© Matt Knighton

Bermudians may have noticed a new ray of light flying across the Great Sound last week as SoftBank Team Japan’s latest weapon in the pursuit to win the 35th America’s Cup, Hikari, had her first few days of on-water testing.

Fresh from her naming ceremony, Hikari, whose Japanese name translates to ‘flash of light’, was unleashed on the water last week to the excitement of fans.

We asked SoftBank Team Japan sailors Kazuhiko “Fuku” Sofuku, Chris Draper, and Yuki Kasatani for a first-hand view of what it’s like to race the next-generation, 15-meter long carbon fiber foiling catamaran.

Does Hikari live up to her name?

Sofuku: Our initial feelings are that the name is very appropriate so the Japanese community did a great job in picking this name. Hikari is going to be faster than our previous AC45S boat and maybe she will even go as fast as the speed of light, shine like a flash of lighting, and show our country a ray of hope in winning the 35th America’s Cup. 

How does the boat handle compared to the AC45S?

Draper: Very similarly, but there are a few subtle differences. Some of the systems are nicer evolutions of what we were using on the old boat so these have taken a little while to get used to but all in all she is easier to handle. 

Kasatani: Boat speed! I feel like this boat can reach maximum speed much earlier and the speed is much faster. 

How does Hikari compare to the AC72s sailed in the last America's Cup?

Draper: If you think of the older boats as the equivalent of the 1980s, totally loose, out of control Formula 1 cars, and compare these to the modern day, exceptionally refined machines of today's F1 circuit, then you will get the picture. 

Has the on-water testing gone as expected?

Sofuku: The first day on the water was a very special moment for everybody in the team and our family.For our first sail we started off fairly easy due to the weather conditions, so this has allowed us to get familiar with the new yacht without pushing it too hard. 

Has Hikari got what it takes to win? 

Sofuku: I believe that not only the boat but also our team has got what it takes to win.

Kasatani: I am very excited and honoured to be part of the team to race this boat and we believe Hikari has what it takes to win. The team will continue to modify the boat to make it faster and more efficient. Watch this space!