19 Feb 2015

Dean Barker future role unclear

6:09 am on 19 February 2015

The future role of Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker is unclear after the America's Cup challenger denied reports he had been dumped as helmsman, but did say a review was underway.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Barker has helmed in four America's Cup campaigns, and Team New Zealand said no decisions had been made yet for a challenge in Bermuda in 2017.

Team New Zealand described as inaccurate speculation that its helmsman for a likely Bermuda challenge would be Barker's teammate, 24-year-old Peter Burling.

Burling is a four-times sailing world champion and one of a core crew of nine sailors including Barker, contracted to Team New Zealand.

He won silver at the 2012 London Olympics in the 49er class and helmed Team New Zealand's victory in the Youth America's Cup in San Francisco in 2012 on the smaller AC45 catamarans.

The team said a review was continuing into all of the team functions including sailing and there was no timeframe for any decisions.

Dean Barker is the only America's Cup helmsman to have sailed in all the cup regattas since 2000, excluding the 2010 multi-hull duel between Alinghi and Oracle.

He was the understudy to former skipper Russell Coutts when Team New Zealand successfully defended the Cup 5-0 in Auckland in 2000.

Coutts handed the helm to Barker for the fifth and deciding race against Prada on the Hauraki Gulf.

Barker took over as skipper and helmsman for the disastrous 2003 defence when the Team New Zealand boat shipped water and broke its mast in the opening race, losing the cup 0-5 to the Coutts-led Alinghi.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker.

Dean Barker during the 2012 America's Cup in San Francisco. Photo: RNZ

He led the comeback campaign in Valencia in 2007, but lost 5-2 to Alinghi. In 2012 the Barker-led Team New Zealand came within one race of clinching the cup in San Francisco, when Oracle had a dramatic lift in form and won 9-8.

Some observers believe that after 14 years at the helm it would not be a surprise for Barker to be replaced by a younger-generation helmsman on the high-powered 62 foot catamarans being built for Bermuda.

But Team New Zealand will need to keep its options open for some time yet.

Peter Burling and fellow Team New Zealander Blair Tuke have their own Olympic campaign in the 49er class for next year in Rio De Janeiro to focus on, making it unlikely that he alone could assume all the helming duties in the build-up to the Americas Cup.

A decision will be announced on 2 March whether Auckland will host regattas in the build-up to the 2017 cup.

That decision is expected to also confirm whether the Government will sponsor the team and cement its challenge in Bermuda.

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