New Zealand sailor Dean Barker has been named the skipper and CEO of the new SoftBank Team Japan America’s Cup challenge.
This is a big move for the Kiwi sailor who was has skippered for New Zealand in the last three America’s Cup. Barker left his home team earlier this year when he was asked to leave the helm and take a land-based role, and rumours have flown about where he might end up in the America’s Cup world.
Japan announced its America’s Cup challenge in April 2015. The team is financially backed by Backed by SoftBank Corp and sailing under the banner of the Kansai Yacht Club.
Barker and Japan’s team general manager, Kazuhiko “Fuku” Sofuku, have been in Bermuda, host of the America's Cup, meeting with Cup officials, when the announcement was made.
“This is an incredible opportunity to build a new team from the ground up,” says Barker, adding that he is honoured to take responsibility as both CEO and skipper of SoftBank Team Japan.
Barker isn’t the first sailor from New Zealand to lead a Japanese America’s Cup team – he follows in the footsteps of Chris Dickinson guiding the Nippon challenge in 1992.
In 2000, Barker was at the helm in the final race when Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup, this was followed by the role of skipper in the unsuccessful defence of the Cup in 2003. Barker again tasted defeat in the 2013 America’s Cup when Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle USA came back from a 8-1 deficit to win the cup with a 9-8 victory in San Francisco.
There is much to do to get the Japanese campaign up and running – from getting their first boat on the water to rallying a team. Cup Defenders Oracle Team USA is helping with the design of Japan’s boat, and Barker says the team is “filling the key roles on the team as quickly as we can".
He said: "I think we’re pulling together a very strong team. We want to compete at the head of the fleet and we’re assembling a team that is capable of doing that. Our goal is to win the America’s Cup.”
SoftBank Team Japan’s goal in the immediate future, however, is to be ready to compete in the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, taking place this July 23-26.