America's Cup 2021: Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker uncertain over another bid for 'Auld Mug'

Still stinging from yet another America's Cup disappointment, Kiwi sailing icon Dean Barker is reluctant to commit to another quest for the trophy in the future.

Maybe now isn't the right time to ask.

With his NYYC American Magic team the first eliminated from the current challenge series on home waters, the Auckland native has added to a heartbreaking relationship with the 'Auld Mug' that has seen him lose it once, and fall short of recapturing it time and time again with various nations. 

In 2000, Russell Coutts relinquished the wheel, allowing Barker to steer New Zealand to victory in the final race of a successful defence of the trophy off Auckland.

Since then, four fruitless stints - some spectacularly so - with Emirates Team NZ, and one each with Softbank Team Japan and American Magic have tainted his record at the event.

Does he have enough in the tank to go round again? Barker chuckles knowingly. 

"With these things, you never really think about the next thing, because all you're worried about is trying to win," he admits. "Going out there today, I still believed strongly that we had a good opportunity to advance.

"Even after yesterday, when we left a bit out there, we went out there with the right attitude and it wasn't to be.

"It's going to take some time to reflect on all of this and decide what the right thing is to do next, but you don't even give yourself a chance to think about that."

Barker has had to bounce back from some of the most harrowing moments of America's Cup history. In 2003, his boat almost sank in the opening race, as Coutts and his Swiss Alinghi outfit swept the Kiwis to lift the silverware.

In 2013, he was one win away from snatching the Cup off Oracle Team USA, before lack of wind and a rest day turned the series around off San Francisco.

Two weeks ago, Barker was at the wheel, when Patriot went airborne at the final mark against Luna Rossa and crashed to the water, holing the hull and frying onboard software, and effectively ending American Magic hopes of being competitive again.

"It's never a good feeling," he says. "It's bloody hard, to be honest, to put all the effort we've put in as a team.

"In some ways, the most disappointing part has been the effort that's gone in during the past two weeks in particular, without trying to diminish what has happened over the past three years.

"Just how hard the guys worked to get the boat back on the water... it was effectively a new boat. It would have been fantastic to give the guys some 'thank you' for all the hard work.

"It's never a nice feeling to lose. I've been involved in the game for a while and had some tough moments, but it certainly doesn't get any easier."

If Barker harbours any doubts, he cane take some encouragement from a familiar rival - Luna Rossa counterpart Jimmy Spithill, who famously masterminded Oracle's incredible comeback eight years ago.

"During my career, I've had a lot of battles against a lot of people in [American Magic] and especially against Deano," says the Aussie. "He and I have been going head to head for 20-odd years, since we both started in this game.

"There's not doubt in my mind there'll be a few more coming up in the future."

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