If you're wondering about the silence emanating from Team New Zealand about Dean Barker's future, here's a clue: money.

The America's Cup always comes back to money, although it is possible to feel sorry for both the team and skipper on this one.

Point one: Team NZ can't say much about anything until they wrap up the hosting of the qualifying series in Auckland. If that event doesn't happen, there won't be any government money. No taxpayer donation, no team - and the identity of the helmsman will be irrelevant as there won't even be a boat and Team NZ will not be in the 2017 America's Cup.

Read also: Dean Barker calls in lawyers as sailing scrap worsens


All the information suggests the qualifying series will happen, even though the European syndicates don't want the expense of coming to New Zealand for an extended period before copping the similarly vast cost of shipping boats and people to Bermuda. All seems well but there is a small chance the Europeans could yet capsize plans.

Point two: From all accounts, Team NZ are struggling financially. There are rumours of sponsors looking to pull out because Bermuda does not suit their marketing plans. We know only minimal government money has been passed to the team thus far - and whatever comes will likely be far less than the $36 million sought. So it stands to reason the team are doing what any organisation does when faced with tightened revenue - cost-cutting, the biggest part of which is people, when sensitive employment issues are generally traversed in private. If financial push comes to shove, Team NZ also have Glenn Ashby, also a world champion foiling catamaran sailor, in the afterguard if they face a Barker-less future.

Point three: Team NZ, however, want to keep Barker. Team boss Grant Dalton intimated over a year ago, when brilliant young sailor Peter Burling came on board, that he would be a contender for Barker's job. Dalton made it clear Barker could move into a sailing director's role.

That's if money allows - and money may not allow for two superstar helmsmen. Barker is apparently being asked to take a pay cut as other members of Team NZ have in straitened circumstances.

That leads to another question: is Barker resisting that and was the leak to Tony Veitch's radio show just normal journalistic business or did someone do it to put pressure on Barker? Or someone could be pressuring the team by casting Barker as the wounded loyalist cast adrift, supposedly hearing about his ousting on Facebook.

You can feel a bit of sympathy for the team - get government money and they get caned; try to organise their team in accordance with fewer funds and they still get caned.

Barker, too. He has been harshly judged by laymen against the failed campaigns of 2003, 2007 and 2013. In the first, he was saddled with a dog of a boat and a team left without the experience of Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth. In 2007, Alinghi had the slightly faster boat and Butterworth's undeniable skill and we all know what happened in 2013 - an 8-1 lead overhauled by an Oracle team who finally found the silver bullet of sailing fast.

People need to remember that ludicrous race 13 - called off with Team NZ uncatchably in the lead because light winds meant the boats could not complete the course in the time allotted - a time that had nothing to do with sailing but everything to do with TV schedules. Preposterous. With that race went Team NZ's hopes.


The ideal scenario is Barker and Burling are both involved. People who think Burling, terrific sailor though he is, can just sashay into the complexity, big boat sailing and political vipers' nest that is the America's Cup are deluded. Why have only one talent when you can have two, one passing on invaluable knowledge and experience, especially the skills Barker has?

I remember too Barker fronting up after losing in 2013. He looked interviewers in the eye and answered as honestly as anyone can in those circumstances. That took courage and stemmed from the fact he was competing for his nation. If the America's Cup was just the rich man's plaything, those interviews would never have happened. The "rich men" would still have had their wealth and sod the rest of us. But in sport, as in life, things change when money and status is involved.

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