Nathan Outteridge made a late dash for Oman last night for the opening race of this year’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.

The Artemis Racing skipper has been struggling with a leg injury and stayed behind in Bermuda for some intensive treatment ahead of this weekend’s races in the Middle East.

Outteridge hopes to be in situ in time for tomorrow’s practice session, with Artemis looking to continue the good form that led to their win at the Bermuda regatta in October.

Still, Chris Draper, the SoftBank Team Japan wing trimmer, believes Emirates Team New Zealand, who top the World Series standings, will enter Saturday and Sunday’s races as firm favourites. Especially as the wind conditions for the weekend are forecast to be light to moderate.

“We saw in the light conditions last year in Gothenburg that the Kiwis were quite strong in that stuff, although you could argue they’ve just been strong across the board,” he said.

“It might be the most open in the light to be honest.

“I think last year you could say that the top four on the leaderboard were really close, with ourselves and Groupama Team France sort of nuzzling up behind the others.

“But we both did quite a bit of training following that last event so hopefully the six teams will be quite tight it will be good close racing.”

Draper and his SoftBank Team Japan team have been sailing in Bermuda on a new AC45 test platform over the winter as they look to improve on their fifth place in the standings, but the Japan sailor said the goal now is to shift back into race mode and pick up a good result.

“We’d like to be on the podium and a really good result of course would be a win,” he said. “The people on this team have all won World Series events in the past and we want to do more of that.

“We want to win. We’re not here to make up the numbers,” he said.

Although the focus is on Oman, Draper said that the team was also keen to maintain the progress that has taken them from late entries to putting their new test boat through its paces on the Great Sound.

“We have to take a long view,” Draper said. “We started last year in Portsmouth from nothing and now we have a test boat on the water at our new base in Bermuda and we’re really improving.

“We’ve gone from a team of seven or eight people to about 35 people now. So in the big picture, the key is to keep progressing.

“It feels good to be getting back out on the racecourse. We love to race. We love to compete. We want to get a good result.”

This story appeared in The Royal Gazette on February 25th, 2016.

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