Skipper can't be blamed for outcome in San Francisco

Victory has 100 fathers, defeat is an orphan, as the old saying goes. Is there another team sport in which failure has attached itself so unjustly to one man as this America's Cup?

Images of a disconsolate Dean Barker after Team New Zealand's defeat were almost too sad to view. Barker weeping at the wheel of the boat and alone outside the Team NZ bar area, stunned and expressionless.

We are familiar with such images in individual sports, after a tennis or golf star fails in dramatic circumstances. In other team sports individuals' personal failings can result in their teams' demise: a missed drop goal to lose a rugby match, a failed shot in a football penalty shootout. Usually, a coach, captain or others will deservedly share the heat of public and media inquisition.

It may be that Barker is feeling the responsibility more than anyone else and is apportioning it his way. There is no finger of blame. The critical role of the tactician on board an America's Cup boat, variables such as anticipation of wind and tide, and the limits of boat development and technology mean there is only so much the skipper can determine.


Team NZ's fate was probably sealed months ago when Oracle made its technology breakthrough with a stabilising system for its yacht. For unknown reasons, it was not mastered until the last. Barker's team was winning, well, until Oracle got their act together. He did all that he could. Hopefully he will see that in this case there should be no 'i' in defeat.