It is "very unlikely" that former Team New Zealand helmsman and Oracle chief executive Sir Russell Coutts would return to the Kiwi team, according to current skipper Dean Barker.
Coutts, who skippered New Zealand's iconic boat Black Magic to America's Cup victory in 1995 and defended the cup five years later, is moving back home from the US and has refused to rule out a return to Team New Zealand.
But in an interview with TV3 tonight, Barker doubted that Coutts would return to Team New Zealand.
"I haven't spoken to him so I am not sure what his plans are. But I would say it is very unlikely," Barker told Campbell Live.
He acknowledged the record of the five time America's Cup winner, but said that did not mean Coutts would have a role in the New Zealand team.
"He's the most successful guy ever in the America's Cup. Whether there is an opportunity for him to be involved in Team New Zealand that is very hard to say, because we have a structure which is determined," Barker said.
"Whether he is meaning what he is saying, who knows? He is obviously looking for other opportunities now."
Coutts has called the possible death of Team New Zealand "ridiculous" but Barker said there was only a small window to get funding before the team would fall apart.
"Without the money to be able to get going again very quickly we lose the people, and if we lose the people there is no Team New Zealand," he said.
Less than a week since Oracle Team USA came back from 8-1 down to win the America's Cup, other teams, including Sweden's Artemis Racing, had already targeted members the Team New Zealand crew, according to Barker.
"It is tough, it is really tough, when you are still trying to regather yourself, or compose yourself after what we have been through, and the vultures are already circling," he said.
But if Team New Zealand did continue Barker would want to be at the helm.
"I would love to have another chance to work with Team New Zealand again. I have given my heart and soul to this team. I am a very proud New Zealander and I would love to be part of Team New Zealand in the future," Barker said.
"At the end it's not my decision. If the team does continue and there is an opportunity for me to be involved then I will yes," he said.
"It's my whole reason for living. Everything that I do is about America's Cup. It is a passion that has been burning for huge amount of time."
- © Fairfax NZ News