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Dean Barker- 'We're about winning the America's Cup'

by Michelle Slade on 18 Oct 2011
Skipper Dean Barker (NZL) ETNZ . Bob Greiser/Outside Images http://www.outsideimages.co.nz
38-year old skipper Dean Barker and his team Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) currently sit at the top of the leaderboard of the America’s Cup World Series Championship with 38 points (19 scored in match racing, 19 in fleet racing), just four points ahead of Oracle Racing Spithill. With the third and final World Series event for 2011 just around the corner, Barker updated Sailblast on ETNZs training progress…as well as shared some thoughts on the new AC game…

What’s different about this Cup Campaign for ETNZ?

Apart from the obvious, lifestyle and scenery, it’s adapting to a different world. We’ve moved from a world of detailing and fine tuning to one of complete new world of open book, fresh paper design. Any ideas are certainly worth consideration. There are no stupid questions or ideas right now. With this multihull world, we’re just scratching the surface of a huge unchartered territory. It’s not even like a new design rule within the monohull environment.

Do you think it was entirely necessary to move up to the 72 for the real deal in 2013, or do you think a successful Cup could be staged in the 45?

Well, the 45 would really detract from what the essence of what the America’s Cup is about. It has always been a design race. I think to take away that aspect of the Cup would be a tragedy. It’s about managing so many different aspects of a campaign for a successful America’s Cup. When you get it right, then rightfully you deserve to win the America’s Cup. From a sailor’s point of view, one design racing is great because in the end the best team wins. There’s no argument about who had the better boat. It comes down to who sailed the best. So, there’s two schools of thought but in some ways I still believe in the traditional values of the Cup. It’s about managing a whole lot of different aspects: design, sailing team, campaign management and just getting to the start line. I still think it’s the right move that we’re racing in a development boat in the America’s Cup.

If Oracle was so committed to keeping costs down for AC34, how could they then go buy four AC45s while the other teams have only one? What’s ETNZ’s position on this?

There’s no way Oracle is committed to keeping costs down. It’s a complete fallacy that they’re trying to keep costs down. It’s absolute bullshit. The whole idea of this next America’s Cup was to try to make it more affordable for the teams. I can tell you right now that the budget for doing this campaign is at least what we spent last time and you can do it for less but you just don’t have a chance to perform. It’s a complete joke if they can sit back and say it costs less money, it’s not. It’s way more expensive. But that’s the game we’re in. If you want a crack at winning the America’s Cup you have to play by the rules and these rules are more expensive.

* Ed's note: America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) does not limit the teams' training outside of World Series events, for instance, some teams will sail as soon as boats are off the ship in San Diego and others will opt not to sail until closer to the start of racing. And, any team can purchase an additional AC45 for training…assuming that they can afford to.

ETNZ knew what it knows now before you signed up, do you think you guys may have given this next one a miss?

Definitely not. Emirates Team NZ exists for the America’s Cup and we’ve weathered the storm since 2007 to give ourselves the opportunity to compete in the 2013 event. You can’t afford to sit out, it’s just too hard to come in green and expect to get straight on the pace. If you miss a cycle, with all the development you’ll never catch it back up. It’s too much time. We decided that whatever the direction the Cup took that we’d contemplate it seriously, evaluate whether we could raise the money and give it a really good go at winning it. We're not it in to make up the numbers, we’ve only entered because we think we can put up a challenge with a team that’s good enough to win. Time will tell if that’s the case. But, we’re a team that’s about winning the America’s Cup.

Much of the excitement over the 45, particularly for the non-sailing fan, is thanks to the crash factor. We wont (hopefully) see that with the 72. Without the crashes do you think the event will remain interesting for the non-sailor?

There’ll be an element who tune in to just watch the crashes, looking for the capsize or the collision. Those people you’ll try to capture - you have to accept that there’ll be that element. Hopefully people will be interested in watching the racing for what it is as well and we’ll be able to capture a new interested audience. In the short-term while there’s still a lot of spectacular action that’s going to motivate people to watch. It’s no different to the X-40s - the biggest hits come with the best action.

Do you think a nationality rule would help the AC grow as a fan sport?

I think it helps countries identify with their teams. We’ve got other nationalities involved in our team but it’s still pretty much all NZ, which certainly helps our fan base within NZ and the support we get as opposed to some of the other teams. Even though they may represent the US, Sweden and so on, they’re not true national teams to the degree we are.

your other business and how do you find time for that while still running a top AC team?

My primary focus is with the team so I spend the majority of my time sailing and working with the design group when I’m not traveling to events. When I do have a little down time I try to keep up to speed with Kiwi Yachting Consultants, a company I’m involved with in NZ, and also Nexus Marine which marine electronics company in Sweden.

When do you expect to be moving full-time to SF?

As a team we wont go up to San Francisco - mainly because of cost - until April/May 2013 full-time. We’ll be there next year for the events in August and September which will be great. I’m absolutely looking forward to sailing on the Bay, I’ve done a little bit of sailing there but not much. It’ll be an amazing spectacle for sure.

For the full interview http://sailblast.blogspot.com/2011/10/dean-barker.html!click_here

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