Sir Michael Fay, the man behind New Zealand's first America's Cup challenge, once described the Auld Mug as the hardest prize to win in world sport.

The reason it is so tough? "You have to get through two years without making a mistake."

Team New Zealand's mistakes in last year's loss to defenders Oracle Team USA have emerged piece by piece since the gun sounded in that heartbreaking final race on San Francisco Bay last September.

This week, skipper Dean Barker shed further light on the team's missteps in San Francisco, pointing to a decision made by syndicate head Grant Dalton to agree to a lay-day when they had the option of racing as a key error. He also admitted there was tension among the crew over Dalton's inclusion in the sailing team.


In an earlier column it was suggested Barker's comments appeared defensive and were possibly a response to the pressure he is under to retain his position at the helm following the addition of the talented Peter Burling to the team. Barker, however, denies this and says he was at the forefront of the decision to sign the 49er world champion pair of Burling and Blair Tuke.

In any case his revelations should serve as a reminder to his critics that America's Cup campaigns are complex beasts - decisions were made both on and off the boat that ultimately negatively affected their campaign.

The call to agree to switch a reserve day to a lay-day was a mistake and confounded many observers. To change the schedule, regatta director Iain Murray needed the consent of both teams - something that he had not been able to get at any other time. Even more confusing is that Team NZ had a 7-1 lead and all the momentum.

The revelation Dalton made the decision without consulting Barker and the team, apparently to accommodate sponsors and their corporate guests, is inexcusable. But it does demonstrate the tricky position Dalton was in, trying to balance the demands of sponsors and stakeholders with those of the team - something Oracle did not have to worry about.

The skipper's comments have raised questions over the relationship between himself and Dalton, but Barker has already admitted to open and frank discussions during the regatta and Dalton told the Herald last month the team's decision-making processes let them down in San Francisco, and for that he needed to "take a look at himself".