Dean Barker and the Sharing of a Rivalry
As Oracle Team USA polished off one of the greatest comebacks in any sport in the last America’s Cup, even eye contact became difficult for Jimmy Spithill, Oracle’s skipper, and Dean Barker, his counterpart at Emirates Team New Zealand, the New York Times reports in a feature about the pair’s competition.
“Both of us I think wanted to rip each other’s throat out,” Spithill said.
Now skipper and chief executive for new challenger SoftBank Team Japan Dean Barker and Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill share office space in a recently renovated 19th-century warehouse in the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda as they prepare for this week’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta on the Great Sound.
There has been quite a mood swing for the star helmsmen with contrasting personalities who were rivals long before Oracle’s 2013 fight-back for the annals from a 1-8 deficit in San Francisco.
The outcome was one part exhilarating victory, one part crushing defeat. And the two men who symbolised each team’s improbable journey were the cocksure Spithill and the understated Barker, who looked every bit as stricken in defeat that sunny September afternoon in 2013 as one would expect.
Ellison and New Zealander Russell Coutts, the former skipper who is now head of the America’s Cup event authority and selected Bermuda for 2017, have ended up becoming Barker’s link to Team Japan and its billionaire owner, Masayoshi Son.
A team from the commercially important Asian market, particularly a team with a star skipper, was thus most welcome, and to help the process along, Oracle offered to provide Team Japan a design package for their new boat. That cooperative relationship explains why Barker and Spithill are sharing office space and will soon be testing new catamarans against each other in training.
Even Spithill, once the personification of Barker’s frustrations, has become a positive, but it does bear remembering – even after the barbecues and the deep design discussions – that they will no longer be allies if they meet in the Cup match again in 2017.
“They are friendly,” Coutts confirmed. “For the moment.”
Original article by Christopher Clarey, The New York Times, October 15, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse.