The Maxi 72 Class has pulled out all the stops this year, showcasing a more competitive fleet of race yachts than ever before.
Next week the teams will take on the new waters of the Ionian Sea for the the inaugural Corfu Challenge in Corfu, Greece, scheduled July 4-8.
Bella Mente Racing will be one of the seven world-class yachts on the start line, and after a thrilling Caribbean Circuit followed by Palma Vela in Mallorca last month, the team is prepared for another on-the-water battle.
“You often hear race car drivers speak about the excitement of getting to race on a new track, and that’s exactly why we are looking forward to with this new Maxi 72 event in Corfu,” said Bella Mente Racing’s Mike Sanderson, adding that the other five events that make up Bella Mente’s 2017 race campaign are ones that the team, as well as a majority of the other Maxi 72s, have competed in before. “All the teams have extensive experience and play-books for our annual events in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) and Sardinia (Italy), but the opportunity to take these boats somewhere new, where none of us have raced Maxi 72s before, is very exciting. It will be a fantastic challenge to see who can tame the venue the fastest!”
Every year the Maxi 72 owners pull in top sailors to race onboard and continually invest in structural and design changes to give their respective yachts the competitive edge on the racecourse. Formerly known as the Mini Maxi Class, the Maxi 72 Class was established in 2014 with the goal of tightening up the rules and controlling the racing to make for more competition on the water. There are some box rules in place for a race boat to fit the Maxi 72 criteria, including length and draft of the boat as well as a maximum IRC rating limit; the class also has an owner/driver rule. However, there are still many places where each respective team can optimize the boats.
“All the teams are very close in boat speed and very well sailed so there is no clear advantage for anybody going into next week,” said Bella Mente Racing’s Owner/Driver Hap Fauth a three-time Maxi 72 World Champion who has been running his race campaign since 2006 and is currently racing with his third yacht under the Bella Mente namesake. His current Judel/Vrolijk designed Bella Mente was launched in 2012 and although it is the oldest yacht in the fleet of Maxi 72s actively racing it is one of the most competitive.
“There are pros and cons to having the older or newer Maxi 72 on the race course. When you have a new boat with a new hull design there may be some benefits regarding boat speed, however even with a top-tier professional crew, what you give up is experience when it comes to time spent sailing the yacht and learning its idiosyncrasies.”
New to the Maxi 72 fleet is Dario Ferrari’s Botin-designed Cannonball launched earlier this year, but the team has already proven to have a leg up in the competition, breaking a three-way tie between Bella Mente and Dieter Schön’s Momo to take the win at Palma Vela in May. The teams will go at it again in Corfu, joined by Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou and George Sakellaris’ Proteus.
“The boats are incredibly close in terms of boat speed and you can tell by the ratings of each boat, which are within a couple clicks of each other; there are some races where the whole fleet finishes within 30 seconds of each other,” added Fauth.
“We’ve made a lot of adjustments and improvements over the last month and spent countless hours doing sea trials. It will be a battle, but we’ll be stepping into it with our best foot forward, ready to fight.”
The event marks the fourth event in the team’s 2017 racing campaign, which all culminates in September with the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championships in Sardinia (Italy).
by Kirsten Ferguson