LONDON – SoftBank Team Japan outclassed Groupama Team France in their Louis Vuitton America’s Cup qualifying race on Thursday, with the Japanese catamaran coping better with a very light breeze in Bermuda’s Great Sound.
SoftBank Team Japan, skippered by former Emirates Team New Zealand sailor Dean Barker, got the better start and built on their lead, with Groupama finding themselves in the doldrums during the middle of the race.
“It was not quite what we were expecting when we left the dock this morning,” Barker said in a televised interview.
“These conditions are probably the hardest we have for these boats,” Barker said, adding that factors such as body movements on the finely-tuned 50-foot (15-meter) foiling catamarans were crucial when the wind was so light.
The race between the French and Japanese crews was delayed from Wednesday as a shifting wind dropped to the borderline for the average speed needed for the high-tech catamarans to race.
Groupama Team France, the pre-event underdogs, have struggled to get their 50-foot foiling catamaran to “fly” as well as the other five crews in the regatta and this was once again the case during their race against Japan.
The French, who were comprehensively beaten by America’s Cup holders Oracle Team USA on Tuesday, have won two races but their loss to SoftBank Team Japan has left their challenge in a perilous position.
The six teams race each other twice in the head-to-head match race format, with a point for the winner. The challenger with the fewest points at the end of the qualifiers will not go through to the next semi-final round.