Hap Fauth and his team on Bella Mente Racing made their first big splash onto the grand prix racing scene back in 2006, and this year the three-time Maxi 72 World Champions are preparing to make more waves with the launch of a new state-of-the-art Maxi 72 yacht.
Designed by Botin Partners and built by New England Boatworks, the yacht is the fourth under the Bella Mente namesake and is set to be unveiled this July in Newport, R.I., just in time to be shipped to Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the 2018 Rolex Maxi 72 Worlds in September.
“I’m excited to dive into the development and build of a new yacht again and go through the process of figuring out how to optimize boat speed and get back into competition mode,” said Fauth, adding humorously that his team’s nickname among competitors is “Experimente” due to the in-depth testing and analyzing they perform on the boat each season. “When you’re sailing at this level, even the smallest details can be game changers. As we move forward with this new build, no stone can be left unturned.”
For New England Boatworks, this will be the third Bella Mente that it has built for Fauth. Located in Portsmouth, R.I, the premier boatyard is responsible for some of the world’s most high-performance yachts. The new Bella Mente build began this past November, and the boatyard team, as well as a team of Bella Mente Racing boatbuilders, are working in overdrive to ensure the yacht launches this summer.
“The Maxi 72 represents the epitome of the sport of sailing, so it is very exciting to be leading the charge on a project of this caliber,” said New England Boatworks Partner Tom Rich, adding that the class has gained more and more traction over the years, resulting in the International Maxi Association tightening up the rules in 2017. The class now strictly abides by the owner/driver rule, and all the yachts must fit the 72-foot length requirement. There is also a rating cap that narrows the performance differences between each yacht.
“Although there are very specific guidelines that we as builders and the designers must abide by, there is also quite a bit of room for innovation. Even the most subtle change can make a big difference.”
In addition to working together, Rich and Fauth have been friends for decades. “We have mutual respect for one another, and I certainly enjoy his company. He’s a very good sailor with a great gut instinct, and he’s very interested in getting knowledge out of people. He enjoys all the small and steady steps taken to improve the boat and its performance. “
When it comes to the team, the majority of Bella Mente Racing’s crew will stay the same as the previous year. Fauth will be joined in the afterguard by Volvo Ocean Race champion Mike Sanderson, two-time Olympian Adrian Stead and Tactician Terry Hutchinson, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.
“It’s great to be on our way to getting the boat launched and racing to see what we can learn, but it will be a development process for sure,” said Hutchinson, adding that there are six Maxi 72s currently on the competitive race circuit, two of which are newer builds and didn’t hit their stride on the racecourse until either their third or fourth season. “Newer design and newer construction doesn’t guarantee a better result, but it does buy us time to begin the process of developing and optimizing the boat for the future. Our first challenge this year will be to quantify where we left off in 2017 with sail development, and our second challenge is to understand the dynamic of the rig and how the sail program interacts with it. From there, we need to learn the new boat’s mode versus the rest of the Maxi 72 fleet, which is the most critical component. With that said, we certainly have an exciting year on the horizon.”