With a smile from ear to ear and an infectious enthusiasm for sailing, SoftBank Team Japan’s latest visitor, famous Japanese yachting photographer Yoichi Yabe, would lead anyone to believe he has the best job in the world.

He just so happens to be one of the team’s biggest supporters. Yoichi (or “Yo” as he prefers to be called) Yabe, is highly regarded as one of Japan’s top yachting photographers and was in Bermuda recently to get a bit closer to the team and catch some action on the water.

Yo shares his impressions of the team and talks about the Nippon Challenge and how he believes Japan’s challenge for the 35th America’s Cup stacks up. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your love of sailing?

I’m a photographer who specializes in sailing. I’ve always liked to be on the water, amongst the waves, it’s the perfect office to work. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and never get tired of it.

You were involved in the Nippon Challenge, how did that open the eyes of the Japanese community into the world of sailing?

As a magazine photographer, I shot the Nippon Challenge many years ago. The Nippon Challenge opened up Japanese yachting to the world and likewise, Japanese culture was exposed to the greater yachting world. 

They were very successful and went all the way to the semi-finals twice. They learned a lot as they competed towards something unknown at the time.

Fast forward 17 years and here is the new team striving to win the America’s Cup for Japan – how do you think SoftBank Team Japan measures up against the competition? 

Compared with the other teams, I think SoftBank Team Japan has more passion. Their atmosphere is friendly yet intense with the development going on. Everyone is smiling though they’re working so hard. Dean Barker has put together a team that understands the culture of Japan, respects each other, and you really feel that here. You wouldn’t have seen that before in previous Japanese challenges – everyone is behind him. 

What are your impressions of the team’s America’s Cup Class yacht, Hikari?

I think everything is now so sophisticated. The team is in good shape under the command of Dean and Fuku. The boat looks fast and there’s a good chance for SoftBank Team Japan to go all the way.

Do you see this new team as a stepping stone for the future of Japanese sailing and involvement in the America’s Cup?

I think that SoftBank Team Japan has begun a great legacy after a long Japanese absence from the America’s Cup – that is very important for the Japanese yachting community.

To read more about Yoichi Yabe, check out his profile