Japan's Kansai Yacht Club to compete in America's Cup

TOKYO (AP) Japan's Kansai Yacht Club has announced its challenge for the 2017 America's Cup.

The club, backed by the telecommunications company SoftBank Group, announced Thursday that SoftBank Team Japan will compete in the lead-up World Series events later this year with the goal of competing in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

Team general manager Kazuhiko Sofuku, known colloquially as Fuku, said that ''to lead a Japanese challenge for the America's Cup is a dream come true.''

A statement from the team said the defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA will provide ''a base level of technical assistance'' to the Japanese entrant.

''The Japanese challenge will increase interest in the America's Cup across Asia which is good news for all of our teams,'' America's Cup commercial commissioner Harvey Schiller said.

Such good news is welcome for an America's Cup that has been embroiled in the increasingly common wrangle over rules, venues and terms of entry.

Team Australia, through the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, which was the initial challenger of record for 2017, withdrew last year from the regatta when there was uncertainty about the venue.

Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge pulled out when the rules were changed, reducing the size of the catamarans.

Emirates Team New Zealand, Sweden's Artemis Racing, Britain's Ben Ainslie Racing and Team France are the other teams currently aiming to participate in the 2017 event.

The lead-up World Series event begins in Cagliari in Italy in June, followed by events in Portsmouth on England's south coast, Gothenburg in Sweden and Hamilton, Bermuda.

The 2017 America's Cup will be the first time a U.S. defender holds the race outside the United States. It also will be the first time in the regatta's 163-year history that a defender sails the races in foreign waters by choice rather than necessity.

Oracle Team USA successfully defended the trophy in 2013, completing the largest in-series comeback in America's Cup history by coming from 8-1 down to win 9-8.

It will be the first time that Japan will compete in the cup since Nippon Challenge took part for the third time in succession in 2000.

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