SoftBank Team Japan were the undisputed crowd favorites on the shores of Hakata Bay today, the final day of racing at Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Fukuoka despite a mixed day on the water.
Two tough finishes in the first pair of races set the team up for a thrilling comeback as they charged through the fleet to nab a second place behind Groupama Team France in the third and final race.
That was enough to set the crowd on fire. Black SoftBank Team Japan flags waved across the beach by the thousands as the team took to the stage, ultimately finishing fifth in this final race of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series circuit.
“It’s been quite the experience to come to Fukuoka and race in front of our hometown fans”, said a smiling skipper and CEO Dean Barker.
“It’s well exceeded the expectations I had coming here. The number of people who have turned up and their support for the team has been great. It would’ve been nice to have a better overall finish but it keeps everyone hungry for preparing for next year.”
Bowman and general manager Kazuhiko Sofuku fought through the media swarm post-racing to sign autographs for the crowd as well as greet several ex-Nippon Challenge teammates who were in attendance.
“This is fantastic”, said Sofuku. “I’ve enjoyed every minute. So many people have turned out and we’re overwhelmed with the support. I’m very happy. “
With the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series concluded, the team’s focus now returns completely towards the development of their America’s Cup Class yacht in Bermuda – the platform they’ll race in the 35th America’s Cup in June 2017.
The 50-foot catamaran recently arrived at the team’s base in Bermuda and has begun an extensive modification program as the team transitions the systems and procedures learned already in their AC45 Sport test boat to the final race yacht.
That boat will ultimately decide the fate of the team in going forward into the match races during the America’s Cup Qualifiers – the pathway to the America’s Cup finals.
Dean Barker was optimistic that the team’s development program has benefited dramatically from the testing sessions held over the past year with Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing.
“I think we’ve got a very good understanding of how the boats respond in different conditions”, said Barker.
“Getting the chance to race alongside Artemis Racing and Oracle Team USA has been a huge advantage I think in a lot of ways. It’s going to be interesting once more teams turn up in Bermuda.”
The team now travels back to Bermuda tomorrow and will be back straight into sailing upon their return as precious days tick away during the final stages of testing their new yacht design.
“We’ll push all the way to the very end”, said Barker. “Every day counts.”