Photography by © ACEA 2017 / Photo Gilles Martin-Raget - Photo Ricardo Pinto
Outteridge notched four successive wins against Dean Barker, who was on the receiving end of the history making comeback win by Oracle Team USA in San Francisco four years ago.
Conditions were near the top end of the wind spectrum at 19-22 knots. Earlier this week, in similar strong weather conditions, Barker had beat Outteridge in both races sailed. He needed to pull off a similar performance if his team was to advance, but with a loss in the first race, SoftBank Team Japan was eliminated from the competition.
In the pre-start to the race, Barker pushed Artemis Racing skipper Nathan Outteridge towards the starting line early and as the Swedish challenger slowed so as not to break the start prematurely, Barker put his bows down, the boat raised up on its foils and Japan sped away to mark one with a narrow lead.
But Barker struggled with the turn at mark one, losing much of his lead, and Outteridge kept it close on the first run and then on the upwind leg he made the pass.
As Artemis Racing tacked at the left edge of the race course, Barker was required to give room. The decision by SoftBank Team Japan to tack to port in front of the Swedes put their boat in a vulnerable position. Outteridge drove through to leeward, luffed aggressively to halt Barker, and then bore away into the lead and ultimately a 12-second win.
“Absolutely stoked,” was the reaction from Outteridge on board immediately following the race.
“That was a tough race and to come back the boys really had to dig in. We’re really happy to take it to the next round and we’re going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Outteridge and Artemis Racing, after recovering from a 3-1 deficit to win the series 5-3 over Japan, will now face Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand early Sunday morning AEST. The winner of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs advances to the America’s Cup Match against ORACLE TEAM USA.
For SoftBank Team Japan this marks the end of the fourth Japanese challenge for the America’s Cup. Each one (1992, 1995, 1999) has fallen at the semi final stage of the challenger series.
But Kazuhiko ‘Fuku’ Sofuku, the General Manager and bowman for the team, who was also a sailor with the ’95 and ’99 efforts, says this was the most rewarding experience.
“I hope this will have a big impact for the Japanese and for sailing in Japan,” he said. “I hope we are sending a good message to the people in Japan. We’ve been working really hard and from the first day we have had a never give up spirit. Nothing is impossible!”
“I’m disappointed we’re not competing tomorrow,” said Japan skipper Dean Barker, when asked how he felt after the race.
“But I think the main thing I feel is immense pride in what we’ve achieved in two years. We started from nothing… When we arrived back at the dock just now, words can’t describe the feeling with the families, team members and friends and all of that support. I’m very proud of the environment we’ve created and I hope we can continue through to the next Cup cycle.
“I’d like to thank all our supporters. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride but the support we’ve had in Japan and New Zealand has been phenomenal. It’s been quite an amazing journey and experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything.“
Artemis Racing now has less than 24 hours to prepare to race Emirates Team New Zealand. Outteridge and Burling are old foes; each can claim an Olympic victory over the other, as they’ve traded off gold and silver medals in the 49er class in the past two Games.