The year is here. In 125 days, SoftBank Team Japan will take on Artemis Racing in their first race of the America’s Cup Qualifiers not only marking the culmination of their campaign, but the end of more than a decade of drought since Japan has challenged for the Auld Mug.
The team arrived back in Bermuda on January 2nd returning from a much-deserved two-week holiday – a chance for many members to travel back home and spend time with family prior to the final intensive testing period currently starting up.
However, one very important member of the team stayed behind in Bermuda – the team’s new America’s Cup Class race boat.
Having taken delivery of the new yacht in November, the 50-foot long one-design hull has been going through an extensive modification period in the boat shed as the team continues testing their AC45 Sport on the water.
“Progress with the AC50 has been good”, said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker.
“The entire team took a two-week break over holidays to recharge the batteries before what will be a long and hard 6 months ahead. We are all very excited to think that we will have our new boat in the water in mid-February.”
Counting down to that launch, the shore and design teams hit the ground running January 3rd maximizing the installation time necessary to transfer board control systems, ergonomics, and computers to the new boat. These custom developments have been hewn over the past year as the team has tested their AC45 Sport on the Great Sound in Bermuda.
Along with these systems, upon their return, the team was also tasked with the crucial job of committing to dagger board designs – the shape and contour of the 4-meters of winged surface that will lift the boat out of the water during the America’s Cup.
Contrary to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series where dagger boards are one-design, the 35th America’s Cup protocol allows each team to build 4 customized dagger boards.
With almost four months to go until the America’s Cup Qualifiers, every sailing day – and the resulting amount of data and technique learned – counts exponentially.
Since splashing back on the water on January 13th for their first sail of 2017, SoftBank Team Japan now will begin an extended practice race period with the other teams based in Bermuda – Oracle Team USA, Artemis Racing, and new neighbors, Land Rover BAR.
“Having four teams on the Sound so far has been great”, said Barker.
“To date we haven’t had too many days with all boats on the water, but it does get busy! It is pretty awesome charging around at well over 30 knots with 4 other boats in close proximity and we’re looking forward to the practice racing the next two weeks.”
Practice racing on the Great Sound in Bermuda will take place as weather permits, January 18th – February 6th.