Looking Normal in the Big Boy Class

Published on February 1st, 2016

Watching the Maxi 72 fleet at Key West Race Week can be disorienting. They are huge… all other boat looks inconsequential. But they seem normal too. They look like modern race boats, and they compete on normal windward-leeward courses. However, watching them execute normal maneuvers is anything but normal.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck spoke with Terry Hutchinson, winning tactician on Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, on what it takes to look normal in the big boy class…

How many crew is needed?
The Maxi 72 class rules has a limit of 20 people on board. The Bella Mente family is slightly bigger though with four shore team members, one chef, two team members for logistics, and Coach James Lyne.

At 72-feet, every move must take time. How does it compare to the Farr 40 or TP52?
The more you can race this boat like a TP 52 or even a dinghy the better off the result. As you rightfully point out, each maneuver does take time and yet the choreography of the boat handling has evolved down to seconds to execute. Everybody onboard is America’s Cup pedigree and so very quickly the team has blended well together. When it goes well it is awesome to watch but equally things can go pear shaped in a hurry.

Do you use headsets for communication?
No. The comm’s through the yacht are pretty important and when anybody speaks it is important that we can all hear what is being said.

Explain how the afterguard works together.
Hap Fauth steers, I handle race tactics, Adrian Stead outlines race strategy, Ian Moore navigates us through the course, and Mike Sanderson coaches Hap downwind driving.

Note: Even in moderate breeze, the 72 is a take-no-prisoners, fire-breathing sportboat downwind. Hap can have that job. – Craig

You went aground at Key West in 2015. Not hard to do with an 18-foot draft. Any close calls this year?
Yes, we completely fudged that up in 2015 and mounted a sunken shrimp boat. But like most things you learned from your mistakes. Ian did great work this year and fortunately we did not touch anywhere. Every opportunity he had he went and recon’d the race course. Trusting the charts is good but verifying with a lead line is better!

What proved to be the winning edge for your team in 2016?
I think you summed it up perfectly with the word ‘team’. The sum of the result is the work of all the people involved with Bella Mente.

Hap has started this year 20 pounds lighter and that has come with an absolute gain. Hap has me and Skip Baxter (main trim) giving advice upwind and Mike going downwind. I can assure you it is not easy and yet Hap is leading by example for all of us. He’s taken it upon himself to get into fighting shape and the end result is he is sailing Bella Mente to a very high standard.

Ultimately our success comes from a lot of different areas and yet if we are not fast we won’t win. This comes at Hap’s hand and he did excellent work!

2016 KEY WEST RACE WEEK 1.20.16

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