America’s Cup: Dean Barker ‘gutted’ by Team NZ axing

 

America’s Cup: Dean Barker ‘gutted’ by Team NZ axing

Dean Barker says his life has gone into Team New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Dean Barker says his life has gone into Team New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

Dean Barker is “absolutely gutted” at the way he has been treated by Team New Zealand.

Barker told Campbell Live he heard about the rumours he was to lose his job as helmsman of Team NZ through reports on media last week.

He heard from Sir Stephen Tindall that Team NZ management would seek a retraction from the media last week that reports were incorrect, but was told today that the rumours were true.

“Today I learnt in a statement to the media that that was the case,” he said.

“I’m absolutely gutted in the way I’ve been treated by Team New Zealand.”

Barker said it was “incredibly difficult” to understand what had happened in the past week.

He said he had sent a letter yesterday to Team New Zealand and its management to explain he didn’t agree with any of the processes conducted around his dumping.

He said since San Francisco he had pushed strongly to form the executive team of which he was the sailing director.

“I’ve always worked on the basis that that was my role with Team New Zealand.”

He indicated he was unhappy with the role offered to him by Grant Dalton.

“I’m a sailor, I love competing and I love racing. This performance coaching role is not a sailing role, it’s a data role, it’s an analysis role, it’s not why I signed up to part of Team New Zealand. If that was the role that was on offer at the start of last year I wouldn’t have re-joined the team.”

Barker said he had received offers that would have paid more than Team New Zealand on a number of occasions by teams including Alinghi and Luna Rossa.

He said he never seriously considered taking any of them.

“It’s not about the money. For me it’s about bringing the America’s Cup back to New Zealand. That’s the most important thing for me and my family.”

He said he couldn’t say whether he would now again be offered positions in other teams, or whether he’d take an offer from another team.

“I’ve put everything I have in to this team. I’ve never seriously thought about the opportunity to go and work for another one.”

The team announced Barker has instead been offered a role as performance manager and sailing coach, with a place on the executive committee. Barker is yet to accept the offer.

Australian multihull specialist and wing trimmer for the 2013 campaign Glenn Ashby has been appointed sailing director and he and Peter Burling will take on helming duties.

He had spent 20 years with Team NZ and said half his life had gone in to the team.

“You put everything in to it.

“Regardless of what happens with me and where I end up I want the team to be incredibly successful.”

Barker said he still hoped the team would bring the America’s Cup back to New Zealand.

Chief executive Dalton told the Herald the organisation are determined to retain Barker, but admitted there are bridges between the pair the needed to be mended. Dalton said he had not spoken to Barker for almost two weeks, but had been corresponding via email.

“We want to get together with Dean and sort things out. We hope he stays – that’s what his teammates want, that’s what we want. The ball is in his court.”

Barker was left shellshocked after news he was to be replaced at the helm by Burling was leaked to Newstalk ZB last week, and is said to be considering his future with Team NZ – an organisation he has been with for 20 years.

Asked if he regretted the way the news was made public, Dalton said:

“If it has caused Dean and his family distress, then that’s very regrettable.”

“Was it a leak from this organisation? I’m not 100 per cent sure, I don’t think any one actually knows the answer to that. But I can tell you that we’re going to try and find out. I can’t imagine any one is going to put their hand up high though.”

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“Emirates Team New Zealand recognises that Dean has significant experience and can make a valuable contribution. The role we have offered him would enable the team to capitalise on his skills,” the team said in a statement this afternoon.

“Until the review process was completed it would have been unfair to all involved, and therefore inappropriate, for Emirates Team New Zealand to comment on the various reports in the media over the last week. The review process is now complete.”

The selection of Bermuda as the venue for the next America’s Cup series has had a major impact on Team New Zealand’s finances, with the Kiwi syndicate indicating they have had to slash their budget by some $20 million.

“This meant the team has had to reduce its remuneration budget and each team member has, as a result, taken a significant pay cut.”

“Additionally several million dollars has been axed from the operations budget leading to the scrapping of one of the foiling AC45s that we had planned and, consequently, the elimination of one of the planned helmsman positions.”

While Team NZ are keen to have Barker involved in the next campaign, it is unclear at this stage if the popular yachtie will accept the offer. It is understood the relationship between Barker and chief executive Grant Dalton has steadily deteriorated over the past year, to the point where they rarely talk.

Dalton said Team NZ has activated its next stage of preparations, with the syndicate to become fully operational on Monday.

“We’re hoping to retain Dean’s 20 years of America’s Cup experience in Emirates Team New Zealand but we also acknowledge it is time for new blood to be given the chance at the helm of the country’s challenger,” Dalton said.

Come Monday the team’s 50 contracted staff will begin the role of planning and construction for the upcoming race series. With the first America’s Cup World Series regatta scheduled to take place at Cagliari, Italy in June, pressure is on the team to start immediately on modifying an AC45 catamaran to foil.

‘It’s best dealt with by the team’

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce hinted at some frustration over the handling of Barker’s case, saying one of the criteria the Government had for funding was the team’s cohesiveness. He had not personally spoken to Team NZ’s management recently.

“I have said all the way through that obviously the Government’s view as to whether we would invest in the team is coloured by a range of things. Most importantly if we’re going to invest in the team then obviously having a cohesive team is reasonably important.”

Mr Joyce declined to offer an opinion on the decision to replace Dean Barker as skipper, saying it was not appropriate for politicians.

However, he said Mr Barker had been “a huge contributor” to the team. “Most New Zealanders will understand that. I think most New Zealanders will also understand that in all these things in sport, things change over time. We’ve seen that in a lot of sports recently. I don’t think it’s something the Government should link to sponsorship or anything else.”

Asked for his view on the handling of it, he said he did not know all the details. “Obviously there’s been a bit of to-ing and fro-ing. That’s alluded to in the press release this afternoon. I understand they’ve made Dean an offer. It’s best dealt with by the team.”

Mr Joyce also confirmed the Government had made a “conditional offer” to Team New Zealand but had also made it clear any Government offer would be “significantly smaller.”

“Those things are around particularly the location of the qualifying series, the viability of the team and other matters like that. I don’t think we should have a view on who would be in which position on the boat.”

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