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Future looks bright for challengers

The announcement that SoftBank Team Japan would be competing in the 35th America's Cup saw the return of a Japanese outfit to the America's Cup for the first time in 15 years and Bermuda is the battleground.

In the lead-up to the final Louis Vuitton World Series event for AC35, to be held in Fukuoka, Japan, three weeks from now, we focus on the Japanese team and their time in Bermuda so far.

The team opened their base in Bermuda in May 2016, just one year after launching their team in Japan and it now boasts a workforce made up of a multinational collaboration of sailors, boatbuilders and support crew from the professional sailing industry, all focused on winning the America's Cup in 2017.

In May 2015 SoftBank Team Japan launched their challenge for the 2017 America's Cup, announced by Kazuhiko “Fuku” Sofuku, the team's general manager.

The newest team in the America's Cup, SoftBank Team Japan immediately recruited a team of Japanese sailors and international experts including legendary Skipper Dean Barker, a man with a serious point to prove after the 34th America's Cup, and Chris Draper, the Sailing Team director and tactician.

Barker was the skipper of the New Zealand team that suffered a narrow loss to Oracle Team USA in AC34.

Bermuda 2017 with SoftBank Team Japan is Chris Draper's second America's Cup campaign and he holds the accolade of being the first British sailor to helm a boat in the Louis Vuitton finals.

He's also an Olympic silver medal-winner and holds multiple sailing titles, so he is a huge asset to the team.

Joining him on board and adding Japanese strength in depth to the race boat are Yugo Yoshida, another experienced sailor with vast knowledge of Olympic and Asian Games standard competition, and Yuko Kasatani, an elite rower who has transferred his skills to be a grinder for SoftBank Team Japan, a critical role in the modern era.

Back in 1999-2000, Nippon Challenge competed in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series and bringing the story full circle. Fuku was bowman for that team, so the chance to bring Japan back into the America's Cup for its 35th edition was an opportunity the Japanese sailing legend could not turn down.

SoftBank Team Japan is supported by SoftBank Corp and represents Kansai Yacht Club, and since launching in May 2015 has quickly developed as serious contenders for the biggest prize in sailing in 2017.

One measure of just how far SoftBank Team Japan has come in such a short time is their podium place at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series event in Toulon in September.

Multiple wins over that weekend put them on the final podium for the first time in their short life and now they are aiming to keep climbing to the top step, and where better to do that for the first time that on their home waters in Fukuoka, Japan next month.

The pressure is on, but the team has shown they can handle pressure and adversity, so their future looks bright.

Foil Fest: Softbank Team Japan wins, with Oracle Team USA second (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 29, 2016 at 11:00 am (Updated October 29, 2016 at 10:49 am)

Future looks bright for challengers

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