America’s Cup: Refining the Kiwi Machine

Published on January 19th, 2014

“If Dean Barker is not driving Emirates Team New Zealand’s boat in 2017 – and Dean will be very much involved in that decision – Peter Burling will have to take it from him.”

The speaker: ETNZ boss Grant Dalton. The topic: the possible succession of Barker as Team NZ skipper. The machinery: a partial restructure of Team NZ roles looking ahead to the 2017 America’s Cup.

The announcement this week of 23-year-old Burling and Olympic sailing colleague Blair Tuke, 24, as new members of Team NZ was more than just introducing new blood.

It was part of a subtle shift designed to allow the team to develop in new and different ways even as they wait for word from holders Oracle Team USA on the new ground rules for the 35th America’s Cup.

The re-think comes after a review of the so-close-but-so-far 2013 campaign and a slight re-angling of several roles, including Dalton’s, Barker’s and that of ETNZ chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge.

Dalton will step more into a director’s role, focusing a little less on the day-to-day running of the team but still holding the reins as overall leader. Shoebridge will take up even more of the operations role and Barker will become a sort of skipper cum sailing director – still leading the entire sailing team.

However, within that role, there is room for the hand on the tiller of Team NZ’s racing boat to change in San Francisco (if that venue is confirmed) in 2017. Burling and Tuke have been signed to a reduced ETNZ sailing team as part of the future and to keep other potential America’s Cup suitors at bay.

Dalton said: “I will still be running the place. But there are a lot of good brains in the organisation and you want to be making decisions based on their measured input. There is still a buck and it still has to stop somewhere. You can’t run everything by committee.

“The unsung hero of Emirates Team NZ is Kevin Shoebridge. I say I run the place but he actually runs it. I try and fund it, he runs it. His role will be extended a little more and we have spent 20 years together and work really well together. He actually makes a lot of the decisions and just informs me.”

Dalton also made it clear that Barker would continue to be skipper in the present while also morphing into a sailing director’s role. That leaves the question of skipper open in the long term and Dalton said: “Peter Burling may ultimately be the best thing this country has ever seen – but he is not there yet. If Dean Barker is not driving the boat in 2017 – and Dean will be very much involved in that decision – Peter Burling will have to take it from him.

“Pete’s a good guy; he’s just a sponge, absorbing information. But [to be skipper] he has to be more than just a good sailor. He has to get guys working for him and around him and inputting into all the processes, like design and so on, that Dean has done so well. Whatever decision is made, Dean will still be a mentor [to Burling].” – Paul Lewis, NZ Herald, read on

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