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

Weekend Herald - - Sport -

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

in 2020.”

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.”

Photo / Ri­cardo Pinto

Dean Barker is keen to race for the Amer­ica’s Cup again in New Zealand wa­ters.

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