Team Korea: White Tiger Challenge – Ready for America’s Cup in Plymouth

Earlier this year, Team Korea made history when it became the newest nation to enter the America’s Cup, the oldest still active, international sporting competition in the world.
This is a brand new America’s Cup competition however, with a new approach that has already revolutionised the sport. With the stated aim of having the ‘best sailors in the fastest boats’, organisers have adopted ultra hi-tech wing sailed catamarans, which can sail faster than the wind, and are bringing the action closer to spectators than ever before, as seen in Portugal last month at the opening regatta.

Team Korea show off their tiger-stripe design
Team Korea show off their tiger-stripe design

Now the second of the America’s Cup World Series events is due to start in Plymouth on September 10th, and Team Korea is hoping for more success, having had an excellent debut event on making their entrance to the pinnacle of the sport. Known as the ‘White Tiger Challenge’, Team Korea unveiled their spectacular tiger stripe design on their yacht with a traditional Korean boat blessing, all of which won the affection of the Portuguese crowds lining the race area, and went on to sail impressively against the bigger and more experienced teams in the contest.

There are nine yachts taking part in Plymouth, with two teams from the USA, both sailing for ORACLE Racing, the current defenders of the America’s Cup having won the trophy in Spain at the start of 2010. Other teams from China, New Zealand, Sweden, Spain and France are also taking part, and all have high pedigree international crews of five sailors on their boat.

Rather like the English Premier League, America’s Cup teams are not bound by nationality and are free to recruit the best yachtsmen from around the world. Team Korea’s skipper is Chris Draper from Weymouth, an Olympic Bronze medallist and multiple World and European champion, who has brought together three top British sailors who have tremendous America’s Cup experience, plus a wing trimmer from New Zealand who has been sailing this new class of yacht since they were first trialled earlier this year. Having gone into the first regatta in this new series with no chance to test sail in real race conditions, the crew performance was superb, counting frequent 3rd and 4th places, a second in the Speed Trials and 4th in the Match racing, this against teams who have all entered the America’s Cup on previous occasions.

Team Korea CEO Kim Dong-Young said, “I was so proud to watch our team cross the start line of an America’s Cup regatta for the first time in history! It was a dramatic moment not just for me, but for everyone back home in Korea who helped us achieve this and who shared our dream and vision. We are the only new team to enter the Cup, the youngest team, and we have a lot to learn, but everyone did a great job at our first event in Portugal, and to achieve a podium finish in the speed trial section was just unbelievable for me”.

Team Korea grapple with the Emirates team in Portugal
Team Korea grapple with the Emirates team in Portugal

He continued, “We also beat Russell Coutts in a Match Race against ORACLE, the greatest America’s Cup sailor of all time having won the trophy four times now. That was an amazing result for Team Korea, and yet we know we can do better still as we learn and develop going forward. Before we began we were worried that we might finish last and be embarrassed by our performance, but it was completely the opposite – the whole world knows that Team Korea has arrived and is a serious contender now”.

Speaking after the closing press conference in Portugal, Russell Coutts, the CEO of ORACLE Racing said, “I expected Team Korea to be good, but they have proved to be very good. It’s a fantastic team, and they have made some really good decisions on who to get involved. I believe they could be really competitive in this America’s Cup, and there’s no reason why they can’t go on and actually win it…”.

Huge crowds are expected in Plymouth, and the contest begins with the preliminary fleet races on September 10th, with the finals over the following weekend, closing on the 18th. Live TV and online coverage is also taking the event to millions of people worldwide, not just sailing enthusiasts who are impressed at the speed, noise and spectacle of these yachts. Each boat has 4 remote on board cameras operating, and every sailor has a microphone, so nothing is missed from the high speed racing, including collisions and near misses.

Skipper Draper said after the first warm up session, “I’m looking forward to the regatta as we’ve been doing a lot of analysis after the first event and believe we can improve in some key areas that will make a difference. Obviously being a new team it’s tough to take on the more experienced teams with a long track record in the sport, but we certainly aim to push them even harder this time. The venue here looks to be a natural amphitheatre so should be great for spectators to watch the racing close to the shore too”.

The America’s Cup World Series consists of eight events worldwide, finishing in the USA next July, before the 2012-2013 series gets underway. The teams then change to the massive AC72 yachts for the Louis Vuitton Cup, and the winning team then competes in the America’s Cup Finals in September 2013. For more information, visit http://www.americascup.com/en/Teams/Team-Korea/Latest/

About Team Korea
Korea is the newest nation to enter the America’s Cup, representing the Sail Korea Yacht Club based in Seoul. Only fifteen nations have ever sailed in the event. Fondly known as the ‘White Tiger Challenge’, the White Tiger is a revered and ancient Guardian God of the west. The team recently hosted a visit of the America’s Cup trophy in Seoul for the first time in history, courtesy of Brooks Brothers Korea. The prestigious Louis Vuitton Cup was also presented to the press at the same time on a very significant day in the continued development of Team Korea. Sponsors of the team include Sail Racing high performance clothing.

Links:

The White Tiger Challenge in action
The White Tiger Challenge in action

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