SoftBank Team Japan hit the waters of Hakata Bay in full force today racing the official practice day ahead of their hometown event this weekend: Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Fukuoka.
The final event of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series circuit, the event marks the first time an America’s Cup event has been held in Asia as well as the last regatta before the 35th America’s Cup is raced in Bermuda next June.
For General Manager and Bowman Kazuhiko Sofuku, veteran of four America’s Cup campaigns, this event weighs special significance as he brings the Auld Mug to Japan for the first time.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to introduce Japan to the America’s Cup and to show the world how beautiful Japan is”, Sofuku said.
The launch of the team’s foiling carbon-fibre catamaran yesterday certainly drew the attention of the national Japanese media, with the team technical area maxed out to capacity with press turning out to witness the new Japanese team’s debut.
That same fervor continued through to Friday during official practice as the team came out swinging scoring a commanding win in the first practice race of the day.
Several more strong results led into the final substitution race – a race that will count only in the event conditions prevent official racing this weekend – where the team defended a third place start finishing barely out of striking distance of the lead.
“Really good day for us in front of our home fans. The conditions today on the course were light and shifty but the team felt strong and ready to race tomorrow”, said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker.
“It’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come in such a short time. It means a lot to us the warm welcome we’ve had since arriving here in Japan and we’ll do our best to get a great result for our fans.”
Against the backdrop of the SoftBank Fukuoka Hawks Dome and the beautiful skyline of Fukuoka, official racing will begin at 1300 hours tomorrow and be broadcast live across Japan on TV Tokyo.