Dean Barker's disappointing exit from the Louis Vuitton challenger finals may mark the end of his tortured America's Cup sailing career.
The Kiwi skipper's Japanese syndicate were ousted from the semifinals today by Artemis, who produced their fourth straight win to claim the series 5-3, and book a final showdown with Team New Zealand.
For a while there it looked as though Barker was on track to meet his former team, who he led for three campaigns, in the challenger final. But Team Japan surrendered an early 3-1 advantage - leading some to draw parallels between Barker (and Team NZ's) sensational collapse from match point in San Francisco and this event.
With the move to high performance catamarans making the America's Cup sailing an increasingly physical sport, it is thought this would be the last time we see the 44-year-old Barker at the helm. When asked whether he would be coming back for a seventh shot at the Auld Mug, Barker said he hadn't yet had time to sit down and consider his future.
"I've always said I enjoy racing and I'd love to keep racing and if there's an opportunity I will, but we'll have to see what the future does hold," he said.
Barker would not be drawn into reflecting on his America's Cup career, which began with the high of being at the helm of Team New Zealand for the final race of the team's 2000 defence in Auckland, ceding the role from Russell Coutts.
Since then the brutal Cup game has only been heartbreak for Barker - there was Team NZ's shambolic 2003 campaign, the last second penalty drama of Valencia in 2007, and of course, San Francisco, where Oracle Team USA pulled off one of the greatest, and most baffling, comebacks of all time.
"It was a little while ago now," Barker said when asked about 2000 and his involvement with the event since then. "I've been very fortunate to be involved with some great people over the years, but history is history and you have to be able to move on. It's been a fantastic honour and a privilege to be involved in running a new team and assembling a great group of people."
"The main emotion I feel right now is just immense pride with what we've achieved in two years."
Barker was also non-committal when asked if Team Japan were likely to be back for the next event. The Bermuda regatta signaled Japan's return to the America's Cup after a 17-year absence, and there was great excitement from Japanese sailing fans when the team looked on the verge of making history with their first appearance in the Louis Vuitton challenger final.
The Kiwi skipper said it was "too early to say" whether Team Japan would mount another campaign.
"I really hope this team has a future - it's an amazing bunch of people. One of the big objectives for this team was to build a fanbase for the America's Cup in Japan. It's nice to have Japan back in the America's cup for the first time since 2000. I really hope this team will continue - there's obviously a few things to be sorted out before we have that sort of certainty," said Barker.
One factor that may provide some clarity is the outcome of the Cup match. Team Japan have been closely aligned Oracle Team USA throughout this cycle, with the defender sharing design information and resources with Barker's outfit.
The relationship also ensured Team Japan's unwavering support in the negotiations over Cup rules both present and future, with Barker signing one of five signatories on a framework agreement for the next two cycles of the event.
"We really hope the framework agreement for AC36 continues on, because I think it is definitely the right direction for the America's Cup and so do [four] other teams. So it would be great to see that play out."