Team Japan not here to just make up the numbers

Softbank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker, bottom right  Picture: ACEA / Photo Gilles Martin-Ra
Softbank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker, bottom right Picture: ACEA / Photo Gilles Martin-Ra
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Skipper Dean Barker has vowed that America’s Cup newcomers Softbank Team Japan are not in Portsmouth to make up the numbers.

New-Zealander Barker, who has competed in five previous America’s Cup competitions is predicting a ‘phenomenal’ weekend on the Solent.

And while accepting that, as the latest team formed for the event, Softbank will be unfancied in terms of overall race glory, he is confident the Japanese outfit can make their mark on the south coast.

He said: ‘The standard of racing is going to be incredibly high, with Oracle Team USA the benchmark.

‘Artemis have been doing a huge amount of sailing in Bermuda, Team New Zealand have had two weeks here, so they’ve already had a decent acclimatisation on the boats, Ben (Ainslie, Land Rover BAR) is going to be very strong.

‘And then ourselves and the French, are probably the new teams to front up.

‘With some decent training we can be competitive but it’s going to be tough.’

Barker, though, is realistic in his expectations for Softbank Team Japan’s first competitive action.

He said: ‘If we know we’re sailing the boat well and feel fast then we can come away feeling pretty happy.

‘It would be nice to have a great result straight out of the bag but we know the reality of that is probably quite small.

‘We’re definitely going out there to win but we do understand we’re up against some pretty strong teams.’

Having been out of action himself for a couple of years, two-time America’s Cup winner Barker admitted his return to sailing was far from straightforward.

But the Softbank skipper, who has enjoyed a good week of training with his new team, is excited at the prospect of a weekend’s foiling.

He said: ‘It’s been about two years since I last sailed a foiling catamaran so I was definitely rusty!

‘In the World Series previously, with the boats non-foiling, it was all very exciting.

‘Now with them foiling it’s going to double the excitement level.

‘It will be phenomenal and a lot of fun.’