Japan announces its America’s Cup challenge
by Risa Merl
Japan has officially joined the ranks of teams challenging for the America’s Cup 2017. Backed by SoftBank Corp and sailing under the banner of the distinguished Kansai Yacht Club, the new SoftBank Team Japan will compete in the America’s Cup World Series events and the America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Images of the SoftBank Team Japan boat were also released, showing the sail design for the team’s AC45 multihull yacht.
The newly signed agreement between SoftBank Corp and the Kansai Yacht Club confirms the buzz that a Japanese team would join the line up of America’s Cup 2017 Challengers. This is the first time the Pacific island will be vying for the blue riband sailing trophy since the Nippon Ocean Racing Club and the Nippon Yacht Club had a tilt in 1992 and 1995, respectively, with Nippon Challenge, led by Australian Peter Gilmour, seeing the last attempt in 2000.
The new Japanese team will be led by four-time America’s Cup veteran Kazuhiko Sofuku “Fuku”, who is serving as General manager. “To lead a Japanese challenge for the America’s Cup is a dream come true,” said Fuku. His last participation with a Japanese America’s Cup team was 15 years ago, serving as bowman for Nippon Challenge in the 1999/2000 Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger series. “This is a great opportunity for Japan and for Japanese sailors to get back into the America’s Cup game. We are planning to build up our team using America’s Cup World Series events to recruit and train Japanese sailors for our crew.”
There had been rumours circulating that former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker would be involved in the new Japanese America’s Cup syndicate, but no mention has been made in the official announcement.
It was anticipated that more teams would be vying for the Cup – and some from Asia as well – after a recent dramatic rule change that saw the current competitors vote to race on smaller boats.
Oracle, the America’s Cup Defender representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club, will be offering the Japanese team “a base level of technical assistance” to help it prepare for the upcoming 2015 America’s Cup World Series events.
The America’s Cup is regarded as the world’s oldest sporting competition and was first competed for off the Isle of Wight in 1851. The New York Yacht Club won the day against the British Royal Yacht Squadron, whilst Queen Victoria looked on. The journey to the next America’s Cup has come the full circle of the globe and returns to the waters of the Solent this July with the America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth.