(April 23, 2015) – The long-heralded announcement that Japan is to challenge again for the America’s Cup is expected finally to be made by the end of next week and will see not only a Japanese skipper but the appearance of former Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker in the lineup.
Barker was controversially dumped as helmsman by Team New Zealand who have placed their faith in Australian Glenn Ashby and rising Kiwi talent Peter Burling to take the wheel. Barker’s experience in the foiling catamarans and 20 years in the America’s Cup game would be a huge boost to any new syndicate.
With several one-design elements featuring on the new 48-foot catamarans, a lot of the technology advantages have been evened out, bringing the racing more into the hands of the sailors.
The team will be sponsored by Softbank for the Kansai Yacht Club and is expected, like the French team, to be offered some support by the cup holder and defender Oracle, which represents the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
It is expected that Oracle boss Larry Ellison and his sailing team boss Sir Russell Coutts will attend the signing ceremony along with Masoyashi San. Earlier this week Coutts, the America’s Cup Event Authority boss, suggested the current lineup of five teams, including Team New Zealand, were set to be boosted by late entries.
It is not known whether the late entry will compete at the warm-up regatta being staged in Portsmouth in May and organized by an associate company of the British challenger, Sir Ben Ainslie’s BAR.
The June regatta in Cagliari, Sardinia, has been cancelled after Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli withdrew his Luna Rossa challenge in protest at midstream changes to the rules for the next cup, due to be staged in Bermuda in 2017.
Team New Zealand, which recently had a publicly messy parting of the ways with Barker, is still expected to race in Portsmouth but, it seems, without the financial support of the Kiwi government. Its future remains precarious and, despite the French being offered by Coutts a design package of what will be a smaller, 48-foot foiling catamaran, French skipper Franck Gammas has yet to announce full funding. He is competing at the opening ISAF World Cup event in Hyeres as part of his Olympic bid.
Japan have contested three America’s Cups, in 1992, 1995 and 2000, with strong New Zealand connections. Kiwi Chris Dickson skippered their 1992 challenge in San Diego where they reached the semifinals of the Louis Vuitton Cup. At the 1995 regatta in San Diego, New Zealander John Cutler was at the helm of the Japanese challenge that also ended at the semifinal stage.