Dean's Blog

There are few sailors who have experienced the intense highs and lows of America’s Cup racing like Dean Barker. In the space of 13 years, he has steered the final race in a successful defence for New Zealand in 2000, lost the Cup skippering Team New Zealand in 2003, failed to win it back in a close contest with Alinghi in 2007, then held what appeared to be an unbeatable lead in 2013 against Team Oracle USA, before ending-up on the wrong side “of one of sport’s greatest comebacks.”

It’s a history that would have broken a lesser individual, but Barker is back chasing the painfully elusive dream of securing sailing’s ultimate prize.

Ivor Wilkins speaks exclusively with the CEO and skipper of Softbank Team Japan about his determination to climb the mountain one more time.

There’s still life and ambition in the veteran America’s Cup campaigner yet.

There have been times when Dean Barker looked as if his shoulders were bowed, if not under the weight of the world, then certainly under the weight of a nation. Small as it is, New Zealand’s America’s Cup expectations have always been precociously large – yet, the record shows it has reached the loftiest heights of its own ambitions.

But, it has also suffered crushing failure, first in the 5-0 loss of the Cup in front of home fans in 2003 and then the death by a thousand cuts in San Francisco when Oracle Team USA staged that inconceivable comeback to retain the Cup. On both occasions, Barker looked a broken man.

Softbank Team Japan is gaining the practice and benefitting from sharing knowledge with Oracle Team USA.

Then came the messy divorce as Emirates Team New Zealand restructured for 2017 and turned to younger rising talents in the form of 49er aces Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

Let’s not forget, however, that Barker has also tasted significant success – as a very young sparring partner to Russell Coutts in the successful 2000 defence of the Cup in Auckland and also in twice winning the Louis Vuitton Cup. The competitive fires still burn and the ETNZ exit was not an acceptable epitaph to his America’s Cup career. When the opportunity arose to lead a Japanese challenge, he leaped at it.

Asian waters will be the proving ground for Softbank Team Japan at the next Louis Vuitton World Series, held in Fukuoka.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the saying goes, and as he set about building the Softbank Team Japan campaign from the ground up, he has looked re-energised, engaged, a man with a mission, happy.

Even if this was not the narrative he would have chosen, does he perhaps feel liberated from the baggage of New Zealand’s Cup story? “Some of the best years of my life were working in New Zealand,” he says.

“I enjoyed the friendships of people I worked with. It obviously wasn’t something I would have wanted to end the way it did. I wanted to continue racing. I have a huge love of the sport, the racing and the competition, so when this opportunity came around, it was certainly unexpected, but it has been amazing.

It’s hoped the round on home waters will generate interest in the America’s Cup in Japan and a strong following in the lead up to Bermuda 2017.

“To be able to continue to race in a different environment and with a different level of expectation, does mean you can go out and relax a bit and have some fun. I am enjoying this environment we have created. Having the ownership of doing something new and in the way you would like to do it has been very satisfying. It is very rewarding being part of this new team.”

Japan, of course, is not new to the America’s Cup and it has always had strong connections with New Zealand and Australia. Chris Dickson skippered the first Nippon Challenge campaign in 1992, John Cutler in 1995 and Peter Gilmour in 2000, the last time the Rising Sun flag flew over the Cup arena.

Podium finish

Really proud of the team getting the 2nd podium finish. The hard work is paying off. Plenty more to come. Thanks for the support.

Happy Easter

Hi

Hope everyone had a great Easter break and enjoyed the fantastic weather.

We were very fortunate to take delivery of our new Southern Pacific inflatable on Thursday and get the chance to give it a good run over the Easter break.  We have purchased a Comrant 550 which we intend to use primarily for family water sports and the odd bit of bad fishing.  We have put a 90hp Suzuki on it.

With the age of the kids it is nice to have a boat which is easily managed with two people, and good enough to tow biscuits, wakeboards, waterskis etc to keep everyone entertained.  With the Suzuki engine and two adults we topped out at just over 40 knots which is plenty quick enough!!  The engine was incredibly quiet and very eficent with the four days of boating we had.  The boat was also very smooth riding in the small chop we encountered.

Dean's Cormorant 550

The plan is to have the boat at the Boat Show in May, and there are several nice features which makes the boat very practical for family boating.  Hope you have time to come and check it out.

A big thanks to Blair, Luke and the Team at SPI for getting the boat finished in time for Easter.

Dean

This is my first blog for quite some time.  In fact since September last year when I was still a part of Team NZ racing in Istanbul for the Extreme Sailing Series.  It is fair to say there has been a fiar bit that has happened since then, most of which has been incredibly disappointing.

But for the past two weeks I have been back doing what I love and that is racing.  I was very fortunate to join a Russian RC44 team, Team Nika, to compete in the first event of the 2015 series.  We raced in Malta which was the first time that I had been there, and a very interesting place.

It was very refreshing to get back out on the water having not raced the RC44's since 2009, and not really raced monohulls much since 2010.  Certainly pretty rusty at times and the boats do not quite have the top end performance of the AC72's!!

The RC44 racing is broken up into two parts.  Match racing on day 1, and then 4 days of fleet racing.  We ended up tied for first (2nd on countback) in the match race, and then 2nd in the fleet race so in the end it was a satisfying way to start the series.  As always it felt like we left a number of points out on the course, but I am sure everyone feels the same way.

Plenty of things to improve for the next event which is in June in Porto Cervo, and nice to be back out and enjoying some good racing again.

All for now

Dean

Today was another tough day. Great conditions with 18-23 kts and plenty of action. The race course in Istanbul was really open and allowed the opportunity for some big gains and losses. 

Today we knew if we put a solid day together we would have a chance to win the event. Going into the final double points race we were 6 behind The Wave and 12 ahead of Alinghi. We sailed a really strong race and pulled out a win. Knowing The Wave needed to be three boats behind us we were watching to see where they were. In the end they finished mid fleet. 

It is a great feeling to bounce back after the disappointing result in Cardiff. We debriefed hard and I think the result made you realise how hard you need to work to do well. 

The guys all did a great job on board all week and it felt like we made good gains in our performance. 

On the plane now heading home

Dean

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