American Magic helmsman Dean Barker says Team New Zealand have got all the ingredients to defend the America's Cup but the big question is whether they will be race-ready come March 6.
Barker and his American Magic team were knocked out of the Prada Cup semifinals following a 4-0 defeat to Luna Rossa.
The Italian syndicate will now race British entity Ineos Team UK for a spot in the America's Cup against Team New Zealand.
Barker told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking Breakfast that it would be a 'stab in the dark' to pick the America's Cup winner but said a lack of racing would pose a problem for the defenders.
"Team New Zealand was clearly the strongest in the Christmas Cup across the wind race. And they are clearly very fast and very good sailors. Got all the ingredients. The difficult thing is whether they will be race-ready when they turn up in March," he said.
Barker initially thought that the path being travelled by Team Ineos UK, who skipped into the Prada Cup final, was the way to go. But he had changed tack, seeing how important the actual racing was to develop during the regatta.
So Barker suggested it was now advantage Luna Rossa, because they had been actively racing.
"You learn more than you do in a day's training," he said.
American Magic struggled to recover from a capsize in the Prada Cup round robin action after impressing in the World Series regatta in December where they defeated Team New Zealand on the opening day.
"We underestimated losing those sailing days as our progression," Barker told the Mike Hosking Breakfast.
"It was only five days but it's amazing what that does for the progression of the boat.
"The back of your mind you know there is a risk. These boats are temperamental and need to be maintained at a high standard. The guys did an amazing job. Pretty much re-wired the boat.
"The boat was incredibly good, considering the circumstances. I don't blame the boat for the end result," he said.
His priority now is to invest some quality time with his wife Mandy and their four children, after the intense three-year campaign. But there was a hint that the door remains open.
"I still love the racing, love the competition," said Barker. "I'm going to enjoy a bit of downtime now to reflect and decide what the future holds. It's been a long time in the game and who knows what happens. I've got a lot more grey hairs than when I first started, but I would like to be able to continue if I can."
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It's the best way to ride.
• Don't forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America's Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.