Hopes for Victory at the Helm of a 72-footer
“Dean Barker has been the helmsman for Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup,” Christopher Clarey begins in a New York Times article a few days out from the first round-robin race of the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco this year. “He has been the helmsman for Team New Zealand in the Louis Vuitton Cup. He has raced in the MedCup, the Congressional Cup, the world match-racing championships, even the Olympics. But until October 2010, Barker, one of the world’s most experienced and successful sailors, had never been at the helm or at any other post during a multihull race. ‘No, no, no, niver, niver, niver,’ said Barker, 41, using the true-blue New Zealander’s pronunciation of ‘never.’ Until Larry Ellison and Barker’s countryman Russell Coutts of Oracle Team USA determined that the 34th America’s Cup would be contested in 72-foot catamarans, Barker had never had need or desire to race in a boat with more than one hull. ‘I did have a Hobie 16, which I had bought a few years before just as a knock-around boat, just to use for the beach,’ he said. ‘But that was just to go out and muck around in.’ The mucking around came to an abrupt halt in 2010 as Barker flew to Almeria, Spain, to compete with his teammates in an Extreme 40 regatta in a catamaran. “We finished dead last and not by a small amount,” Barker said. “We came away from that knowing what was involved and what we needed to do, but we realised it was a pretty steep mountain to climb.’ Team New Zealand, with Barker still at the helm, is a strong favourite to emerge from the disappointingly small group of three challengers and face Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup in September. “We’ve gone from a boat in which finesse and fine tuning and detailing has sort of been absolutely paramount to a boat where it’s just raw adrenaline and quite big changes in the speed and the trim and angle where it’s a lot more seat-of-the-pants sailing, and all that pretty much makes the boats all the more fun to sail.” Barker was born in Auckland.