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2019 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup: A satisfying World Championship for Bella Mente

by Barby MacGowan 19 Sep 2019 12:54 PDT 1-7 September 2019
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup day 2 © Max Ranchi / www.maxranchi.com

Challenging coastal courses and a variety of conditions, including shifting winds that ranged from light to brisk, tested the tactical and boat handling skills of Bella Mente Racing at the 2019 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

Bella Mente, owned and helmed by American businessman Hap Fauth (Naples, Fla.), finished third overall (behind Dario Ferrari's winning Italian entrant Cannonball and Jim Swartz's second-place American entrant Vesper) after six races in the five-boat Mini Maxi Racer 1 class, which was also sailing for its World Championship. The event, organized by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, hosted a total of 50 boats in eight class and was held over September 1-7.

"It was fantastic competition," said Fauth, noting that Bella Mente finished only one point out of second. "I'm pleased with the outcome, especially considering that we had a few hiccups earlier this season, which meant we didn't sail in as many full regattas with the new boat as we had planned."

Bella Mente, a Maxi 72 designed by Botin Partners, was launched in September 2018 as the fourth in a line of Bella Mente racing yachts that Fauth has commanded and specifically for an attempt at a fourth World Championship for Bella Mente Racing team. (The previous Bella Mente won the Mini Maxi World Championship in 2012 and the Maxi 72 World Championship in both 2015 and 2016.)

Fauth explained that Bella Mente Racing opted out of the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Rolex Capri Sailing Week due to adverse conditions. Then, although it was minor, a mast failure prevented the team from continuing in Les Voiles de St. Barth. "So actually," said Fauth, "the Copa del Rey MAPRE, held just a month ago, was our first full inshore regatta in the boat." (Bella Mente finished third at that event.)

At the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Bella Mente posted a 4-5 in its first two races and climbed to third place with subsequent finish positions of 2-5-2 and a victory in the final race.

According to Terry Hutchinson, the natural progression of boat speed improvement was gained as confidence grew in the boat and some of its modifications made after Les Voiles. "Nothing replaces time in the boat while racing," said Hutchinson. "Our achilles heel for certain was the second coastal race where we executed a cracking start, tacked and crossed the fleet only to have a few mechanical issues bite us."

Bella Mente's Crew Boss (and offshore helmsman) Mike Sanderson added: "The majority of the Bella Mente team has been together for many years, and we've spent many days on the water together, so our better results towards the end of this week were much more about the fact that we are learning this new boat and how to make it fast. For sure, we were better at setting up and being in the proper mode at the end of the week than at the beginning, as this is stuff you can't really learn on your own; you need good competition to work up against."

The fierceness of competition was no surprise to Sanderson or any of the 21 crew aboard Bella Mente Racing, as Cannonball is in her third year of development, which seems to be "the sweet spot" for these boats, and she had shown to be quite slippery at Copa del Rey. Vesper under its previous owner, had won two World Championships back-to-back, and with her current team having sailed many TP52 regattas together, she was destined to be nothing short of a handful.

"Fundamentally the crew is great, and the boat is awesome," said Sanderson. "Now we just need to work on the finesse, which is a big part of going from third to first!"

Fauth agreed, adding enthusiastically: "Once again, all systems are go for a fresh new 2020 season in the Med!"

Bella Mente's 2019 regatta calendar can be found here. For more information, visit bellamenteracing.com.

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