Kiwi rumors dominate America’s Cup news

Published on February 18th, 2015

(February 18, 2015) – It is known as the silly season, that period of time which falls between the end of the previous America’s Cup and that moment when teams hit the water in earnest for the next edition. Now in the silly season, and no team is sillier than Team New Zealand.

Lacking big money backers, their budget is largely derived from commercial and government funding. For a team that is historically the most competitive, they are also among the least stable. Will they be able to find funding for the next America’s Cup? That question is part of their identity.

And just when it appeared the sun was shining on the Kiwis, a cloudburst has occurred.

First, the good news was a result of unconfirmed reports this week which point to Auckland as the venue for the America’s Cup qualifying series in 2017. The government was waiting on this news before finalizing funding for the team, as having all the teams based in Auckland for up to three months would do well for the local economy.

But now the news circulating is that skipper Dean Barker is on the outs. Barker, who has led the team since the 2003 America’s Cup, has advanced three time to the America’s Cup finals before losing each match. Whether this news is true or not is unclear, though the team is sternly denying it through this statement:

“Emirates Team New Zealand, describing as inaccurate media reports this afternoon that Dean Barker had been replaced on the helm, said no decision had been made in relation to helmsman for the America’s Cup 2017. 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.”

Dana Johannsen of the NZ Herald paraphrases the team’s statement: “We’re not saying it isn’t going to happen, it just hasn’t happened yet.” She says the news regarding Barker’s demotion was leaked by an official source high up in the organisation.

The team’s heir apparent is believed to be 24-year old 49er and Moth World Champion Peter Burling, who won the Youth America’s Cup in 2013 and is now a member of the team.

Kiwi America’s Cup veteran Chris Dickson believes the time is right for Peter Burling to take over from Dean Barker at the helm of Team New Zealand’s boat. Dickson says age has caught up with the 42-year-old Barker. Dickson is also adamant that Burling, 24, has the skills for the job.

“Dean Barker has been at the sailing helm of Team New Zealand for about 15 years – that’s a long time. Like very sportsman and sportswoman, there’s a time when your time ends I guess,” Dickson told NewstalkZB this morning.

Dickson felt the top yachting scene, like other areas, was becoming a younger man’s game.

“Unfortunately for men in our world we’re on the slippery, slidey slope from the age of about 23 or 25. Experience obviously helps and covers things but by the time you are into your early or mid 40s as a sportsperson your days are incredibly numbered.

“The younger people are hungrier, they’re faster, they’re quicker, they are going to whip you on the age front. There’s a time when you are too old. Dean’s done a great job but hey, there’s some really, really good guys knocking on the door.”

Standing by for more silliness…

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