Barker keen to keep foreign 'vultures' at bay

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 04/10/2013
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke
WORLD CHAMPS: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke race a 49er.

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Australia is capable of presenting a competitive America's Cup syndicate and Team New Zealand need to improve their talent depth.

These were two of the key points to emerge as Team New Zealand continued their media drive yesterday, determined to keep their profile high as the debate over future funding swirls around them.

Grant Dalton's syndicate will enjoy an official welcome-home ceremony in Auckland today which Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce will attend.

The Government has given some clear signs that it is willing to discuss involvement in the next campaign after providing $36 million funding for the just-completed San Francisco regatta.

It wants an outline of Team New Zealand's hopes and plans for the future and skipper Dean Barker believes that needs to be delivered in the next fortnight, with urgency required to keep the syndicates key designers and sailors on board.

Barker believed Oracle's success in the America's Cup proved the benefit of a deep pool of sailing talent. Rocked by the cheating scandal that robbed them of two first-choice crew, then deciding to replace tactician John Kostecki, they managed to cover those changes more than adequately.

Barker believed young stars such as Olympic silver medallists and newly crowned world 49er champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke needed to be in the loop.

Ultimately, Burling appealed as someone who could take over at the wheel of a Kiwi America's Cup challenge.

"We need guys like Peter Burling in the team ... we need more depth there," Barker said.

"Our focus right now is very much on the ability for Team New Zealand to continue."

And he felt Australia's re-emergence, with Hamilton Island Yacht Club confirmed as the Challenger of Record, heightened the need to sort out Team New Zealand's future.

They would be looking to engage Australian sailors and there might be a need to cast their net wider, particularly in the design sphere.

"Australia have a huge amount of talent to draw on and it will be very interesting to see where people end up in the next cycle," Barker said.

He felt New Zealand still had the talent here to succeed.

"I certainly don't see this team as a failure," he said, noting the closeness of the 9-8 result against Oracle. "We put up a hell of a fight. I truly believe we weren't out-sailed by the Oracle guys ... in the end we were beaten by a boat that was better in the 20-knot range."

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Long-term sponsorships would need to be found but the immediate target was to keep key people on the books to avoid them being poached.

Most Team New Zealand contracts were about to expire, making them vulnerable to raids by rivals.

"I now have to deal with the vultures coming after my guys. This is a brutal game. It's like trying to take organs from a person when they aren't actually quite dead while St John's is trying to do CPR to keep them alive," Dalton said.

With the Hamilton Island Yacht Club indicating that catamarans are likely to remain in the frame, Team New Zealand's designers will be particularly vulnerable to rival syndicates.

And the likelihood that no-nationality rules will be reintroduced to the teams will also leave the sailing crew at risk.

Team New Zealand will need to swing into action swiftly. They had to endure a six-year break between the last two cup campaigns as Oracle engineered a successful one-off challenge against Alinghi in 2010.

But the three-year cycle is set to return to the America's Cup, meaning pressure for decisions and commitments.

- Fairfax Media

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