Belle Mente Takes the Hard Route to the 2016 Maxi72 North American Championship
When you're sailing in a fleet of state-of-the-art 72-footers manned by some of the world's top sailors, there is never an easy button in sight. That said, for skipper Hap Fauth, tactician Terry Hutchinson and the rest of the Belle Mente team, the inaugural Maxi72 North American Championship, was a very challenging regatta, full of enough twists and turns to keep a professional wind whisperer up for many a night. The four-day championship was part of the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex.
"The MOMO guys, and all the teams in the regatta, have really raised their games," said Hutchinson. "The MOMO and Proteus are both newer designs, and you can see their performance gains in certain conditions. Today, it was who beat who with MOMO. We hung in there, it was always close, they never crossed us once, but we were just continuously battling.
After five buoy races over three days, including one in some gear-busting gusts to 30 knots on Sunday, the fleet was sent on a 30-mile coastal race to conclude the regatta. The track included at least seven distinct legs and, as it was sailed in a dying northerly, more passing lanes than is normal for a race with a lot of straight-line sailing.
This much was apparent from the get go. Belle Mente executed their planned start, tight to leeward of rival MOMO, skippered by Dieter Schoen, and then sheared away from the other two boats in the fleet thanks to the funky current and wind conditions in Narragansett Bay. Fauth's team had a strong lead at the top mark, but a half-mile into the long run to Rhode Island Sound it had all but disappeared. This give-and-take flow continued for the next three and a half hours.
"It was never comfortable," Hutchinson said. "They sailed a really good race. We tacked on them a lot and they kept coming at us."
At one stage late in the race, the fleet was faced with a tricky convergence zone of little breeze and lots of speculation. During Friday's Around the Island Race-which didn't count toward the class's championship-Belle Mente saw a hard-fought lead evaporate just boatlengths from the finish in a similarly confused bit of breeze. Today, however, Lady Luck provided a little payback.
"Our luck on Friday was horrendous," said Hutchinson. "But we got it back a little bit today coming under the Newport bridge. [Strategist] Ado Stead was up the rig, and he called some great lines of pressure. Hap and the trimmers kept the boat moving really well. It's 100 percent a team sport on Bella Mente; 20 people earned that one today."
While the boats are each unique designs, and there are subtle difference in performance in certain wind conditions and at specific points of sail, Hutchinson says it's effectively a one-design fleet.
"There's not enough in it that [anyone else in fleet is] going to sail by you," he said. "If they go sailing by you, it's not something they've done, it's you who have screwed up."
Three of the four Maxi72s, including Belle Mente and MOMO, will lock horns again on Friday when they start the 50th Newport Bermuda Race. While a 635-mile distance race does tend to spread out the fleet a bit, it wouldn't be surprising to see these boats shadow each other all the way across the Onion Patch, with the winner decided in the race's closing miles.
2016 Maxi72 North American Championship, New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, Newport, R.I.
1. Bella Mente, Maxi72, Hap Fauth Naples, FL, USA 1 -1 -2 -2 -2 -1 ; 9
2. MOMO, Maxi72, MOMO Racing Limited, Tortola, BVI 4 -2 -1 -1 -1 -3 ; 12
3. Caol Ila R, Maxi72, Alex Schaerer, Mreihel, Birkirkara, MLT 2 -4 -3 -3 -3 -4 ; 19
4. Proteus, Maxi72, George Sakellaris, Framingham, MA, USA 3 -3 -5 -4 -4 -2 ;21
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Photos credits: © ROLEX/Daniel Forster, © Rod Harris
About the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex
More than 150 boats are expected to compete in the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex. The event will feature a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, June 10, and then two days of buoy racing for the IRC and one-design classes, and point-to-point racing for the multihulls and navigator classes. The regatta is part of the prestigious Onion Patch Series, along with the Newport Bermuda Race and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. The sponsors of the 162nd Annual Regatta include presenting sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsor Porsche Cars North America and the participating New England Area Porsche dealers. All regatta information can be found here.
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva and enjoys an unrivaled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, the brand pioneered the development of the wristwatch and is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces all the essential components of its watches in-house, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic programs.