One of the joys of being a photographer is when I consider a boat as more than just an inanimate object. In many cases it’s the manifestation of a life-long passion and dream, brimming with energy and personalities.
I have been photographing Hap Fauth’s series of racing yachts since 2006, when I shot his first Bella Mente (a Judel/Vrolijk Cookson 66) at Key West Race Week. Since that time, it’s been a real thrill getting to experience and document the evolution and growth of this racing campaign, and his passion for competition and excellence.
Just two years after campaigning the first Bella Mente in ‘06, he built another: the Reichel Pugh 69, later modified to 75-feet for Transpac 2011.
The Los Angeles to Honolulu Transpac race had been on Hap’s bucket list for years. It was exciting to capture their start, slipping around Catalina Island – then disappearing from sight. We waited daily for results as they sped across the 2,225 mile course, and were on pins and needles at the finish, hoping they wouldn’t arrive in the dark. They came screaming in at first light and I got the shot: first to finish, for the Barn Door trophy – after six and a half days at sea.
The following year, this beauty was launched: the 72-foot mini-maxi JV design, built by New England Boatworks. Our October image, in the 2018 Ultimate Sailing Calendar, features Bella Mente in Newport, RI during the Rolex Maxi 72 North Americans and New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. They won the event.
This photo was a truly lucky catch! It was extremely windy that day and rough on the outside course: my favorite ‘fresh to frightening’ conditions! I was shooting with colleagues Daniel Forster and Stephen Cloutier, on a Protector 28. It was pretty rough and tumble, and I ended up bruised from head to toe! The calendar photo was shot with a Canon 1DX, 70-200 2.8L, Aperture 5.6, ISO 320, Shutter 2,500. We situated ourselves well in front of the boats after they set on their layline and maneuvered so the racing yachts were coming toward the photo boat and then away. It happens very fast and you only have one chance.
It remains one of my favorite photos – showing the sheer power of a state-of-the-art raceboat harnessing the wind, and the dedication and skill of Hap and his crew: the focused driving, skilled trimming, and outstanding crew work that have made them three-time world champions in the Maxi 72 class. It doesn’t hurt that the boat is very photogenic.
The fourth Bella Mente was launched in September of 2018: another Maxi 72 design by Botin Partners and New England Boatworks. Plus, earlier this year, Hap teamed up with Doug DeVos, to announce they would represent New York Yacht Club in the challenge for the 36th America’s Cup!
Hap was quoted as saying, "I've always found tremendous satisfaction in bringing together a group of individuals in pursuit of one goal. With a return to a more traditional style of yacht and windward-leeward courses, with which the vast majority of racing sailors are intimately familiar, the 36th America's Cup represents a unique opportunity to re-engage the grass roots of the sport and re-energize American sailing.”
We wish them good luck and can’t wait to capture the newest Belle Mente on the racing scene in 2019.
Offering one of my annual highlights is the Bay's signature event, the St. Francis Yacht Club's Rolex Big Boat Series, and the Pac 52 is, in turn, its signature class.
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