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Kiwi Skipper Backs Tough America's Cup Verdict

11 May 2003

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker agreed with an internal report criticizing the syndicate for its embarrassing loss in the America's Cup. ''The findings, I think, are fair,'' Barker said Friday prior to a weekend regatta. ''It's obviously a brutal report. It's the truth, so we can't deny that.''

The report, prepared by Team New Zealand director Peter Menzies and released Monday, blamed the team's management structure which included Barker, who was in charge of sailing.

Team New Zealand, which won the America's Cup off San Diego in 1995 and defended it in New Zealand in 2000, lost the most prestigious prize in sailing to Alinghi of Switzerland in a 5-0 sweep off Auckland in March.

The design and performance of the Kiwis' black boats, with their controversial hull appendages, were criticized in the review.

NZL-82 failed to finish two races after major breakdowns, including in Race 4 when its 110-foot carbon fiber mast snapped in two. The training boat NZL-81 was twice put out of commission with crippling hull and deck damage.

Team New Zealand was hurt by the departure of key staff after its successful defense in 2000. Skipper Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth, who were to take over Team New Zealand, instead jumped ship with other key crew to Alinghi, headed by billionaire businessman Ernesto Bertarelli.

Barker is staying on as skipper under managing director Grant Dalton, an accomplished ocean racer, as part of a management overhaul.

Team New Zealand will decide by October whether to proceed with a challenge in Europe in 2007.

''Standards have been raised to a new level and we have to ... go past that to be a contender in 2007,'' Barker said. Lisbon, the Portuguese capital located on the Atlantic coast, is one of eight European cities bidding to host the 2007 competition. Alinghi will pick one of them by mid-December.