Grant Dalton denies any rift with Dean Barker

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014
Grant Dalton
Getty Images
TOUGH LUCK: Grant Dalton consoles Dean Barker after Team New Zealand lost out the Oracle in the America's Cup.

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Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton says he remains tight with skipper Dean Barker as he plots a way for the syndicate to contest the next America's Cup.

Their partnership was placed under question during a candid interview that Barker undertook with TV3's Paul Henry.

Barker revealed that Dalton's place on the boat during the agonising loss to Oracle in San Francisco last September had been heavily debated.

Under relentless questioning from Henry, Barker also said the decision to opt for a rest day when leading 7-1 had been made solely by Dalton. Oracle used the delay to continue their development and they eventually wrestled the momentum from the Kiwis to recover for a remarkable 9-8 victory to retain the Auld Mug.

"That was clearly a mistake. It was a decision that was made outside of our knowledge. Grant ultimately made the decision which is his right within the team," Barker said.

Dalton, in the United States on a crucial fundraising drive, brushed aside any suggestions of a rift between himself and Barker.

They had spoken in the wake of the interview as Dalton boarded flights to meetings where he is looking to find the $100 million needed to sail in 2017.

"Dean and I are very close, we talk openly and honestly with each other," Dalton said.

"I am sure some parts of the media would like to report some kind of split, I can assure you there is no split."

Dalton put his hand up for the decision not to race on September 16, just as he told Fairfax Media in the immediate aftermath to the loss.

"I think somewhere I have been on record saying, yep, we should have sailed, but we were following our process, maintenance was needed and had 200 guests the next day.

"Fact is, neither he [Barker] nor I or anyone else for that matter had realised how quick Oracle had suddenly become."

Barker said hindsight was a valuable thing as they reviewed what had gone wrong in San Francisco, contributing to Oracle completing one of sport's greatest comebacks.

There is a feeling that Barker had been ambushed by the current affairs show. He looked uneasy as he filled in some gaps to the behind the scenes developments.

But he conceded that in a syndicate reliant on public money and major sponsorships there was a need to satisfy some of the commercial demands which the lay-day allowed.

Barker also admitted that ultimately he was comfortable with 56-year-old Dalton being on the boat ahead of the younger and stronger Winston Macfarlane for the majority of races because he offered more than just grinding with his leadership qualities.

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An internal review into the failed campaign has already addressed some of the issues.

Dalton certainly won't be sailing on board another campaign and a renewed structure sees him dealing more with the fundraising, with chief operating office manager Kevin Shoebridge taking a more hands-on role in day-to-day affairs.

The waterfront was abuzz with the developments yesterday as to what motivated Barker but his openness could be seen as nothing more than the honesty that has been a trademark of his career on and off the water.

Was Henry merely trying to make a mark with his new show, like Paul Holmes had achieved with his 1987 debut with Dennis Conner?

In the murky world of America's Cup, a theory floated also suggested a rival syndicate was also trying to undermine Team New Zealand's management at a key time.

Any failure by the Kiwis to successfully find the funds to move forward would free up key sailors and design staff to a market desperate for experience, especially in the new era of racing giant catamarans where Team New Zealand have been a leader.

- Fairfax Media

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