Team Korea finally revealed their skipper and helmsman, a young man who has been one of the dominant forces in the light and fast 49’er dinghies over the past decade, Britain’s Chris Draper.
Having focused mainly on the fast and light 49er ‘skiff’ type dinghy in his career, the 33 year old, married with a young child is a two time world champion in the class, multiple vice-world champion, two time European champion, and an Olympic bronze medallist. He’s sailed many different types of yachts and races in between his Olympic campaigns including time with Britain’s America’s Cup team, and in 2008 switched to the Extreme Sailing Series where he initially finished fourth, then in 2009 was crowned World Champion with the Oman Sail Team.
He said, ‘‘I consider it an extremely proud honour to have been chosen by Team Korea as their skipper, and I would like to thank Mr Kim and his team for the trust they have put in me. I am looking forward to the first regatta in Portugal next month, and an intense period of training ahead of that with our new crew. We have selected experts I have been sailing with for many years, and will be formally announcing them all next week. It’s a team that I believe will be able to quickly get our ‘White Tiger’ flying around the course at top speed. We are entering an exciting phase now and expectations are high, with a new format, new race courses and new technology tracking every move, but we are certain that Team Korea can quickly be up to speed with the best’’.
In acknowledging a forward thinking appointment, CEO of Team Korea, Kim Dong-Young said, ‘’We know some may be surprised at our decision, but he’s young, keen, hungry and can sail fast. We wanted someone who could sail the angles in small high-speed dinghies around the course, but who also has experience of catamarans, as much of the racing in the ACWS relies on fleet racing, and here, high speed control is vital to success’’.
The two greatest trophies in sailing were together on an extraordinary day in the history of the America’s Cup competition, as Team Korea, known locally as the White Tiger Challenge, celebrated its entry to this prestigious event, with a press briefing at the spectacular Seoul Marina on the mighty Han River in Seoul.
This was the first time that the Americas Cup trophy, the oldest trophy in international sports at 160 years old, had ever touched down on Korean soil, and it was similarly the first time that the magnificent Louis Vuitton Cup, first contested in 1983, had been to the country, presenting a rare and unique photo opportunity with the two together.
Welcoming media, celebrities and dignitaries to the briefing, the CEO of Team Korea, Kim Dong-Young said, ‘’I am very proud to have helped create a new chapter for the sport and in the history of the America’s Cup by being involved with the first ever Korean Challenge. It has been a dream of more than 10 years for me, ever since I first saw the old America’s Cup yachts racing in New Zealand’. He continued, ‘’It is simply amazing for us to have the America’s Cup and the Louis Vuitton Cup together here in Seoul, with so many distinguished guests on a day that the whole of Korea is proud of – we have truly joined the America’s Cup family now’’.
Only fifteen nations have ever entered the America’s Cup contest in its history, and Team Korea is the only new entry of the nine teams and eight countries involved this time. A new AC World Series is due to begin next month sailing on new and exciting AC45 catamarans, before switching to the giant AC72’s ahead of the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup events in San Francisco in 2013.
Fondly known as the ‘White Tiger Challenge’, or ‘Baek-Ho’ in Korean, the team’s new livery for the AC45 catamaran, due to be launched in Portugal shortly, was also revealed for the first time. A dramatic tiger stripe design starts on the bows and fades to black where the Korean National flag, the ‘Taegukki’ is proudly displayed, and the yacht is finished with the round ‘Taggu’ filling the ‘O’ of Team Korea on the wing itself. Completing the design, a pair of stunning blue, ‘Eyes of the Tiger’ will be on the gennaker to help see the way forward.
Mr Kim, the team’s CEO concluded this historic day in Team Korea’s continued evolution, saying, ‘’We are a new team, in fact, the only new team to enter this series, and we hope we will get a lot of support and goodwill from the public here, from Korean’s around the world at the venues, and from sponsors in our great nation for the team to be as competitive as we all anticipate. The technology and infrastructure to make world class competition boats is available here in Korea, one of the biggest shipbuilding and industrial nations in the world, to help us in this quest. We also hope to stage a World Series event in Korea next year, so our people can see these incredible yachts racing here on our waters, as they will in the Middle East, Europe, America and other Asian cities’’.
He continued, ‘’We know we have a lot to learn about the competition, but we have drawn together a very experienced and successful crew of international sailors, who should quickly be competitive on the race track, though we want to also introduce home grown talent as we progress too. We begin a period of training in Portugal next week, and then we’re looking towards that first, historic race on August 6th, when Team Korea crosses the start line in an America’s Cup World Series event for the very first time.'