WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says "the vultures are already circling" the defeated America's Cup challenger and that the team will likely fold unless action is taken quickly to secure its future.

Barker told New Zealand's TV3 network on Tuesday "a small window of opportunity" existed to raise the funds needed to continue and ensure a fresh challenge for sailing's oldest trophy.

Team New Zealand led 8-1 before being beaten 9-8 by Team USA in the America's Cup finals series which ended last week on San Francisco Bay.

Barker said rival teams were poised to swoop on New Zealand's top sailors.

"Without the money to be able to get going again very quickly, we lose the people. Without the people there is no Team New Zealand," he said.

New Zealand taxpayers contributed $36 million toward the cost of Team New Zealand's campaign in San Francisco but the government, facing a general election next year, hasn't been prepared to commit to further funding

Barker said swift steps must be taken to ensure the continued existence of Team New Zealand, which first challenged for the America's Cup in 1987 and won the 162-year-old trophy in 1995 and 2000.

He said he was still struggling to cope emotionally with his disappointment at New Zealand's defeat.

"It's tough. You're trying to gather yourself after everything that's happened and the vultures are already circling," he said. "We're in a process or a stage now where decisions have to be made to allow the team to continue because we have already had guys targeted by other teams. If we start losing people now it won't have the ability to carry on."

Team New Zealand general manager Grant Dalton, who returned to New Zealand from San Francisco on Wednesday, agreed that there was little time to resolve the team's future.

He said key team personnel would have to be quickly secured.

"We've got this design team that is quite unique because you can't just dial 0800-find-a-design-team," Dalton said. "Other teams haven't done so well with their design teams this round so we're an absolute target."