(Reuters) - Sweden’s Artemis Racing secured an America’s Cup Challenger showdown against Emirates Team New Zealand by knocking out Softbank Team Japan in their semi-final on Friday.
“We’re absolutely stoked, that was a tough race,” Artemis Racing skipper Nathan Outteridge said on BT Sport immediately after clinching the series 5-3.
The first-to-five playoff final begins on Saturday in Bermuda’s Great Sound. The winner will challenge holders Oracle Team USA for the oldest trophy in international sport in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Match starting on June 17.
Artemis Racing’s billionaire backer Torbjorn Tornqvist leapt aboard the state-of-the art blue and yellow catamaran to congratulate Outteridge and the six-man crew following their deciding win over SoftBank Team Japan.
“We’re really happy to take it through to the next round ... It’s a big family team here,” Outteridge said.
Friday’s race against the Japanese crew was tight, hinging on a tactical mistake by their skipper Dean Barker who was forced to a standstill by Outteridge when he tried to get past them in the middle of their head-to-head encounter.
“That was obviously the key moment,” an elated Outteridge said of the way the race unfolded in high winds and choppy seas.
Although Barker, who was skipper of the losing New Zealand America’s Cup crew in San Francisco in 2013, tried everything he could to catch Sweden, he was unable to close the gap in time and Artemis Racing romped home with a comfortable lead.
“We are disappointed not to be going into the final, but we are very proud of what we have achieved,” Barker said in a live television interview on board SoftBank Team Japan’s sleek black 50-foot (15 meter) catamaran.
Sponsor SoftBank has said it wants to bring the “Auld Mug” to Japan and teamed up with holders Oracle Team USA, buying a design package to save costs on building its multi-million dollar craft.
“We have been very fortunate with our relationship with Oracle,” Barker said.
While SoftBank Team Japan is new to the America’s Cup, Artemis Racing is one of the most established teams, backed financially by Tornqvist, the Swedish co-founder of oil trading giant Gunvor[GGL.UL].
Reporting by Alexander Smith in London; Editing by Ken Ferris