Young Guest Writers: Jeffrey Choy & Ian Lim, Westlake Boys High School
Shore Legend Dean Barker
Dean Barker: a local North Shore boy is now at the pinnacle of world sailing. Skipper of the Emirates Team New Zealand boat Aotearoa, Runner up of the 34th America’s Cup, Barker has earned a place in sailing history.
At the time of writing, the team were in “lockdown” according to my source at the Emirates Team New Zealand base in San Francisco. However, Peter Rea, his former Geography teacher at Westlake Boys High School was able to give some insight into his school years. As Rea says, he was “just your typical Westlake boy at the time: slim, tall, good looking… typical Westlake style.” So what formed the character of this modern day kiwi hero?
Barker had a classic kiwi sailing upbringing. He started sailing in Optimists and P-Class dinghies as many North Shore children do today through either local sailing clubs or the Waterwise programme. Barker and his tactician Ray Davies both learned to sail at the Murrays Bay Sailing Club.
What separated him from his peers was that he had decided on a career pathway that had opportunities that most couldn’t see in what was then a purely amateur sport. Barker chose to leave school before graduating to pursue his sailing dreams. Rea remembers the day Barker told him of his leaving. “‘You’ll never succeed, Dean. You must stay at school,’ and he just laughed and smiled and said ‘We’ll see.’”
But the road to success has not always been easy. Although Barker has enjoyed numerous victories and achievements, he has had a few disappointments along the way. These have built his character. Acknowledged as one of the sport’s best match racers, he has said he has learned more from his losses than his wins. He was closing in on a win at the Laser Worlds in 1993, yet ultimately barely made the top ten. To his disappointment, he also did not qualify for the 1996 Olympic Games in the Finn Class, and admits his non-selection was a career low point. However, Barker wasn’t ready to give up on his dreams.
It is for America’s Cup racing he has become so well known. His name has now become synonymous with sailing’s ultimate prize since he took the helm in the final race of the 30th America’s Cup, securing New Zealand victory. In 2003, he continued to skipper the boat NZL 82. But, equipment failure let the team down. Who could forget the gut-wrenching image of the snapped mast in Race Four? Devastating. This is where character counts and Dean Barker certainly has character. In 2007, Emirates Team New Zealand won the right to challenge for the America’s Cup but, again, lost to Alinghi from Switzerland. It would be six whole years until the next opportunity for Barker to skipper the boat in a challenge for the America’s Cup. Still, Barker did not turn his back on the America’s Cup, nor did he turn his back on New Zealand. With characteristic composure, focus, humility, and incredible skill honed over many years of racing, Barker has steered Emirates Team New Zealand to a valiant attempt at regaining the 2013 America’s Cup.
From local, home-grown sailing to the world stage, Barker’s journey has been inspiring. He has defied the critics and won the admiration of the nation. So, where is Barker headed next? We’ll see.
Written by Jeffrey Choy.
Spurdle's Sailing Success
It is not often that life provides you with an opportunity. But when it does, it serves you well to grab it without hesitation. And that is precisely what North Shore resident and former Westlake student Jono Spurdle did. Along with 6 other sailors, Jono was selected to represent New Zealand in the inaugural Youth America’s Cup.
This prestigious regatta took place between the 1st and 4th of September in San Francisco, and saw furious competition between 10 national teams. The Youth America’s Cup was established to provide young and aspiring sailors with the opportunity to make sporting history, all while fulfilling their personal potential. Sponsored by Red Bull, this regatta replicates the America’s Cup experience for 19-24 year old yachtsmen, creating a clearly defined pathway to a career in one of the most internationally renowned sports.
Jono was a member of the New Zealand Sailing Team, which was supported by Emirates Team New Zealand. Under the leadership of skipper Peter Burling, the New Zealand Sailing Team managed to secure a solid victory in the race, finishing with a total of 57 points – 12 points ahead of the next team. To represent our proud nation and to claim such a reputable title is a triumph for Jono, who is only 22 years old.
This is not the first time Jono has seen success in his sporting career. Among various other accomplishments, Jono managed to seize 1st place at the Asian Match Racing Championships in 2011 as well as the Knickerbocker Cup in 2012. His most emotional performance, however, was winning the Warren Jones Youth Regetta in 2010. That was his first major regatta, and winning it solidified his sailing career and gave him a real presence in this competitive field. Jono has also been awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award in 2010. This was a very fitting honour, considering Sir Peter Blake was highly respected by Jono, who saw the legendary man as a hero and a source of inspiration.
Even at a young age, Jono displayed great leadership and was actively involved in sailing. He attended Westlake Boys’ High School from 2004-2008 and slowly climbed the ranks, until he was eventually a prefect and captain of the sailing team in his Form 7 year. Mr Simon Smith, who coached Jono firsthand, commends the young man’s incredible passion. “As captain of the sailing team in his last year, Jono was a tremendous team player. He thought ahead, he organised equipment, he gave one hundred percent and was focussed and driven by the needs of Westlake Sailing. As both captain and sailor he was invaluable; a stalwart, a motivator and a leader who would put the team first at every occasion. His drive for the team to excel and for him personally to develop for the team was paramount.”
It is remarkable to see a local North Shore resident performing at such a distinguished level. Jono claims the secret to success is simply self-motivation and determination. Jono persistently strives to improve himself, to challenge the extent of his potential and ultimately be “better than before”. After all, what else would you do? Success is the result and the reward of hard work. Jono spent “countless hours” training both on the water and in the gym in order to earn his current position. With such a steadfast attitude, it is clear that Jono has a promising future in the field of yachting. He aspires to be “part of a winning campaign for the America’s Cup”, a very reasonable goal especially after winning the Youth America’s Cup.
Jono serves to prove that with determination, anyone can realize their ambition. With his convincing history of successes, there is no doubt that Jono will play a pivotal role in the future of New Zealand sailing.
Written by Ian Lim.