Johnstone: No bad blood with Team NZ duo

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 15:47 12/02/2014
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Dean Barker has given some insight to the failed America's Cup campaign talking to Paul Henry

Grant Dalton
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TOUGH LUCK: Grant Dalton consoles Dean Barker after Team New Zealand lost out the Oracle in the America's Cup.

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OPINION: There will be no bad blood between Dean Barker and Grant Dalton arising from the Team New Zealand skipper's revelations about his boss during the last America's Cup.

Actually "revelations" is a bit of a stretch.

Other than suggesting that Dalton's decision to opt for a rest day when leading Oracle 7-1 was an autonomous decision, there was little new in Barker's interview with Paul Henry on TV3.

Dalton had previously covered off that decision in the immediate aftermath of the 9-8 loss in San Francisco. Just as he had talked about his grinding role on the boat being contentious given the youth and added power that Winston Macfarlane provided as an alternative.

This had an air of Henry wanting to make a mark to highlight his return to New Zealand TV. It was almost uncanny with its similarity to Paul Holmes' TV debut all those years ago when "Dirty Dennis" Conner, the America's Cup legend, stormed off the set.

The thought undoubtedly crossed Barker's mind as he digested repeated questioning.

So what was motivating Barker to stay seated and be so frank with Henry?

Probably nothing more than the honesty and dignity that made him a popular figure during the Cup in San Francisco.

It was those traits that saw Barker and his crew received with overwhelming warmth when they returned home despite the circumstances of their defeat - being at the wrong end of one of sport's greatest comebacks.

And when it comes to yachting, there is no-one more honest than Dalton.

His forthright views have rubbed plenty of people up the wrong way down the years, even causing the America's Cup organisers to invoke the "Dalton Clause" for the last regatta to try to muzzle his frank thoughts.

Dalton calls a spade a spade. To begrudge Barker taking a similar tack won't be in his makeup.

So Dalton won't be too alarmed by Barker's utterances, although the timing is a bit unfortunate as he does the rounds overseas looking for sponsorship to contest the next America's Cup.

In-house tensions can be the makings of winners, just as they can also cause cracks to expand on the other side of the fence.

Looking in the mirror is as important as looking at your opposition. Oracle certainly proved that in engineering their remarkable turnaround.

Dalton has already admitted his errors from the failed 2013 campaign and the syndicate has been quick to take those on board - hence the leadership roles will spread far wider if there is another campaign.

Dalton's priority will be doing what he does best - funding and organising. His right-hand man, the affable and experienced Kevin Shoebridge, will step into a more frontline position and Barker will take a broader view of the sailing systems.

As for the debate over Dalton's right to be on the boat last year at 56 - yes, it was debated inhouse just as it was discussed publicly -  but let's not suggest that was the winning or losing of the Cup.

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Far from it. For the first half of the regatta Dalton was seen as the team's lucky charm. Fans didn't like his absence because without him, disasters started happening. Poor old Winston never got to taste the joy of a single win when he did get on board. His addition certainly couldn't stop the rot.

Under normal circumstances Macfarlane would have got far more time on the boat.

The plan was to have him and Dalton rotating the grinder's position, especially with two races scheduled each day.

But let's not forget this wasn't a normal regatta. All sorts of circumstances conspired to make it anything but and postponements turned many of the days into one-race affairs, allowing the old boy to put his feet up and rest for the next installment.

Barker may have felt a bit of heat from Henry's trademark blowtorch questioning but he's got a bigger challenge coming across his bow in the not too distant future.

The signing of young star Peter Burling represents a genuine challenge to his role at the helm of Team New Zealand's next America's Cup boat if the syndicate can stay in the game.

Burling will have to earn that right, of course. But his signature, along with Blair Tuke, his partner in Olympic 49er silver and world championship glory, confirms that the old guard are willing to be honest enough to realise a new route must be charted if the team is to return the Auld Mug to New Zealand.

- Fairfax Media

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