For John “Hap” Fauth, a long-time seasonal resident of Naples, sailing has been a lifelong love. From his first experience aboard dinghies in the Great South Bay of Long Island at age seven to becoming a three-time world champion in competitive yacht racing decades later, Fauth has demonstrated his skill on the water time and again.
Over the past five years, he and the highly skilled crew of Bella Mente have won the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship three times and are gunning for the title again this year, hoping to continue their winning streak in the Maxi 72 circuit.
Fauth’s 2017 campaign has two phases—the Caribbean races and European races. It begins with the Caribbean 600, a grueling race around 11 islands, and culminates with the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship in Porto Cervo, Italy, in September.
“Every year, just like in Nascar, there is normally a technological advantage that new boats have,” Fauth says. “You have to beat them the old-fashioned way: just out-sail them. That’s the reason this campaign is unique—the boat’s a year older and so am I.”
Another unique element of the campaign is that it is part of an owner driver class, meaning that while the crew are professional sailors, the helmsmen are the owners, men for whom sailing is a deeply-loved hobby.
“It’s one of the reasons I went into it,” Fauth says. “All the other guys I’m sailing against are guys like me.”
Born and raised in New York, Fauth spent his youth in age class races, ultimately going on to crew on big boats and captain the sailing team at Georgetown University. After graduating, however, he put sailing on hold and moved to Minneapolis to start his own business and raise a family. He moved to Naples in 2002, and now spends winters at his home in Port Royal.
After this season’s races, Fauth is not yet committing to his next adventure.
“That’s the $64,000 question,” he says. “Either I retire or I build a new boat. Don’t have an answer for you yet.”