Dean Barker ponders American Magic’s next boat

Published on July 25th, 2020

Expect big changes for American Magic’s second boat they hope will win back the America’s Cup for the New York Yacht Club. The syndicate are fully operational in Auckland now and expected to ramp up testing and training on their original AC75 Defiant over the coming week.

Their second boat will be air-freighted to New Zealand and they hope to have it in the water by October. With the benefit of trials and tribulations with this new and revolutionary design, American Magic’s Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker is looking for a leap in performance.

“It definitely looks different, there will be no mistaking which one is which,” Barker said of their two designs, with boat two still being finished in Rhode Island. “I think that’s the exciting thing with this whole design rule and bit of flexibility in the design space.

“It’s a very compressed timeframe to have boat two in the water and, again, you are just going in pretty blind. You have a lot of valuable information from boat one and how that sort of behaves, the design team have had a much longer run at it this time. There have been valuable lessons and hopefully we can end up with a boat that is a good step on from our first one.”

Barker, who has been involved in the America’s Cup game since 1995, winning and losing the Auld Mug, senses a bit of a retro feel to the circumstances around this 36th edition of the famous regatta.

With build-up races in Europe cancelled, there are a lot of unknowns as they work towards the Christmas Cup race in Auckland in December and then the Prada Cup challenger series in January and February with the winner of that taking on Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match in March.

“It is really the intrigue of when you line up for the first time and someone feels good and someone doesn’t feel quite so good,” the 47-year-old said. “The world series events that we should have had, they were going to be a real check-in for all the teams to kind of see where they were at and to validate a lot of their design tools.

“That now won’t happen until the Christmas Cup but really, by then the writing is on the wall. There will be opportunities to tweak and tune what you have got, but if you’re not in the right sort of ballpark I think it could be a longish summer.

“There are going to be a lot of nervous people around the end of this year when the boats finally get the chance to line up in the same bit of water and see where everyone is at. All the teams are paying close attention to each other to see what they are doing and how they are managing the boats and things, but you don’t really know for sure how you stack up.”

Barker made his name in the Cup’s old monohulls but successfully transferred his skills to the deadly fast foiling catamarans used in San Francisco and Bermuda. Now he’s on the wheel of a boat that combines a bit of everything but is also a huge step into the future, a 75-foot foiling monohull that all four heavyweight syndicates are still trying to find the secrets of.

“Each boat is unique in its own way and how it behaves, where it performs well and doesn’t perform well, its strengths and weaknesses. But in general I think these boats are great,” Barker explained, anticipating exciting racing on the spectator-friendly Auckland courses.

“The boats are challenging, they are high performance, in a bit of breeze they go well. Where they get a bit tricky is when they are in the bottom end of the wind range. When they are not up and ripping they are a little bit of a challenge to sail, and they are not that spectacular.

“But as soon as you get to the foiling range the racing will be great. With the course area off North Head and having a couple of boats going at it, it will be really good to watch. I think for sure, it will be a great spectacle.”

With the bulk of the American Magic personnel now safely through their quarantine periods after being granted exemptions to enter New Zealand in the coronavirus pandemic, the syndicate feel they have justified their early move to Auckland, being the first challenger to set up at the regatta venue.

Now they will look to maximize their sailing opportunities in the heart of the New Zealand winter. “You have to stay flexible and pick and choose a little bit. If you can get a couple of hours out of a day, it’s still worthwhile,” Barker said. “We will just have to be open-minded with how we set up and get out there and try to make the most of it.”

Barker’s intimate knowledge of Auckland conditions, from his dinghy sailing days to the many hours spent training and racing with Team New Zealand, will be invaluable to his American team.

Having headed Japan’s unsuccessful challenge at the last Americas’ Cup, Barker estimates it’s about five years since he last sailed on the Waitemata Harbour. “It’s been a while but I still have some fantastic memories from all my sailing here and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the water here.”



36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAW
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAW

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
• December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
• January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
• March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match

Youth America’s Cup Competition
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021

AC75 launch dates:
September 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1


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