Sir Russell Coutts lobbied for Dean Barker to be in Team Japan mix for next America's Cup
Dean Barker's friend and nemesis Sir Russell Coutts was a strong advocate for the Kiwi sailor's hiring to lead Team Japan into the next America's Cup.
Coutts' role in overseeing the controversial 2017 edition in Bermuda has meant encouraging fresh teams to contest sport's oldest trophy. That has netted a challenge from France and now a late entry from Japan.
Both outfits have been offered design packages by Coutts' Oracle syndicate aimed at helping them be competitive.
Stuff.co.nz understands that in courting the Japanese, Coutts lobbied for Barker to be involved, promoting his 20 years of Cup experience and understanding of the new age of foiling catamarans as ideal for a fledging syndicate.
Barker confirmed that on Paul Henry on Friday, saying Coutts approached him about taking on the Japan job.
"Obviously the team got up and running and Fuku [Kazuhiko Sofuku] was appointed as general manager of the team. With that they organised a challenge and there was the opportunity to take on not only skippering the boat, which I want to be doing, but also to lead the team," Barker said.
Barker was available after being axed as helmsman by Team New Zealand earlier this year and then turning down an offer to shift to a coaching role.
Coutts and Barker have a long and twisted history.
Coutts mentored Barker into sailing's toughest game, handing him the wheel for the deciding race in Team New Zealand's 2000 defence in Auckland. But he returned three years later in Swiss colours with Alinghi to take the Cup from Barker's Team New Zealand.
Coutts also helped mastermind Oracle's comeback from 8-1 to beat the Barker-helmed Team New Zealand catamaran in San Francisco in 2013.
Barker now takes on the dual responsibilities of being chief executive and skipper.
In the comfy world that the America's Cup has now submerged into with the challengers forming a committee approach, Team Japan will be seen as something of an ally to the direction that Oracle is now taking the Cup.
They have forged strong support from Team France, Sweden's Artemis Racing and Ben Ainslie Racing (Britain) to marginalise Team New Zealand around the boardroom table and Japan will surely follow suit.
Already that approach has cost the Cup-seasoned Italian challenger Luna Rossa, who grew frustrated at the constant changes orchestrated by Oracle that included reducing the boats from a 62-foot class to 48-footers.
Confirmation of Barker's appointment came as Luna Rossa's helmsman and tactician Francesco Bruni was spotted training with Artemis Racing in Bermuda – another sign of the tight-knit scene that exists with talent at this level.
Artemis confirmed Bruni's appearance in their mix, but said there was "no formal relationship".