You may have stayed up late watching the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio this summer, but did you know another world famous sporting event is coming to closer shores this fall? On Nov. 18 – 20, Fukuoka will host the ninth qualifying event of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, the challenger selection series for the America’s Cup – the world’s premier sailing yacht race.
The America’s Cup began in 1851, nearly 50 years before the modern Olympics, making it the oldest international sporting event in the world. The name of the competition comes from the schooner that won the very first race, named America, and, ever since, yacht clubs from around the globe have competed for the same sterling silver cup. The event has been described as the ‘Formula 1 on water’ due to the high speeds the yachts achieve. Competing yachts are built in their respective countries and each is packed with homegrown technology that is the culmination of years of boat-building expertise.
For the past two years, races have been held around the world to select the challengers who will compete in the Challenger Playoffs in Bermuda next June. The winner of the playoffs will earn the right to compete head-to-head against the defending champion. The Fukuoka event, the ninth and final event before the playoffs, will be held in the bay off of Jigyohama Beach in Chuo Ward. This marks the first time that an America’s Cup race will be held in Asia in the competition’s 165-year history.
Although it may not be very well known in Japan, yacht racing is highly popular in the West as a sport that demands both physical strength and tactical ability. Hakata Bay, with its calm waters, is perfect for yachting, and there are several teams in the area based primarily out of the Odo Yacht Harbor. Some of these teams have even produced Olympic sailors! Meanwhile, this year, SoftBank Team Japan is representing Japan in its first challenge for the America’s Cup in 15 years.