SoftBank Team Japan impress at America’s Cup
Published: Monday, 12 June 2017
SoftBank Team Japan's challenge for the 35th America's Cup ended on June 10, as the team fell to Swedish Challenger Artemis Racing in a semi-final matchup in Bermuda.
(Photos: Matt Knighton / SoftBank Team Japan - SoftBank Team Japan at Playoffs Semi-Final of the 35th America's Cup)
Skipper and CEO Dean Barker addressed the press after the racing highlighting the achievements of the team he and General Manager, Kazuhiko Sofuku, assembled less than two years ago.
Barker said: "The main emotion I feel right now is immense pride in what we've achieved over two years. We started with nothing. Two years ago, Fuku and I met here in Bermuda to try and figure out how we were going to put a team together and I think the group that was assembled and the support we've had from Japan has been incredible.”
(Skipper and CEO Dean Barker)
Sofuku continued, echoing Barker as he reflected on the achievements of the young Japanese challenge drawing upon his 20+ years of experience as Japan's leading America's Cup sailor.
"It's been an unbelievable journey. I'm so proud of this team. This is the best team I've worked with by far. Words don't describe the feeling when we got back to the dock and saw all the family, team members and friends.
"I think the environment we've managed to create is something we're incredibly proud of and hopefully get to continue on into the next cycle."
The final race against Artemis Racing had SoftBank Team Japan fans glued to the screen all around the world as the team trailed going in 3-4 through the first-to-five series.
Despite nailing the start and leading around the first two marks, the Swedes tacked onto the team's line and forced a luff, slowing the Japanese boat just enough so they could slip past for the win.
It was a bitter end to a thrilling semi-final series, one that, at one time, saw the Japanese leading 3-1 with hopes of advancing to the Challenger Playoff Finals.
Barker said: "Today's [June 9’s] race was a bit frustrating. We hit something just after leaving the marina and didn't have time take the boat up. We had a couple divers inspect the boat and couldn't find damage but it eliminated 45 minutes of practice for us where we would normally spend preparing for those conditions."
In two years the team launched three race boats, built a new base in Bermuda, brought together a team of over 50, and advanced to within two race wins of the Challenger Playoff Finals.
Sofuku said: "This is the most successful Japanese America's Cup challenge in history. In a very short period of time, we became one of the strongest competitors in this Cup. Though this isn't the result we wanted, we're very happy with what we achieved."
As for the future, Barker and Sofuku would very much like to see the team continue and challenge for the America's Cup once again.
Barker added: "I really hope this team has a future and it's been one of the objectives of this team, to try and build a fan base in Japan.
"It's been a fantastic honour and a privilege to be involved in running a new team and assembling a great group of people and I wouldn't trade that for anything."
Sofuku said: "Thank you to all our supporters in Japan. This is our new starting point. Go SoftBank Team Japan."