THIS IS OUR NEW STARTING POINT

© Matt Knighton

MOST SUCCESSFUL JAPANESE CHALLENGER IN HISTORY EXITS 35TH AMERICA'S CUP

SoftBank Team Japan's challenge for the 35th America's Cup ended today, as the team fell to Swedish Challenger Artemis Racing in a thrilling semi-final matchup in Bermuda.

A visibly moved Skipper and CEO Dean Barker addressed the press after the racing, highlighting the achievements of the team both he and General Manager, Kazuhiko Sofuku, assembled less than two years ago.

"The main emotion I feel right now is immense pride in what we've achieved over two years", said Barker.

"We started with nothing. Two years ago, Fuku and I met here in Bermuda to try and figure out how we were going to put a team together and I think the group that was assembled and the support we've had from Japan has been incredible."

Sofuku continued, echoing Barker as he reflected on the achievements of the young Japanese challenge drawing upon his 20+ years of experience as Japan's leading America's Cup sailor.

"It's been an unbelievable journey", said Sofuku. "I'm so proud of this team. This is the best team I've worked with by far."

"Words don't describe the feeling when we got back to the dock and saw all the family, team members and friends", continued Barker.

"I think the environment we've managed to create is something we're incredibly proud of and hopefully get to continue on into the next cycle."

The final race against Artemis Racing today had SoftBank Team Japan fans glued to the screen all around the world as the team trailed going in 3-4 thru the first-to-five series.

Despite nailing the start and leading around the first two marks, the Swedes ultimately tacked onto the team's line and forced a luff, slowing the Japanese boat just enough so they could slip past for the win.

It was a bitter end to a thrilling semi-final series, one that, at one time, saw the Japanese leading 3-1 with hopes of advancing to the Challenger Playoff Finals.

"Today's race was a bit frustrating", said Barker.

"We hit something just after leaving the marina and didn't have time take the boat up. We had a couple divers inspect the boat and couldn't find damage but it eliminated 45 minutes of practice for us where we would normally spend preparing for those conditions."

The idea of building a brand-new Japanese Challenge was at first a daunting task, no doubt made easier with Barker's depth of leadership and Sofuku's passion to see Japan rally behind a new team.

In only two years the team launched three race boats, built a new base in Bermuda, brought together a team of over 50, and advanced to within two race wins of the Challenger Playoff Finals.

"This is the most successful Japanese America's Cup challenge in history", said Sofuku.

"In a very short period of time we became one of the strongest competitors in this Cup. Though this isn't the result we wanted, we're very happy with what we achieved."

As for the future, Barker and Sofuku would very much like to see the team continue and challenge for the America's Cup once again.

"I really hope this team has a future and it's been one of the objectives of this team, to try and build a fan base in Japan", said Barker.

"It's been a fantastic honor and a privilege to be involved in running a new team and assembling a great group of people and I wouldn't trade that for anything."

Back at the base, Sofuku looked up at the massive Japanese flag flying next to a smaller flag flying with the words "Arigato Bermuda" in bold lettering.

"Thank you to all our supporters in Japan", said Sofuku. "This is our new starting point. Go SoftBank Team Japan."