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Bella Mente Racing: A Queen's Cup victory and third at NYYC Race Week

by Barby MacGowan 29 Sep 2020 12:48 PDT 24-29 September 2020
The afterguard of Bella Mente Racing includes Mike Sanderson (far left) and owner Hap Fauth (steering) © Rolex / Daniel Forster

"It has been a great ten days of sailing, that's for sure!" said New Zealander Mike Sanderson after sailing with Bella Mente Racing to a Queen's Cup victory on Sunday, Sept. 27.

The Queen's Cup, staged by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) since 1953 and offering as its prize one of the Club's oldest and most prestigious trophies, was for many years held during the Club's Annual Cruise. Of late, however, it has been a stand-alone event held in the waters off Newport, R.I.; this year it was added to the end of NYYC's four-day New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, in which Bella Mente also competed to finish third.

"The Queen's Cup course was 17 miles and triangle-style, bringing back memories of the old Olympic course," said Sanderson, who serves as Bella Mente's crew boss and co-helms with owner Hap Fauth (Naples, Fla.) in offshore races. "It's always fun to go reaching!" He said the first full lap was in a healthy nine knots of breeze; however, a second lap brought a rain shower that killed the wind and pushed it hard right. "Our timing was good, and we made a nice little gain at the top of that lap and were then able to take advantage of it for the long light run to the finish. We never stopped, but it did get pretty light."

Fauth said the competition was outstanding and the conditions - a fading southerly that saw many of the smaller boats in the fleet struggle to make the finish line - favored Bella Mente. "We are honored to have won such a prestigious trophy at the New York Yacht Club, and we would like to thank the Club and the race committee for a great day," said Fauth.

Of the 15 boats competing in the Queen's Cup, the TP/52 Vesper, skippered by David Team (Newport Beach, Calif.), and the Botin 52 Fox, skippered by Victor Wild (San Diego, Calif.) were Bella Mente's closest competitors, taking second and third, respectively.

Those same boats were also Bella Mente's fiercest rivals in ORC 1 class at Race Week, held from Wednesday, September 23 to Saturday, September 26. Bella Mente shared top-three standings with them in all but two of the seven races completed on windward-leeward courses ranging from 5-23 nautical miles. In the end, however, Vesper and Fox, in that order, prevailed in overall scoring to take first and second place.

"The best way for us to get a good result against the two highly competitive 52s," said Sanderson, "was for us to do what we could at the start of the race to make sure that they would fight it out amongst themselves. Unfortunately for Fox, that meant if they opened the door for us to tack on them a couple of times and get them behind the lower rated Vesper, we would do that. Since the corrected times for our three boats were so close, we needed every second!"

With a total of five practice days and five racing days, the net gain for Bella Mente Racing was quality time on the water, in a variety of conditions, for testing a new keel and bulb and other modifications recently made to Bella Mente, which was designed by Botin Partners and built at New England Boatworks.

The team also got to reconnect personally and rejuvenate its cohesive sailing skills after a months-long period of waiting for Covid-19 to lift its foggy veil enough to make it a reasonable decision to ship Bella Mente from Mallorca to Newport and fly in her 22 crew members from different parts of the country and the world.

Said Sanderson: "It was a lovely reminder, after this crazy year, of how much we love sailing Bella Mente with Hap. We will stay Newport-based for at least the next few months and see what the world will let us do! Fingers crossed that we'll race again sooner than later."

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