Bella Mente. It means “beautiful mind” and references the spirit of Les Voiles de St. Barth just as easily as it sums up American business man Hap Fauth’s state of being when he is skippering his Maxi 72 of the same name. Bella Mente and three other Maxi 72s -Peter Ogden’s Jethou (GBR), Dieter Schön’s Momo (IVB), and George Sakellaris’s Proteus (USA)- will come to St. Barth from April 11-16 to sail as a group in the seventh edition of the Les Voiles de St. Barth regatta, joining tens of dozens of other racing machines in classes for Maxi, Spinnaker, Non-Spinnaker, Multihull, and One-Design.
“That’s how I feel when I am on Bella Mente and racing: a happy spirit, a happy mind,” said Fauth, who counts this as his third boat with that name and is a nominee for US Sailing’s Yachtsman of the Year because of a slew of 2015 racing victories, including the Maxi 72 World Championship, he has claimed aboard her. “We will have an enhanced fleet at Les Voiles de St. Barth in 2016. It will be the first time Jethou and Momo have sailed in the Caribbean (the event counts toward a first-ever Maxi 72 Season Trophy) and, in general, the anticipation is that this will be a very well attended regatta by most of the race boats in the Caribbean. There are always a number of maxis and super maxis in the fleet, so it’s always very good racing. I love Les Voiles de St. Barth. It’s exciting and in my opinion very well run as a regatta.”
Confirmed is the 90-foot La Bête (which competed as Rambler at the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Les Voiles de St. Barth), returning with a new owner and program headed by French sailor Yves Montanari. As well, the 100-foot Comanche, owned by Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark, will be making its second trip to the regatta with American Ken Read at the helm. Other standouts on the big-boat roster are Irvine Laidlaw’s Monaco entrant, the 82-foot Highland Fling XI; the Volvo Ocean Race 70 SFS with Frenchman Lionel Pean skippering; and the Swan 90 Odin with California owner Tom Siebel at the helm.
“There is a core group on Odin’s racing team that includes myself as navigator and Charlie Ogletree (the USA’s 2004 Tornado Olympic Silver Medalist) as tactician,” said America’s Cup veteran Peter Isler, noting that Siebel, well known for campaigning Orion, his MOD 70 trimaran on the West Coast, sailed at Les Voiles for the first time last year when his 90-footer was new to him. “It’s wild because you only need a few guys to sail the multihull, which is one of the world’s fastest ocean sailing boats, but you need a big gang for this 90-footer, aboard which we’ve enjoyed some awesome racing, but of course the pace is much slower.” (Lloyd Thornburg, another nominee for US Sailing’s 2015 Yachtsman of the Year, will return to the 2016 Les Voiles de St. Barth to defend his multihull class title with his record-breaking MOD70Phaedo.)
Isler said he and fellow navigators at Les Voiles de St. Barth have to always be “on” because of the coastal racing with turning marks close to shore. He laughed while explaining, “It’s a fun kind of Caribbean visual navigation you do: you look over the side to see how close you can get to rocks and islands!” He recalled that last year, the super maxis and the maxis all started at once but were scored separately. “That in itself is a lot of work for the tacticians, since we’re all so close together at the start of the races.”