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Comanche (USA) arriving to Tasmania to claim line honours - 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Rolex / StudioBorlenghi / Stefano Gattini
Comanche (USA) arriving to Tasmania to claim line honours - 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Rolex / StudioBorlenghi / Stefano Gattini

American Challenge

While the ink is barely dry on the Protocol that will govern the 36th America’s Cup, and while the January 1, 2018 commencement of the Protocol’s “Start of the Challenging Period” is still several months over the horizon, this didn’t stop the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), represented by the Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association (BMQRA), from announcing their intention to challenge for AC36 during a press conference last week.

This is the NYYC’s first involvement in America’s Cup sailing since the 31st America’s Cup (2002-2003), when Team Dennis Conner flew their venerably burgee, however, the NYYC dominatedAmerica’s Cup racing from 1851 to 1983, a legacy that’s widely considered the longest winning streak in sports history.
Unlike previous NYYC challenges that involved club members (metaphorically) passing the hat to help fill the racing team’s war chests, BMQRA is a joint venture between two if the country’s most successful big-boat sailors, namely John J. ‘Hap’ Fauth and Doug DeVos, who will be self-funding their challenge.

While Hap Fauth has owned and driven a series of three different “Bella Mente” boats over the past decade plus, he is perhaps most famous in the sailing world for his involvement in the Maxi 72 class, where he drove his 72-footer to victory in the 2015 and 2016 World Championship regattas. Additionally, Fauth has also taken line honors in the 2006 Newport Bermuda Race, and runs a series of businesses that range from agricultural interests to aerospace pursuits.

Hap Fauth's JV72, Bella Mente (USA), Overall winner of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy © Ted Martin/RORC

Hap Fauth’s JV72, Bella Mente (USA), Overall winner of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy © Ted Martin/RORC

Doug DeVos has built a impressive reputation for himself across many disciplines of sailing, from his involvement in the 86-foot Windquest, which he regularly sails with his brother, Dick, in the various Mackinac Race on the Great Lakes, to his wins in a variety of the Melges classes, to his impressive winning streak in the 52 Super Series Circuit, where his Quantum Racing program has finished in the top three every year since 2012!and claimed three overall wins in this highly competitive class.

Interestingly, DeVos’ father, Richard, was the co-founder of Amway, the highly successful company that markets and sells health, beauty and home-care products.

While the details of the 75-foot boat that will be used to contest the 36th America’s Cup are still a months away, and while most other teams have not yet signaled their intent to challenge (aside from Land Rover BAR and Groupama Team France), it has been revealed that Terry Hutchinson, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a longtime Cup veteran, will serve as BMQRA’s skipper. “Hutch”, it should be remembered, has long sailed with both Fauth and DeVos and has been highly instrumental in both of their long lists of regatta wins, so this role is a natural evolution for this gifted sailor.

It is expected that BMQRA will use the 52 Super Series Circuit as a training ground for AC36 as the team makes their crew selections and preparations to try and bring the Auld Mug back to the historic waters of Newport, Rhode Island, provided, of course, that they are successful in their Cup-winning bid in early 2021.

While this announcement is great news for North American fans of Cup sailing who didn’t exactly love “Uncle Larry’s” vision for multihull America’s Cups, the AC rumor mill is running in high gear these days, with whispers abounding that there could be one or two more American-flagged challengers.

Details are thin, of course, but considering Quantum Sails’ role in BMQRA’s challenge, it will be interesting to see if North Sails, Quantum’s biggest rival, will partner with one of their biggest clients (a rather large boat with Native American-themed war paint comes to mind rather quickly here) to mount their own challenge, or if North will be content to stay ashore and build and repair sails for all other competitors.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

by David Schmidt

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