Harken Derm

Maxi 72 North Americans in Newport

Published on June 7th, 2016

Newport, RI (June 7, 2016) – At the crossroads of elite power, performance and perspiration-inducing competition stands the Maxi 72 class. While there are plenty of larger racing yachts, and many classes that put more entries on the starting line, this group stands out due to the immense size and refinement of each yacht and a concise set of class rules that keep the boats very even in performance.

Four Maxi 72s will compete in the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex (June 10 to 12) with the winner crowned the class’s first North American champion.

“You win in this class by out-sailing your competitors,” says Hap Fauth, of Minneapolis, the owner of the Maxi72 Bella Mente and the president of the class association. “It’s a discipline of no mistakes, and if you sail that way you will do very well. Each boat has a set of attributes that is a little bit different; we try to optimize those attributes (on Belle Mente) and shore up any weaknesses.”

The Maxi 72 class is a development of the International Maxi Association’s Mini Maxi Racer class, which was comprised of performance boats from 60 to 80 feet in length. A desire for more boat-on-boat competition led a group of owners to standardize a few key measurements—a maximum length of 72 feet and a maximum keel draft of 17 feet, 8 inches—and formalize other class rules. Innovation is rewarded, but moderated. The result is a group of unique boats that are very similar in performance.

“The boats are very even,” says Dieter Schoen (Tortola, British Virgin Islands), the owner of MOMO, and one of the newer members of the class. “Every boat can win a race.”

The other Maxi 72s competing in the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex are George Sakellaris’ Proteus (Framingham, Mass.) and Caol Ila R (Birkirkara, Malta), which is owned by Alex Schaerer.

Traditionally, the maxi yacht scene has centered around the Mediterranean regatta schedule, with the annual Rolex Maxi Yacht Club serving as the premiere championship for all sailboats big and beautiful. This winter, however, the class scheduled a few events in the Caribbean and then journeyed north for the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, and the Newport Bermuda Race.

“It represents a new venue for the class,” said Fauth. “The New York Yacht Club is known for hosting great regattas due, in part, to the multiplicity of conditions off Newport. We’re branching out from the Med. The owners would like to expose the rest of the sailing world to our boats. They’re exciting, power-packed. They’re fun to watch, and they’re fun to sail.”

Handling the power generated by the massive sail plans, and managing the constant refinement necessary to keep pace in the class requires a year-round commitment. For this reason, the crews are almost exclusively professional and include some of the biggest names in the sport. Fauth’s after guard features Terry Hutchinson, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Volvo Ocean Race champion Mike Sanderson and two-time Olympian Adrian Stead.

That many cooks in the kitchen can seem excessive to sailors of smaller boats, but Fauth says each role is defined and essential.

“We’ve got a strategist who’s outside the boat all the time in terms of where we are relative to our competition; I never ever look back,” Fauth says. “I’m only concerned with the next shift; Terry and I work very closely in that regard. I believe in a quiet boat for me in terms of concentration and because everyone operates much better on a quiet boat. We’ve got phenomenal sailors on this boat. The chemistry is outstanding, but it’s taken us a long time to get a really compatible crew.”

The song, however, is the same across the fleet. Each crew is packed with America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans and each boat has been relentlessly optimized. The difference between first and last could come down to one shift or one missed maneuver. In that respect, it’s like most other one-design racing, albeit on an exponentially larger and more intense scale.

More than 150 boats are expected to compete in the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex. The event will feature a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, June 10, and then two days of buoy racing for the IRC and one-design classes, and point-to-point racing for the multihulls and navigator classes.

The regatta is part of the prestigious Onion Patch Series, along with the Newport Bermuda Race and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta.  Details here.

Source: Stuart Streuli, Communications Director, New York Yacht Club

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