Prime Minister John Key said the public dumping of Dean Barker wouldn't affect the government's decision on Team New Zealand funding, as Barker revealed on radio that Grant Dalton had never been his mate.
At a press conference this morning on Auckland's waterfront, Mr Key told media that he liked Barker on a personal level. "He's thrown everything at it, his heart and soul."
He said the Team NZ board and management had "influential New Zealanders" who made the decision regarding Barker. "It's not going to reconsider what we may or may not do.
"The Government has considered the clear economic benefits of supporting the team and what that means to New Zealand."
He said sport was like politics. "It's a tough business and unfortunately sometimes these things play out in the public domain and that adds to the anguish."
He said the dumping was "a little disruptive", but said the Black Caps went through a difficult captaincy change from Ross Taylor to Brendon McCullum, which proved to be successful.
Mr Key's comments follow confirmation yesterday that the long-serving skipper will not be at the wheel of the black boat for the next America's Cup campaign.
This contrasts with Team New Zealand's position last week, when it described as "inaccurate" reports that Barker was to be replaced at the helm by talented youngster Peter Burling. Team NZ also announced yesterday that Barker had been replaced as sailing director by the team's wing trimmer in the 2013 campaign, Glenn Ashby.
Hear the interview with Dean Barker here:
Barker has instead been offered a role as the team's performance manager and sailing coach, with a place on the executive committee. But Barker, who has been at the helm of Team NZ for the past three America's Cup campaigns, says he is not interested in a coaching position.
Speaking on Newstalk ZB this morning, Barker said he no longer considers himself part of the team. "No, right now I'm no longer part of team New Zealand, through the actions of the team they've effectively terminated my contract," he said.
He continued: "I want to be in the role that I agreed to, and that's what I want to do. "I'm not ready to give up sailing, sailing is what I do. I'm good at it, I like to race, and I know it's where I can add the most value in the campaign. And I no longer have that option."
Being axed as skipper was not because of a clash with Dalton, Barker said, saying: "It's not a personality issue here at all."
However, he revealed he was not friends with Dalton. "We're not mates, we've never been mates. We've worked together."
Barker said he had not been told what the concerns were with him holding the role.
"There's been no real process followed that I can really see," he said.
"I've been trying to get information to understand what exactly the issues are and everything else, but it's sort of been stonewalled along the way, so it's difficult to actually understand what the cause of it is."
The yachtie told Campbell Live last night that he has issued Team NZ with a grievance letter disputing the team's handling of the restructure.
"If that was the role on offer at the start of last year, I wouldn't have rejoined the team," he said.
"I'm a sailor, I love sailing, I love competing and this performance coaching role ... is a data role, it's an analysis role - it's not why I signed up to be part of Team New Zealand."
Meanwhile, Dalton has denied the performance manager position was "a data role" as Barker claimed on TV3's Campbell Live last night.
Hear the interview with Dalton here:
"It's not a number crunching job, although all facets of the America's Cup involve number crunching," he said on Newstalk ZB this morning.
"A performance manager is on the water every single day, and then they're in the office - like all the yachtsman afterwards - crunching the numbers, and he's interfacing with the sailors and with the design team to try and get the most out of the boat.
"You've got to have a good guy in that role to try and move the programme on. I mean the guys on board are covered in spray the whole time, they can't actually necessarily see what's going on."
Dalton admitted he was yet to speak to Barker since the announcement was made yesterday. He sent the former skipper an email, but Barker had yet to reply, he said.
The team were trying to set up a meeting with him this afternoon, he said.
"We'll try and get that together today - I mean it's important, we want to talk."
Having only learnt Team NZ were pushing ahead with plans to axe him from a sailing role through media reports last week, Barker said he was "absolutely gutted" at the way he has been treated by an organisation he has served for over 20 years.
"It's incredibly difficult to see now what the next step is," he said.
"I'm going to need some time now to see what my options are. Now that I know I have been dumped from the sailing director role, I have to seriously consider what my options are."
However, Dalton said he wanted to "push back" against accusations Barker found out about the decision through the media, saying that was "categorically incorrect".
"There was a process, the process has been going on for some time - it started in November last year, and as far away as two days ago we said we were going to announce these changes yesterday, we wanted him to be part of it," Dalton said.
"He said that he needed a bit more time to think about it, and we said, 'absolutely, you've got time' take your time' we want you in the team, and we will say that', which was what we did when we announced. So it's just not correct to say that."
• Is Team NZ on verge of implosion?
Dalton denied Barker had originally found out about the decision to drop him as helmsman when reports appeared online.
"No, absolutely not. There's been a process that's gone on. In fact, the meeting where we suggested that this role was something that he should consider seriously and that we wanted to push on with it was as far ago as last February, the beginning of February I should say."
Barker told the TV3 show he had turned down better-paid jobs from teams including Alinghi and Luna Rossa.
"It's not about the money. For me it's about bringing the America's Cup back to New Zealand. That's the most important thing for me and my family.
"I've put everything I have in to this team. I've never seriously thought about the opportunity to go and work for another one."
Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton yesterday denied reports he had fallen out with Barker, but admitted he had not spoken with him since news of the axing was leaked.
Asked if he regretted the way the information had been made public, Dalton said: "If it has caused Dean and his family distress, then that's very regrettable.
"Was it a leak from this organisation? I'm not 100 per cent sure, I don't think anyone actually knows the answer to that. But I can tell you that we're going to try and find out.
"I can't imagine anyone is going to put their hand up high, though."
Dalton maintains Barker's skillset makes him ideally suited to the performance role.
"If you look back to San Francisco and the increase in speed that was able to be achieved by Oracle so quickly because of the interface between their designers and sailors to make the boat go faster, you start to see how important that role is. And we think Dean's our right guy.
"The sailing director is involved primarily in sailing. This coach and performance role is involved across the organisation between the interface of design and sailing, so he's got a foot in both camps."
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce hinted at some frustration over the handling of the issue, saying one of the criteria the Government had for funding was the team's cohesiveness.
"I have said all the way through that obviously the Government's view as to whether we would invest in the team is coloured by a range of things.
"Most importantly if we're going to invest in the team then obviously having a cohesive team is reasonably important," Mr Joyce said.
While Team NZ await Barker's next move they will push forward with their next stage of preparations.
Come Monday, the team's 50 contracted staff will begin planning for the first America's Cup World Series regatta at Cagliari, Italy, in June.
- with additional reporting by Claire Trevett and Patrice Dougan
• Full America's Cup coverage: tinyurl.com/nzhamericascup