SoftBank Team Japan Ready For Fukuoka Challenge
Published: Friday, 04 November 2016
SoftBank Team Japan, skippered by Dean Barker, is ready to tackle the challenge of sailing on home waters in Fukuoka, Japan Nov 18-20. The prestigious event will deliver a spectacular first America’s Cup event in Asia. It’s the last event of the 2015 / 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series and the final chance for the America’s Cup teams to put points on the board for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda in 2017.
(Photos: ACEA 2016 - SoftBank Team Japan)
In May 2015, SoftBank Team Japan was launched to the world when its challenge for the 2017 America’s Cup was announced by the team’s General Manager Kazuhiko “Fuku” Sofuku. One of the most recent entrants into the America’s Cup, the team immediately embarked upon a recruitment drive to build up a team that could compete in the 2015 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, bringing on board a mix of Japanese sailors and international experts including Skipper Dean Barker, an America’s Cup legend and a man with a serious point to prove after the 34th America’s Cup, and Sailing Team Director and Tactician Chris Draper.
Bermuda 2017 with SoftBank Team Japan is Chris Draper’s second America’s Cup campaign and he holds the accolade of being the first British sailor to helm a boat in the Louis Vuitton finals. His experience also includes a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and multiple sailing titles, so he is a huge asset to the team. Joining him on board and adding Japanese strength in depth to the race boat are Yugo Yoshida, another experienced sailor with vast knowledge of Olympic and Asian Games standard competition, and Yuko Kasatani, an elite rower who has transferred his skills to being a Grinder for SoftBank Team Japan, a critical role in the modern era.
The announcement that SoftBank Team Japan would be flying the Japanese flag in the 35th America’s Cup saw the return of a Japanese outfit to the America’s Cup for the first time in 15 years. Back in 1999 / 2000, Nippon Challenge competed in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series and, bringing the story full circle, Fuku was Bowman for that team, so the chance to bring Japan back into the America’s Cup for its 35th edition was an opportunity the Japanese sailing legend could not turn down.
SoftBank Team Japan is supported by SoftBank Corp. and represents Kansai Yacht Club and, since launching back in May 2015, has quickly built up into serious contenders for the biggest prize in sailing in 2017. The team opened its base in Bermuda in May 2016, just one year after launching in Japan, and it now boasts a workforce made up of a multi-national collaboration of sailors, boatbuilders, and support crew from the professional sailing industry, all focused on winning the America’s Cup in 2017.
One measure of just how far SoftBank Team Japan has come in such a short time is their podium place at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in Toulon in September. Multiple wins over that weekend put it on the final podium for the first time in its short life, and now it is aiming to keep climbing to the top step, and where better to do that for the first time that on its home waters in Fukuoka, Japan. The pressure is on, but the team has shown it can handle pressure, and adversity, so its future looks bright!
Meanwhile, Sail Racing has created a limited range of items, the Fukuoka Edition range, available for sale at the event and online through Nov 21st. The range includes a technical down jacket with stretch, a functional fleece zip sweater, a classic polo shirt, sweatshirt and a flexfit cap, all available in black with clean white graphics, the Japanese flag, and ‘JPN’ printed in a carbon fiber look.
(Sail Racing Fukuoka Edition range)
“As Official Partner of the 35th America’s Cup, we see these major events throughout the year as the perfect time to launch new items, especially online since the America’s Cup has a huge number of fans around the world," says Sail Racing International CEO Joakim Berne. “Japan is also an important market for us. We have had a growing distribution network in Japan for many years and it is good that our customers now get to experience the America's Cup on their home waters.”
A selection of products will also be sold at the Official Merchandise Store in the Event Village at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Fukuoka from Nov 18-20.