America’s Cup Team New Zealand downplays Barker rumours
Emirates Team New Zealand have downplayed rumours in the New Zealand media and social media that long time skipper, Dean Barker, was about to leave the team.
The lines appear to be coming from US sources and are linked to a second rumour surrounding the Italian Luna Rossa team that one of their helmsman will be exited to make way for the New Zealander.
Rumours of Barker joining Luna Rossa have surfaced previously and have amounted to nothing.
In a statement issued this evening Emirates Team New Zealand, described media reports this afternoon as inaccurate, said today no decision had been made in relation to helmsman for the America’s Cup 2017.
The statement continued saying that the team had been conducting a review across all operations, the sailing team included, with a view to decreasing costs and increasing competitiveness. The review is continuing.
Some changes to the team are expected, given the abundance of sailing talent, and the need to introduce 49er World Champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke to the the sailing program. However their primary focus is the 2016 Olympics, and accommodating that requirement would need another top-line skipper and tactician combination – a role that Barker and existing tactician Ray Davies would likely fill.
After the 2013 America’s Cup, and team restructuring which saw the appointment of a new independent Board for the team, together with a split in leadership responsibility with Grant Dalton stepping back into a CEO role, while his long time sailing partner, Kevin Shoebridge took on a COO role within the team. Decision making is now handled on shared basis, rather than by Dalton alone as was previously the case.
Barker assumed the role of Sailing Director and Skipper. Some further refinement of those responsibilities is expected if the team continues into the 2017 America’s Cup.
That program will likely involve the sailing of two AC45’s in the America’s Cup World Series, with Barker/Davies on one boat and Burling/Tuke in the other – introducing a level of competitive selection that has been long been lacking in the team.
Even if Burling and Tuke were to prevail in that selection process, Barker would still retain a role as Sailing Director and possible crew member aboard the eight crew AC62. Emirates Team NZ will also require a backup helmsman for the campaign and Burling/Barker would cover this role.
Previously the team’s strategy was to move wingsail trimmer Glenn Ashby back into the helmsman’s role – which created further issues with replacing the expert wingsail trimmer, and a more elegant and less disruptive plan is required.
Additionally Burling lacks the match racing experience of Barker – which is vital in establishing an initial superiority at start-time, and acquiring that expertise will not be simple given the demands of a top shelf Olympic campaign.
Still vacant is a team coaching role vacated by long time America’s Cup sailor, Rod Davis, who is now with the Artemis racing team, and that is a role that could be embraced with the Sailing Director role, if Barker was not selected on the race boat crew. Russell Coutts performed a similar role for Oracle Team USA in the last America’s Cup, making key decisions when Oracle Team USA was looking to a near certain exit from the regatta. Additionally Coutts helmed the team’s second AC45 in the America’s Cup World Series regattas.
No further announcement has been made on the venue of the America’s Cup Qualifier Series and other key dates and details of the regatta build up.