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by Betsy Senescu February 28, 2023

It has been a decades-long thrill, capturing the action of Bella Mente: including these stunning shots on the March pages of the 2023 Ultimate Sailing Calendar!

From the first 66-footer to this magnificent 72-foot mini-maxi – the fourth state-of-the-art racing yacht bestowed the Bella Mente name – Ultimate Sailing has documented their successful campaigns in the Caribbean, Key West, Newport, Rhode Island, Transpac and more.

“I have photographed the Bella Mentes in so many spectacular settings,” exclaims Sharon Green, “and am so honored they have always treated me like a member of the team. Owner/skipper Hap Fauth has so generously supported and respected my work and dedication to capturing the 'best of Bella Mente’ over the years and I am so grateful.” And these images, from Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille (LVSB), illustrate that collaboration. Read more about these celebrated campaigns in our Oct. 2018 blog here:   https://www.ultimatesailing.com/blogs/news/manifesting-a-dream-bella-mente 

“Our March images were captured at the 2022 LVSB, which definitely delivered ‘fresh to frightening’ wind and massive seas!” adds Sharon. “I had been biting my nails, anticipating my favorite conditions would develop, and they did!”

For the event Bella Mente had chartered a mid-size RIB (rigid inflatable boat) to take the crew back and forth between the dock in the port of Gustavia, and the anchorage. “I was fortunate to be invited to go out with them on the practice day, so as soon as I got the call to meet them at the quay, off I went!” says Sharon.

The chartered RIB wasn’t as dry and seaworthy as perhaps they’d hoped. “At times the walls of water were so huge, the waves would completely flood the RIB,” Sharon reveals. “Luckily I was onboard with Rob Ouellette and coach Tom Burnham who handled things superbly.”

“Even though we couldn’t keep up with the race boat, I captured some amazing close-up action,” she adds. “And thank goodness my equipment was in a hard waterproof case!” Sharon admits it was a challenge, constantly drying and stashing away her lenses, and ultimately she ended up using only her smaller more compact lenses. The camera equipment made it through, but as for Sharon: “I was drenched!”

Bella Mente’s delivery to St Barth had been delayed, so it was their only chance to practice: a critical and intense one for that matter, as racing started the following day! But the team is so talented, and has sailed together for so long, they were able to pull-off a full day of maneuvers, and even did an around-the-island rehearsal in those wild conditions.

 

And that would be the case for the whole regatta: absolutely incredible conditions all six days. ‘Which made it impossible for the photo boats to keep up with the fleet – especially going to weather. Depending on the course, such as around the islands, the photo boat would dip down to leeward and then intercept the racers on the return.

That’s when a helicopter offers a huge advantage, Sharon points out, “You are high and dry and can go anywhere. There is no way you could do these shots out in the rough stuff from a chase boat. And the visibility was amazing. It was so easy to spot what was going on.” Even though the max is about two hours when flying, a helicopter can cover a much greater range than a chase boat. And it’s much better than trying to fly (and lose!) a drone in those lumpy seas, and so far from shore. She captured both March 2023 images with the Canon R5 Mirrorless Camera with the RF100-500 f4.5/7.1 IS lens, Shutter 1/2000 ISO 400 Aperture 7.1.

Of course there is one noteworthy advantage to a photo boat on rare occasion... Several years ago Sharon was shooting LVSB when one of the competitors capsized! The new 40-foot foiling Gunboat catamaran G4 completely turtled on the final day of racing, in the high winds. Sharon’s photo boat swiftly zoomed over to assist. A support boat helped right the boat immediately: everyone and G4 returned to shore intact. And Sharon and her photo boat skipper helped retrieve one of the crew – and calm their nerves with a glass of rosé. Only in St Barth! 

Of course there were also nightly soirees at LVSB, and with it being such a lively regatta: a much-needed lay day. That all-day party on Nikki Beach saw rosé flowing from chilled Jeroboams, plenty of food, music, dancing and games for the happy crews – before going on to race two more days.

                                                                                                              

[ https://www.sail-world.com/USA/Gunboat-G4-capsizes-on-final-day-at-St-Barths-Capsize-Video/-133539?source=google ]

 




Betsy Senescu
Betsy Senescu

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