America's Cup 2021: Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker's future may lie ashore after Prada Cup heartache

Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker won't decide his sailing future just yet, after failing to guide American Magic beyond the America’s Cup challenger semi-finals.

The New York Yacht Club syndicate have been soundly beaten by Luna Rossa Prada Pirellia and one expert believes Barker's future may now lie off the water.

The Americans' time in Auckland was anything but smooth sailing and as their campaign came to a grinding halt on the Hauraki Gulf on Saturday, the spotlight quickly turned to Dean Barker, who was coy on where his future in the sport lies.

"It's gonna take some to reflect on all of this and to decide exactly what the right thing is to do next," he says. 

At 47, Barker and Luna Rossa's Francesco Bruni are the oldest helmsman competing for the America's Cup, and former Team NZ sailor Mark Orams feels age may count against him going forward.

"The successful recipe for America's Cup success belongs to the younger age group," says Orams. "That looks like a Peter Burling, like a Nathan Outteridge - it doesn't look like a Dean Barker."

Orams doesn't believe responsibility for American Magic's loss should lie squarely with Barker and insists he can still play a pivotal role with a team going forward - but it may be off the water, rather than on it.

"Even though he might not be in a race crew on the water in the future, behind the scenes as a coach or as somebody who can be a leader in a team, I think he's got a great deal of value to add."

The latest loss makes five failed America's Cup campaigns in a row for Barker.

Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill was responsible for the most infamous of those in San Francisco in 2013, when Team New Zealand lost eight races in a row to Oracle Team USA.

But Spithill has been quick to praise Barker and insists the Kiwi won't be down for long.

"He and I have been going head to head for 20 odd years," he says. "There's no doubt in my mind there'll be plenty more to come in the future."

Says Barker: "You never really worry about the next thing, because all you're worried about is trying to win." 

And you can bet there's plenty more of that to come, as Barker writes his next sailing chapter.

Join us on February 13 for live updates of the America's Cup challenger finals between Team UK and Luna Rossa