Barker: “We Can Compete For The Podium”

January 17, 2016

Softbank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker [pictured] has his sights set on the podium for the 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regattas.

Currently, the team sits in fifth place following the first three events. But they are just 5 points back of Artemis Racing and 9 points off the podium. Both deficits could be made up with a good result in the first event in Oman.

Japan skipper Dean Barker

“Last year was a bit difficult as the only sailing we could do was at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series events and even there our time on the water was quite restricted,” Barker said.

“But we had a great session after the Bermuda event and it felt like we made some good progress. Ideally we’ll get two or three weeks of available sailing days ahead of Oman, so we want to be as prepared as possible when we get there.

“We know that we’re capable of getting on the podium so that’s our goal. We feel like we’ve made some good progress. We want to increase our performance, get more consistent and avoid the bad races. If we’re sailing at our level we can challenge for a podium.”

The training time ahead of Oman will take place in Bermuda on the team’s newly acquired AC45S test boat, which the team could start sailing as early as next week.

“We took delivery of the boat before Christmas and we’ve stripped the boat right back and the guys are doing a full overhaul on all of the equipment to make sure it will get us through the year. Our first new daggerboard arrived yesterday and the other will come later this week, so we’ll get those assembled and into the boat,” Barker explained.

“We have an optimistic goal of trying to go sailing on the 21st of January, but there is a lot of work that needs to happen between now and then to hit that date, but that is the goal.

“What complicates it for us right now is the base build going on in the background. A number of the guys are involved in that. So trying to get the boat ready for sailing and our new docks installed, it’s pretty distracting. January and February is going to be a bit hectic!!”

The team said, “The new base, next door to the Oracle Team USA compound at the Royal Naval Dockyard, should be completed next month and will serve the team through the end of the America’s Cup.

“The base is going up quickly and this interview had to be conducted on the move, dodging forklifts, cement mixers and shipping containers, all of which were being moved around the base area – a very visible and audible sign of progress.”

Before the end of this month, the team will welcome two Japanese crew members – Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasatani -to Bermuda, the pair having been selected following a three-month crew search process in Japan late last year.

Yugo Yoshida, age 31, is an experienced Olympic 470 sailor and comes to the team following campaigns competing in the 2012 London Olympic games as well as several ISAF Sailing World Championships.

Yuki Kasatani, age 26, joins the sailing team as a strong competitive rower having competed in the All Japan Cup since 2009 most recently competing in the Coxed Pair and Double Scull events.

“It’s going to be a big change for these guys, joining a bigger team environment and moving to Bermuda, but we’re very happy with both of them and look forward to having them join us.”

In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead for the Japanese challenger, as launch date approaches.

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