Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

America's Cup: We're here to go one better - Barker

Dean Barker has paid tribute to the men who kept Team New Zealand together while the America's Cup was stalled by legal wrangles after his team took out the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Barker and his crew this morning won the right to challenge Oracle for the America's Cup, beating Luna Rossa 7-1 in Louis Vuitton finals.

For Team NZ, winning the challenger series is just another step towards the ultimate goal, but Barker took time to acknowledge how far the syndicate had come in the past six years. With a long-running legal dispute between Oracle Team USA and Alinghi leaving the Cup drifting in a sea of uncertainty, in many ways it was remarkable the Kiwi team was able to keep its doors open during those years.

Barker credited the hard work of the team's management and generosity of their sponsors, in particular Matteo de Nora, who has plunged millions of his own money in to the Kiwi syndicate.

"It's been an incredible team effort right from day one. The work [Grant Dalton] and [Kevin Shoebridge] did to keep the team together was just phenomenal," said the skipper of the Kiwi boat.

"The fact the team is still here and doing as well as it is is really a credit to them and Matteo and our other sponsors."

Team NZ have set the benchmark during the challenger rounds - not only did they lead the development curve in the new class of AC72 catamaran, their crew-work and boat handling skills were several notches higher than their competitors.

While Luna Rossa had improved significantly from the round robin, they were still outclassed by Team NZ in the final with the speed differential between the two boats obvious.

But it hasn't been all smooth sailing for Barker and his crew. The opening two days of the finals were notable for a couple of setbacks.

NZL05 suffered gear damage in the opening race after the team took a dramatic nose dive rounding the top mark and ripped away their fairing. The following day the team were forced to withdraw from the second race with hydraulic failure, handing Luna Rossa their first point over Team NZ in 13 years of competition.

"I'm really, really proud of what the guys have achieved," said Barker.

"But we're definitely here to go one better," he said.

As the party started on shore, the towering wingsails of the two Oracle boats cast an ominous shadow over Cup village. The defenders wasted no time in getting out on the race course to get in further in-house racing ahead of the Cup match.

The opening race of the America's Cup is scheduled for September 8 NZT.

- NZ Herald

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