Thursday, August 9, 2007

Barker douses rumour over move to Oracle

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker today poured cold water on speculation linking him with rival America's Cup syndicate Oracle Racing, saying he wanted to stay put.

He said he had signed a letter of intent to remain with Team NZ for the next cup regatta in Valencia in 2009.

The Valencia Sailing website reported what it described as "a plausible rumour" that Barker had signed, or was about to sign, an agreement with new Oracle chief executive Russell Coutts to be helmsman.

However, Barker said he had had no talks with Oracle.

"Emirates Team New Zealand has moved to retain key members, including myself, and I have signed a letter of intent," he said in a statement.

"I have had approaches from a couple of teams, but I would like to stay with Team New Zealand, the team that has worked so hard since 2003 to restore some pride in New Zealand sailing and regain the New Zealand public's confidence."

It was Coutts who gave Barker his first experience as a helmsman in an America's Cup match, handing over the wheel in the final race of Team NZ's successful 2000 defence against Italy's Luna Rossa in Auckland.

Coutts then had a falling out with Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli and was missing when the Swiss successfully defended the trophy with a 5-2 win over Barker's crew last month.

Valencia Sailing said Barker was in Palma this month but had not gone there to compete. Coutts was there sailing in the Copa del Rey regatta.

"It is believed Barker was not in the Spanish city for holidays but in order to have talks with Coutts," the website said.

"Even if this information turns out to be false, Larry Ellison, owner of BMW Oracle, will have no choice but to sign a very big name, and there aren't a lot of them available."