On board with American Magic,
Ex-Team NZ skipper Dean Barker believes it will be a small, high-quality field for the next America’s Cup, writes Matt Brown
Former Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker doesn’t anticipate any more credible challengers for the next America’s Cup in 2021. So far, only Challenger of Record Luna Rossa, Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK and Barker’s New York Yacht club entry American Magic are confirmed challengers for the Auld Mug.
Team New Zealand are hoping for five or six challengers with the entry deadline at the end of the year and the Cup holders are believed to be in talks with a second Italian syndicate.
Barker sailed for Softbank Team Japan at the last Cup in Bermuda but has joined Terry Hutchinson’s bigbudget US entry.
“Clearly it’s a pretty disappointing number of challengers,” Barker told the Weekend Herald from his home in Rhode Island. “It’s been difficult; we are back to the same level we saw in San Francisco. But that was obviously a bit of a ho-hum event until we got to the match [which saw Oracle come back from 8-1 down to win the Cup]. There are many factors, I suppose, in determining how many teams will turn up. But I suspect the big part of the reasoning for not having as many teams as people hoped or expected is probably the choice of boat. It’s a challenge for many people to look at the boat and say, ‘that’s an achievable thing to accomplish’.” The America’s Cup boats will be 75foot foiling monohulls, a radical concept capable of reaching speeds quicker than the foiling catamarans used in Bermuda.
“It would be great to see other teams enter, and there is always speculation about other teams, but I think, particularly with the way the protocol is written, it’s very hard for a team to come in at a later stage and try to be competitive because of the way it’s all structured.” Barker said.
However, Barker felt if there are only four teams, they will all be competitive, given the budgets and expertise available to each syndicate.
“Without question, the nice thing is although there are very few entries the quality of the entries is very high, The other three teams have all got a history in the event in recent times, so I think being slightly more established, they have a head start on us right now, but we are working really hard to break down that little gap. It all starts when we put the first of the
75 footers in the water some time next year.”
However, it will probably be early
2020 before American Magic are seen on the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf, with Barker confirming there are no plans to get the syndicate’s prototype boat Down Under when it is launched in 2019.
“It’s been challenging to form a team from scratch but Terry Hutchinson, who is officially the skipper and in charge of the team, has assembled a great group of people and I’m very excited about the challenge we’ve got in front of us.
“Our plans are still fluid. It’s very much been a design focus, trying to assemble a team and look at the class rule and build a good boat. We need to build the boat in the US, have residence requirements [non-Americans have to spend 380 days over a twoyear period in the US] to establish and we are hopeful we will be able to get down to New Zealand some time
Barker was part of the Japanese team that signed up to the protocols for the last America’s Cup in Bermuda with Emirates Team New Zealand the only challenging syndicate not to. While there was disappointment Team New Zealand abandoned the foiling catamaran concept for the Cup defence, Barker has come around to the idea of foiling monohulls.
“It’s certainly pioneering the way yet again. It’s an aggressive choice in terms of the class of boat which will have its challenges and will be very difficult to sail and race but that also
I have some great friends still in Team New Zealand and I am sure that will never change. Dean Barker, America’s Cup sailor
makes it pretty interesting too, purely from a sailing, design, engineering and a competitive standpoint because you always want to keep challenging yourself.
“But from what we are seeing from within our design group, it’s going to be a very hard boat to sail well, particularly with the type of course we going to sail in Auckland Harbour. It’s got everyone talking.
“We have seen the test boat that Ben Ainslie and his British team have been sailing around in and that’s the first time we’ve seen a boat of this type on the water and everyone’s been checking out to see how a boat of this type responds.”
As for a return to Auckland where Barker was part of the Team New Zealand team that successfully defended the Cup in 2000 and then was the defeated helmsman when Russell Coutts won the Cup for Alinghi in 2003, Barker is excited about the prospects. “Without question it’s one of the best places to sail in the world. The harbour has some very fond memories for me and many other people who have gone and sailed there. We raced a lot of the Louis Vuitton Trophy events going back to 2010 and 2011 in the old version 5 America’s Cup boats and the racing is very exciting and enjoyable because it gives access to people who want to watch and presents challenges because of the small proximity of the race area. When you are sailing around in boats that will exceed the speeds we saw in the last America’s Cup in a very confined space, it will be challenging but, at the same time, will be an amazing spectacle.”
Barker was the major Team New Zealand casualty after the dramatic failure to win the Cup from an 8-1 lead in the match against James Spithill’s Oracle in San Francisco in
2013. There was a much publicised fallout with syndicate head Grant Dalton. But five years on, the
45-year-old Cup veteran insists he harbours no animosity towards his former team.
“I have some great friends still in Team New Zealand and I am sure that will never change. I am certainly very excited to be able to come back and race in New Zealand. I have a fantastic opportunity with American Magic and am looking forward to getting down and racing.”
When Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth joined Alinghi after the
2000 Cup defence and subsequently won the Cup for the Swiss, there was a public backlash against the socalled “defectors” that endured for years.
But Barker fears no such backlash against him should he emerge victorious with American Magic.
“You never really know, but these are different circumstances to what those guys [Butterworth and Coutts] had. But I am still very passionate about racing and this is the opportunity I have and hopefully people will respect that and I am proud to be part of this team to come down and race in New Zealand.”
Barker believes Team New Zealand with the personnel and experience they have will be incredibly tough to beat on home waters.
“Clearly they have the pole position as you would expect given where they left off in Bermuda.
“They were a class above there and they obviously deserved to win that event.”
Dean Barker is keen to race for the America’s Cup again in New Zealand waters.