Friday 22 April 2016 All three Bermuda-based teams training off the North Shore
Photo: Jack Griffin
I visited SoftBank Team Japan last Friday and got to spend the afternoon on their chase boat. The team has a real depth of experience from AC34: Dean Barker, Derek Saward, Jero Lomas and Winston MacFarlane were all onboard Team New Zealand’s AC72 in San Francisco. Wing trimmer and sailing manager Chris Draper helmed Luna Rossa. Grinder Simeon Tienpont was grinder and boat captain for Oracle’s AC72. General manager Kasuhiko Sofuku sailed on Nippon Challenge in 2000. The team is developing younger sailors including Japanese team members Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasitani and Australian multihull specialist Jason Waterhouse.
Although the team has purchased a design package from Oracle, Nick Holroyd, formerly head of design at Team New Zealand, is making his presence felt, especially with work on board design. Nick was at the cutting edge of the foiling breakthrough during the last campaign.
The team base at Dockyard is growing, with office space and a lounge and kitchen popping up quickly with modular construction.
On the water I saw all three Bermuda based teams out on the water – SoftBank Team Japan, Artemis Racing and, with two boats, Oracle. Looking for long stretches of open water, all four boats headed out of the Great Sound and did several straightline speed runs off Bermuda’s beautiful north shore. No one looked noticeably faster than the others. AC35 will be hard fought and every team is likely to be strong and competitive. SoftBank Team Japan did a few well-executed foiling gybes, but that is to be expected, given that Dean mastered that maneuver long before any of the other helmsmen. Of course, the other teams were also smooth in their maneuvers, but no one should think of SoftBank Team Japan as a “new crew.” A new team, yes, but one with lots of experience and strength.