Even though Bella Mente Racing has three Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship titles under its belt along with a slew of other accolades, that doesn’t mean it’s time to slow down. Quite the contrary, owner/driver Hap Fauth (Naples, Fla.) and his team of world-class sailors are shifting into overdrive as they prepare for another ambitious campaign this year. The competition isn’t letting up either, with more teams and new boats coming onto the already highly competitive Maxi 72 circuit this year.
“We have our work cut out for us, as all of the teams in the lineup are ones to watch,” said Fauth, who has been running the Bella Mente Racing campaign since 2006. The third and current Bella Mente, a 72-foot custom Judel/Vrolijk yacht built by New England Boatworks, was launched in the spring of 2012. “The group of Maxi 72s competing has grown to a record six teams and includes the Botin 72 Cannonball, which is new to the scene this year. The competition in this class is so tight, and like a deck of cards we are shuffling positions on any given day on the racecourse. We’ve been on a winning stretch the last few years, but that is no reason to stop putting the pressure on.”
Developed by the International Maxi Association, the Maxi 72s were first known as Mini Maxi Racers. The first “Mini Maxi World Championship” (now known as the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship) was raced in 2010. The class gained so much traction that by 2014 the association felt it necessary to tighten up the rules and put more of an emphasis on owner/driver racing. These yachts, which all fit the 72-foot length requirement, are custom designed, developed and built to perform superbly on offshore races as well as on coastal and windward-leeward races. The class has a rating cap that narrows the performance differences between each yacht.
“The neat thing about the Maxi 72 Class is that it has really taken over where the America’s Cup was when it was raced in monohulls; these boats now represent the tip of the spear in the sport of sailing,” said Tactician Terry Hutchinson (Annapolis, Md.), adding that much of the technology for gear and systems developed onboard Bella Mente have trickled down into other areas of the sport. “These boats push the envelope structurally, and they push the envelope with rig and sail development.
“If you’re a leader in your industry and you want to apply the same creativity and leadership to a sport, this is the place to do it,” added Hutchinson. “When you look at the owners that we have in the Maxi 72 Class, they fit that mold to a T.”
Fauth’s success on the water parallels his success in the boardroom. The business entrepreneur founded Minneapolis-based investment firm The Churchill Companies and runs a number of businesses that span many industries – from agriculture to aerospace. He uses the same practices with both his team in the office and on Bella Mente.
For the past three years, Fauth has brought the sailing team together for a week of sea trials in Florida before each campaign. There, the sailors and shore crew collaborate, putting new ideas to the test to see what works and what doesn’t. Time together, along with rigorous practice sessions before each event, has helped the team gain an edge on the competition.
“Hap has afforded us the opportunity to really forge a united team,” added Hutchinson. “The challenge in my mind for 2017 is that there are teams with newer boats that are mimicking our preparation, so you have to think that Bella Mente will be coming up against stiffer competition. One of our challenges when we get smacked around a little bit on the racecourse is how do we respond as a team. Our goal is to keep an eye on the big picture.”
2017 Campaign Schedule
Bella Mente Racing kicks off its season next month in Antigua with the RORC Caribbean 600 followed by Les Voiles de St. Barth in April in St. Barthelemy. From there, Bella Mentewill head across the Atlantic to race in Mallorca, Spain for the Palma Vela in May before heading to Corfu, Greece for the inaugural Corfu Challenge in July. The team will then return to Mallorca for the Copa del Rey MAPFRE later that month. The season culminates with its final and most significant event, the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship in Porto Cervo, Italy in September.