic race from Plymouth to Boston, Micehl Dejoyeaux headed a top trio of Frenchmen, holding an eight-mile led from Yann Elies, who was less than a mile ahead of third-placed Sebastien Josse.

Sam Davies was hanging on to the leading group in seventh place but, after coping with electrical and "confidence problems", Dee Caffari was 12th in the 13-strong Open 60 fleet, 235 miles in arrears.

In the 40-foot class, led by Italy's Giovanni Soldini, Miranda Merron shrugged off a collision with a whale and fought her way back up to fifth.

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