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Japanese team reveals AC Class yacht

Published on February 25th, 2017

(February 25, 2017) – SoftBank Team Japan have become the fifth America’s Cup team to launch their America’s Cup Class (ACC) yacht which they will race in their historic challenge for the 35th America’s Cup. Only Groupama Team France have yet to reveal their boat.

The yacht, named “Hikari”, was unveiled at the team’s base in Bermuda in front of a crowd which included team members, guests from Bermuda, Japan and around the world. The name “Hikari”, which means “flash of light” was chosen from over 430 entries by fans in a competition run throughout Japan by SoftBank Corp in the lead-up to the yacht’s unveiling.

After pouring a ceremonial “masu” (a traditional measuring cup made of Cyprus to serve sake) of Hakkaisan Sake over the bow of the new yacht, Tatsuro Kurisaka, Vice President of the Communications Division of SoftBank Corp., revealed the name to the public for the first time and then, with the crowd looking on, Shinto Priest Kai Guji then performed a Japanese Oharai purification ceremony for the new boat.

Kai Guji travelled to Bermuda from Kagoshima, Japan and brought with him special talismans he had collected from several different Japanese Shinto shrines to bless the sailors, the yacht, and the weather.

“Hikari” was first conceived more than a year and a half ago in May 2015 when SoftBank Team Japan was first formed, and since that date the team has invested more than 187,000 man-hours, working 12 hour days on a six-day work week honing the technology that is featured across the new yacht.

Looking for performance gains wherever they can, SoftBank Team Japan have been testing design ideas on the Great Sound, an advantage team CEO and Skipper Dean Barker think could be key to success: “It certainly helps to have a year of sailing in Bermuda under us and during the Cup itself it’ll feel like we’re sailing at home.

“We’ll have a much better understanding of what to expect and the three teams who were based here will hopefully have an advantage over the other three.”

While “Hikari” may look, to the untrained eye, similar to the yachts launched by many of the other America’s Cup teams, many of the biggest advantages continue to be hidden out of sight inside the yacht’s hulls where the high-tech mechanisms required for sustained foiling are installed.

“I think we’ve seen differences in all the boats but the biggest unknown is what’s hidden in the hulls – how do the control systems work and how well the boats operate.

“That will be the untold story and the biggest determiner of success. We’re very happy with our systems but we know there’s still much to do until the start of the 35th America’s Cup.”

The America’s Cup Class rules allow teams to customize their appendage, control, and aero packages, focusing the technological development of the class towards the art of foiling and sustaining fast stable flight over the water.

However, in keeping with America’s Cup rules, the hydraulics required to drive those systems must be human powered which means “creating” athletes capable of exerting extreme power outputs for long durations of time.

Grinders Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasatani are those weapons for SoftBank Team Japan, picked out of an intense Japanese crew trial in 2015, and the two have put on more than 15 kg of muscle training, at minimum, twice a day. They will join veteran Kazuhiko Sofuku in the crew rotation for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, marking Japan’s return to the America’s Cup itself after a 15-year drought.

“Coming out of the last America’s Cup we never imagined the development curve on the mechanical and human side would continue to be as steep as it has and I think right up through the Cup you’ll see development,” commented veteran grinder Jeremy Lomas.

“No team will stop. The boats will change from what you see here today.”

Background: The 35th American’s Cup has attracted six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) that will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, with a series of qualifiers beginning on May 26, 2017 that lead to the start of the America’s Cup Match on June 17, 2017. Complete schedule.

Source: ACEA

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