Less than 2 months away from taking delivery of their America’s Cup Class yacht in Bermuda, SoftBank Team Japan announced today that they are continuing to add to their ranks with the addition of two athletes: Ben Lamb and Luke Payne.
“Both of these guys are super race sharp, in some of the most relevant racing out there”, said Tactician and Sailing Director Chris Draper. “For us this shows diversity and real talent. Both have an insane hunger to be involved in the Cup and are proven winners. Their introduction into the team could not come at a better time for us.”
With multi-faceted backgrounds across the professional sailing world – Ben is a World Championship Etchells sailor and World Match Racing Tour tactician and Luke a weapon across the GC32 and M32 sailing series.
Draper explained both are poised to infuse massive gains into the physical performance aboard the AC45 Sport this month.
“Lamb is a super talented tactician and brings a great physical presence onboard. Luke is capable of pulling ridiculous world class times on a Concept 2 and is going to be an incredible asset to the team.”
We caught up with Ben and Luke just after their move to Bermuda to find out more about what it’s like to step into an America’s Cup team for the first time.
Talk us through the moment you were asked to join the team, what happened and what made you say yes?
Ben: Basically Dean called me into his office. Part of me was definitely nervous but the rest of me was feeling confident and happy with myself that I had given my best during the week’s trial. When Dean asked me to join the team I literally couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Joining an America's Cup team like Softbank Team Japan and getting to sail with all these guys is an absolute dream come true!
Luke: I got an email from Chris Draper in June asking if I would like to come for a trial and managed to get over to Bermuda in July and spend the week with the team. I got to meet a few of the guys and just straight away felt at home with everyone in the team. I then had a few fitness tests and was offered a place on the team! It was a really easy decision for me.
What are your first impressions of the AC45 Sport?
Luke: Yeah I managed to get out a few times in July and that was an awesome experience! For me the forces you get when turning corners was the biggest surprise – you feel pretty vulnerable. I was sailing in one of the backwards facing positions and being able to look over and see 40-plus knots on the gauge while having no idea where you are going is a little off putting at times.
Ben: Yeah I've been here for a couple of weeks sailing on the boat. It's an absolute weapon. Really interesting how so many variables need to combine to actually get it around the track smoothly. It's a constant physical and mental battle and I love it!
Talk us through your background in sailing and the step up into America’s Cup racing?
Ben: I’ve basically sailed anything and everything I could; both one design and fleet racing, match racing or Sydney to Hobarts. In the last few years my main focus has been the World Match Racing Tour, which I love. With the semi-foiling catamarans and racing with boundaries the tactics and strategies used are very similar to those used in the cup.
We had some really solid results on the WMRT this year and I also recently won the Etchell World Championships where there was over 30 Olympic medals spread through the fleet. Most of all, hopefully I can fit in with the team by being easy going and working hard.
Luke: I've been doing the GC32 the past summer and I think that is huge bonus for coming onto these boats having some experience in foiling and the way it changes the game. The last season in the M32’s on the WMRT has been good to setup a basic idea of how the match racing maneuvers are modified in catamarans. I think we will see a lot of that in the next cup.
What are your goals for the first month of training with the team?
Luke: I’m looking to focus on getting into training and setting a good foundation to really start taking my fitness to the levels it needs to be for these boats. I need to put on around 7 kgs to get up to Derek’s weight so we can be interchangeable on the boat!
Ben: To work hard so that I can get fitter and stronger. I want to learn as much as possible from my teammates as they are legends of the sport. Hopefully I can get up to speed as quick as possible with the systems on the boat and the way that the boat behaves.