Exciting times ahead for Team Japan

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There is a certain buzz permeating through the ranks at SoftBank Team Japan these days — and for good reason.

The America’s Cup challenger took delivery of their first AC45S test boat from Oracle Team USA last month while work on the team’s base in Dockyard continues.

“These are exciting times for the team,” Chris Draper, the Team Japan tactician and team manager, said.

“We’ve got Christmas in the way a bit, but we’ve got to get the base built and get the boat on the water, so there’s plenty ahead of us over the next eight weeks.”

If all goes accordingly, Team Japan plan to start training in their wing-sail foiling AC45S catamaran early next month and move into their base in the South Basin in Dockyard in February.

“We’ve got a very busy time ahead of us,” Draper added. “But it’s going to be fun and we’re really looking forward to the new year.”

Team Japan announced their challenge for the coveted “Auld Mug” in April under the banner of the Kansai Yacht Club.

Kazuhiko Sofuku, a veteran of four America’s Cup campaigns, has been appointed as the team’s general manager and Dean Barker, the former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper, as the team’s skipper and CEO.

Team Japan have also welcomed Olympic 470 sailor Yugo Yoshida and rower Yuki Kasatani to the ranks.

The pair were selected from a group of 22 Japanese athletes that took part in rigorous fitness and sailing tests to determine who would be invited to join the team. The three-day tryouts took place in Zushi, Japan.

“Right from day one of the trials it became clear there were six applicants very much in the running for the two available places on the team,” Barker said. “However, Yuki and Yugo really stood out in all areas of the testing process.

“Although very different athletes they both had the drive to earn their rights to the two positions.”

Yoshida and Kasatani will now integrate with their new team-mates on Island and begin an intense training programme to prepare them for the physical strength and stamina required to sail the AC45S catamaran.

Although the pair have no experience racing multihull sailboats, Draper, who finished fourth at last week’s Amlin International Moth Regatta in the Great Sound, believes the high fitness levels both athletes possess will be a massive benefit to the team.

“Training wise, Yuki and Yugo’s goals will be slightly different,” Draper said. “Yugo has a wealth of sailing experience so will be looking to transfer his skills and understanding to the foiling boats. Yuki will be looking to build his knowledge about the boats and being on the water in a different way to what he knows.”

This story appeared in the Royal Gazette on December 17th, 2015.

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Exciting times ahead for Team Japan