Dean Barker was among some of the world’s leading sailors who raced in the RC44 Valletta Cup last month. Valhmor Camilleri met the skipper who has been so impressed with the Maltese islands and its sailing conditions that he is planning to take part in the 2015 Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Dean Barker is synonymous with the America’s Cup.
The 42-year-old was a leading figure for Team New Zealand in their last two campaigns.
In 2007, he led the Kiwis to victory in the Louis Vuitton Cup, when they whitewashed Luna Rossa 5-0, and in 2013 NZ again had the better of the Italian syndicate to become the main challenger for the Auld Cup.
Barker’s involvement with Team Nika at the RC44 Championship opening round gave him an opportunity to sail in Malta and the Auckland-born campaigner was thrilled with the experience.
“We’ve sailed in Maltese waters for nearly two weeks and I must admit that it was a very challenging task as we had to deal with a variety of conditions,” Barker told The Sunday Times of Malta.
“We’re still in early spring but we had to contend with shifting winds and there were a lot of waves.
“This has been a great test for the team as, at sea, we could never anticipate what was coming next... that brings the ability of a sailor to the fore and I must admit that most of us enjoyed those thrills.”
Last month, the Royal Malta Yacht Club signed an agreement with the authorities that would see the country step up its efforts to attract more sailing events to our shores.
Asked for his impressions on Malta’s potential as a sailing destination, Barker replied:
“From what I’ve seen I would recommend this country as an ideal venue to host different sailing events.
“Unfortunately we were unlucky with the weather conditions which were rather unseasonal but in saying that the sailing conditions were still great. It would be interesting to be back in summer and see the conditions here.
“I also heard a lot about the Rolex Middle Sea Race from friends who raced here and they only had words of praise.
“From what I’ve been told, it sounds like a very interesting challenge and I’d love to compete.”
Barker confirmed he could fulfil his wish to race in the RMSR as early as this year.
“I have been approached by one of the boats planning to race in this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race but nothing has been finalised yet,” he said.
“Hopefully, it will be sealed in the next few months as I want to do the Middle Sea Race. They also told me the scenery along the course is fantastic and that’s one other aspect of this race I’m looking forward to.”
Barker’s experiences in the America’s Cup are worth mentioning even though he has enjoyed scant success in the legendary race having been on the receiving end of two defeats – Alinghi in 2007 and Team Oracle two years ago.
“The America’s Cup represents some of the best yet toughest experiences in my career... it’s always tough to fathom defeat and when you fail to reach an objective in life,” he admitted.
“The America’s Cup is a massive race... you are in a big team that sometimes includes 100 people. Unfortunately, it has been frustrating for us a couple of times.
“In 2007, New Zealand lost to Alinghi 5-2 but each race was very close and it could have gone either way.”
“However, the last edition was a huge disappointment,” Barker added, referring to the Kiwis squandering a seemingly assuring 8-1 lead to go down 9-8 to Team Oracle in San Francisco.
“Having opened such a big lead but then failing to get that one race win needed to lift the trophy was a huge upset.
“Our management’s decision not to race in one of the lay days ended up costing us the win as it shifted momentum towards Team Oracle who got stronger and stronger. In the end, there was no way for us to beat them.”
Barker is no longer part of Team New Zealand who offloaded their skipper as part of a restructuring programme.
“Yes, I’m no longer part of the America’s Cup team. I made the decision based on how I was treated,” Barker said.
“The NZ management made an announcement through the media that I was no longer part of the team. Nobody had informed me of the decision... after that there was no way we could work together again so I decided to leave.”
Barker still entertains hopes of realising his long-time ambition of winning the America’s Cup in the future.
“America’s Cup racing is in my blood,” he said.
“It is more than just racing... the research, design, development. Working in a team environment makes it something special and a huge experience for any sailor.
“Obviously, it will take me some time to get involved with another syndicate but I’m confident that I will get another opportunity in future... I have no plans to give up on my dream.”
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