Sitting down with Dean Barker

Published on March 30th, 2023

Shirley Robertson

This edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast hosts one of the sport’s most recognizable talents as New Zealand’s Dean Barker talks to double Olympic gold medallist Robertson about a career spent chasing the illusive America’s Cup.

From his formative years growing up in Takapuna, Auckland, Barker was soon sailing at a high level, and was inspired in no small part by the likes of Russell Coutts and the generation of remarkably talented New Zealand sailors making their presence felt on the global stage.

Barker discusses these early days through to the moment when Russell Coutts asked him to helm the final match of Team New Zealand’s successful America’s Cup Defense against Luna Rossa in New Zealand…

“It was quite incredible, it was something that I will never ever forget, just having the chance to be a part of it was pretty special…. but to be on the boat when we crossed the finish line…it was a huge weight off the shoulders…it was the first time I had touched the Cup and it was the start of a pursuit of trying to do that again.”

From that Cup win, Dean Barker would spend two decades chasing the illusive trophy, in a career that would see him gain a reputation as one of the most clinical match racers in the sport.

Dean Barker

Robertson and Barker discuss many of the key campaigns that have punctuated his career, including his appearance at the Athens 2004 Olympics and his Match Racing World Title.

America’s Cup stories take in the acrimonious departure of Coutts and Butterworth from Team New Zealand, and the subsequent loss against Alinghi in 2003, through to the marathon Challenger Series in 2007 which saw Barker helm Team New Zealand to 27 wins from 32 matches to reach another America’s Cup match.

Inevitably discussion intensifies as Barker and Robertson reflect on the remarkable events of San Francisco 2013, an America’s Cup that saw Emirates Team New Zealand concede eight losses in a row against eventual winners Oracle Team USA.

The build up to the 2013 Cup was a remarkable period of development that had seen Barker’s Team New Zealand innovate in the extreme, the end result, the fast, powerful fully-foiling AC72 that stunned sailing fans across the globe.

“To say the boats were under control would be a massive over statement; they were so hard to manage on that reach across from the start to the turning mark off St Francis Yacht Club…the speeds and the power and everything, and how out of control you felt at times…you’re thinking if it goes wrong here, we’re going to be picking up pieces off the waterfront here in San Francisco!”

The result of the 35th America’s Cup is well documented, and is much talked about from many of the protagonists here on Robertson’s podcast, but the effect of the very public loss on Dean Barker has been profound, a fact that he discusses with Robertson as he looks back on what was a difficult time.

Bringing his career up to the present day, Barker also discusses the campaign with American Magic, at home in Auckland, along with a cautionary tale of his fight with colon cancer throughout the build up to that Cup. This edition of the podcast is another fascinating look into the life of one of the sport of sailing’s biggest names, Barker’s honesty and sincerity adding significantly to stories from a long and remarkable career.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts:

Part One:

Part Two:

Shirley Robertson OBE made history by becoming the first British woman to win Olympic Gold Medals at two consecutive Olympic Games. Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.

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