America's Cup: Dean Barker on The Last Waltz and ETNZ's Future

Emirates Team New Zealand Tactician Ray Davies and Dean Barker during a two hour official practice session with Artemis (SWE)

In Dubai for the start of the final ever round in the Louis Vuitton Trophy series, Sail-World’s NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, spoke to Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker on the end of an era of more than ten years sailing the America’s Cup monohull; his recent experiences in the Extreme 40’s; and his thoughts on the 34th America’s Cup and Emirates Team New Zealand’s situation regard that event.

Sail-World: You are in Dubai there for the final event of the Louis Vuitton Trophy. How does it feel sailing the monohulls for the last time?

Dean Barker: It is quite a strange sensation actually, this is the swansonsong of the Version 5 IACC yachts. You get out there and you sail around and you remember what hard work that went into getting the boats to be what they are. And it is not going to be anymore. In some ways it is a little strange to know that this is the last time we will ever sail in these sort of boats. At the same time, after you get out there and you do a shakedown and practice for a few races, you actually realize how much fun they are to race. The racing is always very very close and you are in very close quarters with other boats. It is just good, hard, enjoyable racing even though the boat aren’t considered high-performance by any stretch. The racing they provide is very interesting.

Emirates Team NZ digs a bow in during the Extreme 40 series in Spain.
Paul Wyeth / OC Events

Sail-World: You sailed the Extreme 40’s a couple of weeks ago what do you think is the better boat for the America’s Cup?

Dean Barker: If you did it on our performance I would have to say these (IACC) yachts. Our first taste of multihull sailing was a huge, huge learning curve. We came away knowing that we had a lot to do to be at the same level as we are with monohulls

What will provide the better racing? We are going to have to wait and see what 2013 is like. I think the jury is most definitely out as to what will be better. Personally I still believe that we have had as close or closer racing in the mono-hull, but this is a vision that obviously Russell and Larry prepared for some time and in which direction they care to go. We just have to play by the rules and we will see what comes of it all.

Sail-World: What was your take on the Extreme 40, what are the main differences form what you are doing this week?

Dean Barker: The Extreme 40’s are really a show. You do a little bit of racing outside the port. Predominantly, the racing, by all accounts, is always within the harbours, so you are racing in a very confined space. The windward leg might only take two minutes and you have eight boats on the startline. It’s all go.

I think the racing in the Extreme 40s is certainly a spectacle designed to entertain the public and sponsors. They do a very good job of it. In terms of pure racing, it is certainly compromised because you are racing in very confined areas. It is very much a boat-handling, driven race which certainly doesn’t help when you are getting into it for the very first time.

Emirates Team New Zealand race eight of the Trophy of Sardinia, Audi MedCup 2010. Cagliari Sardinia. 25/9/2010

Sail-World: Next year, are you staying with the Extreme 40’s?

Dean Barker: At the moment we are still determining whether in fact, we are going to go ahead with the America’s Cup. We are not a confirmed starter by any means. We have to get the funds in place.

We are starting up with intention very much to challenge. Part of that is planning for next year and we would like to compete in as many of the Extreme 40 events as we can. We have to look at all the different options and the thing in multi-hulls is there aren’t too many established multi-hull circuits around at the moment. We have to look and see what sort of sailing is going to get us up to speed the quickest.

Sail-World: You made the comment last time we spoke, after you’d read the America’s Cup Protocol, that it 'reeked of cost'. Do you stand by that comment?

Dean Barker: It is certainly not cheaper, by any means. Without question, it is more expensive than what we had last time. With the time frames being so compressed, and 2013 being announced as the date, to the surprise of many, that has helped to limit the cost a little bit, as that is one year less that we have to operate.

There are still so many unknowns because you are dealing with a boat that has a wing sail and there are a whole lot of logistics in keeping that together, even on the dock. It is going to be hard going and interesting to see how it all works out.

Fleet racing on the final day of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series™ in Almeria in front of thousands of spectators
Paul Wyeth / OC Events

Sail-World: What is your deadline for making a decision on the challenge – given that time runs out in about four months on 31 March, next year?

Dean Barker: We are definitely working as though we will Challenge, but it is not guaranteed. It still relies on a lot of the funding is falling into place, and certainly that is not an easy thing to do, even at the best of times. We would really like to compete in America’s Cup, so that is the objective of the team. That is what we are pushing to try and do. From a personal point of view I really hope the team is able to push ahead. It is certainly a very interesting challenge. There is a lot of road to cover, but I think it will be a very exciting at the same time.

Sail-World: There have been reports of several signings with teams Team NZ, of the likes of Glenn Ashby and others, are they correct?

Dean Barker: We have basically contracted a bunch of people to go through what we call the due diligence period , because you can’t afford to be sitting idle with the timeframe. We are looking very hard at the costings. What it costs to build, to build these sort of boats the logistics involved, the skills required. We are trying to bring people in to help us with that decision making process. I certainly don’t have the skills right now to be able to make those sort of judgements or knowing the sailing requirements.

And certainly the existing design team we have is pretty much a mono-hull based – so we need experience from outside the group and that is what we are doing. That helps us make the final decision.

Emirates Team New Zealand have a two hour official practice session with Artemis (SWE) 12/11/2010

Sail-World: What is the status of those people, are they there until you have decided to Challenge? What happens after that?

Dean Barker: The intention is that if we go ahead these people will be with us for sure. The people we have targeted are all people we want to be part of this team in the future in this multi-hull environment. Without question, there will be some different faces from what we have seen in the past. We have to be able to change, reconfigure ourselves to remain competitive.

Sail-World: How many people have you acquired on that basis?

Dean Barker: We have been talking to a number of different people, like all the other prospective challengers have. Other than Glenn there are no other sailors, it is more design type people and logistics.

Sail-World: How many people?

Dean Barker: I don’ have any idea how many people we have sitting at the moment, working on it. We have 10-15 people working away at present looking at the different options.

Emirates Team New Zealand, Matteo de Nora nad Dean Barker on stage as season champions of the Audi MedCup 2010. Cagliari Sardinia. 25/9/2010

Sail-World: How have you found the learning curve in the A-class (catamaran)?

Dean Barker: The A-class has been good, I am really enjoying it. The learning curve is pretty much vertical at the moment, I don’t think you could get one any steeper. But that is great. All we have done recently is focus on monohulls between switching between the AC Version 5’ TP52’s and some RC44’s. Essentially if all you have done has been to focus on mono-hulls in the recent years, then to do something different is great. I enjoy the challenge; it invigorates us to want to get back into it.

Sail-World:Are you going to compete in any regattas in the A-class?

Dean Barker: We are looking at that at the moment now. We will look at doing some racing in Australia. Hopefully we can do a little bit of racing at the top end of the A-Class, in Australia, they have three of the top five people in the world, I understand. All the guns are there. That might be the place to go to learn how to sail around in on one hull.

CC20101111m032 thumb 2000