America's Cup: Japan to launch team to challenge Oracle

Former Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker expected to be in the lineup

Japan is to challenge again for the America's Cup. The long-heralded announcement is expected finally to be made by the end of next week and will see not only a Japanese skipper but the appearance of former Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker in the lineup.

The team will be sponsored by Softbank for the Kansai Yacht Club and is expected, like the French team, to be offered some support by the cup holder and defender Oracle, which represents the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

It is expected that Oracle boss Larry Ellison and his sailing team boss Sir Russell Coutts will attend the signing ceremony along with Masoyashi San.

It is not known whether the late entry will compete at the warm-up regatta being staged in Portsmouth in May and organised by an associate company of the British challenger, Sir Ben Ainslie's BAR.

The June regatta in Cagliari, Sardinia, has been cancelled after Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli withdrew his Luna Rossa challenge in protest at midstream changes to the rules for the next cup, due to be staged in Bermuda in 2017.

Team New Zealand, which recently had a publicly messy parting of the ways with Barker, is still expected to race in Portsmouth but, it seems, without the financial support of the Kiwi government. Its future remains precarious and, despite the French being offered by Coutts a design package of what will be a smaller, 48-foot foiling catamaran, French skipper Franck Gammas has yet to announce full funding. He is competing at the opening ISAF World Cup event in Hyeres as part of his Olympic bid.

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