Team New Zealand is preparing to axe long-serving skipper Dean Barker and appoint 24-year-old Tauranga sailor Peter Burling to the helm.

Initial indications were Barker would not be retained by the syndicate in any capacity, with Emirates Team New Zealand looking to cut costs and present a fresh approach for the 2017 campaign.

But it was understood Team NZ were still working to keep Barker's experience in the team.

He - with several other veteran members of the Team NZ crew - was currently off-contract, having been signed only on a retainer following the 2013 America's Cup while management assessed whether they could pull together the funding to campaign for the next event in 2017.


Team NZ chairman Keith Turner last night denied any decision over Barker's future had been made, but said the organisation was in the process of reviewing all its operations, with a view to decreasing costs and increasing competitiveness.

"I'm not speculating on what might come out of the process, because most of the conclusions haven't been reached yet," said Turner.

"The fact is there's been no decision made about helmsmen in the future."

Rumours Barker was set to be dumped have been floating about in sailing circles since late last year but, given at that point Team NZ's involvement in the 35th America's Cup was still in limbo, the syndicate would not entertain questions on who would lead the campaign.

Barker did not return calls last night, while Burling said he had been "told to go into radio silence".

Burling's father, Richard, said that reports about his son replacing Barker were "speculation" and Peter was currently surfing in Auckland with friends.

Barker said he had no plans to leave Team NZ.

"Not that I'm aware of. Put it this way, if I am leaving it's not through my desire, that's for sure," said the 42-year-old, who has been at the Team NZ helm since former skipper Russell Coutts ceded his position to his protege in the final race of the syndicate's successful defence of the America's Cup in 2000.


Burling, regarded as one of world sailing's brightest young talents, was always expected to pose a strong challenge for the helmsman position when he was snapped up by Team NZ at the beginning of last year, as they sought young blood to rejuvenate the team.

But chief executive Grant Dalton maintained that no matter who would be steering the boat come the America's Cup in 2017, Barker would still play a key role in the team's challenge, having been elevated to the role of sailing director, overseeing the entire sailing programme.

"If Dean Barker is not driving Emirates Team New Zealand's boat in 2017 - and Dean will be very much involved in that decision - Peter Burling will have to take it from him," Dalton said a year ago.

But there appears to have been a change of thinking within the team's compound on Halsey St at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

After the public backlash that followed the team's pleas for further Government funding, Team NZ recognised they could not ask taxpayers to sink more money into the same people who have delivered two failed America's Cup campaigns.

Other sources say it was not a case of Dalton vs Barker, but rather a collective decision among some of the more experienced members of the crew, who believe Burling should be at the helm. The Olympic silver medallist last month beat a field of seasoned America's Cup veterans, including Barker, to claim the moth world championships in Australia.

The major concern over Burling was his youth. At 24 he had already been to two Olympic Games, but had no America's Cup experience and had not led a sailing team of this size. NZME.