SoftBank Team Japan will put 22 Japanese athletes through their paces at crew trials later this month.

The three-day selection process, which will be held near Tokyo from November 27 to 29, will combine intense fitness testing and sailing exercises along with personal interviews.

Ultimately, the group will be narrowed down to just two athletes, who will be invited to join the team.

“We want the best athletes Japan has to offer,” Dean Barker, the SoftBank skipper, said. “I think that narrowing it down to only few candidates at the end of the trials will be an extremely difficult task. We are looking forward to meeting and building relationships with the candidates and expect everyone to put their best foot forward.”

Hundreds of Japanese athletes took part in the three-month application process, with professional ice hockey and basketball players joining top sailors and rowers in trying to make the team.

For Kazuhiko “Fuku” Sofuku, the team’s general manager, the crew trials are a significant milestone in Japan’s return to Louis Vuitton America’s Cup competition, after having been absent for the past 15 years. Having raced in four Louis Vuitton America’s Cup challenges, he hopes to pass on his experience and inspire the next generation of Japanese sailors.

“It shows how much interest they have in Japan,” he said. “I’m honoured that so many young Japanese people are willing to join the team.”

In the end, however, it will not just be physical strength that determines who is selected, but mental attitude too. To find that right person, Chris Draper, the SoftBank tactician, said the candidates would be “pushed to their limits.”

Describing the boats as “extremely fitness oriented”, Draper wanted to attract a wide range of athletes to the tryouts and likes what he sees.

“We have a great group that we now have to go through and whittle down, the hard thing is going to be just choosing two,” he said.

Barker, Sofuku, Draper and Shaun Mason, the shore team member, will all be present in Tokyo to conduct the trails and make the final selections.

All new team members will be expected to move to SoftBank Team Japan’s base in Bermuda to live and train for the next two years as the team builds it’s challenge for the America’s Cup in 2017.

This story appeared in The Royal Gazette onNovember 17th, 2015.

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