For Black Pearl owner Stefan Jentzsch, the importance of friendship, mutual respect and comradery is echoed through his carefully curated and loyal crew. With the guidance of Stefan’s expert leadership, the Black Pearl crew balance their quest for Grand Prix success perfectly while ensuring they never forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Stefan Jentzsch is no stranger to the Grand Prix sailing circuit, and although he was a latecomer to competitive sailing, for the last ten years has raced his series of Black Pearl yachts around the world to a very high standard. The most recent project, a custom-designed and built Botin 56, due to launch later this month, set to push high-performance boundaries to the limit and is on track to exceed expectations.
The series of Black Pearl yachts have naturally evolved towards high-intensity offshore racing due to Stefan’s adventurous personality, and this yacht will be no different. For Stefan and the crew of Black Pearl, it is not only a world-class race boat that they hope will have great success on the Grand Prix circuit but an opportunity to race as friends together for a few more years to come.
According to Stefan, the key to success in sailing (and life) is simple – your team comes first, a sentiment shared by the entire Black Pearl crew.
“The emphasis must always be about putting together a good team, when you are lucky enough to have a good team, you look after each other and have fun, and I believe you will be naturally more successful”, said Stefan, who has had a very loyal Black Pearl crew for the better part of a decade across three yachts. Stefan continues “we’re all people that come from different backgrounds, different careers, and with differing levels of expertise – we have a mutual respect and a willingness to learn and improve our performance continually”.
From the beginning, this new Botin 56 has been a collaboration between Stefan and the crew and technical partners Botin, King Marine, Carbo Link and Doyle Sails Palma, specifically Grand Prix Expert Luke Molloy - Luke has also been a long-standing member of the Black Pearl team. Crew involvement at the conceptual stage was an essential part of the process for owner Stefan, “what do the crew want, what sort of sailing do they enjoy, what boat is best suited to us as a team for the skill sets, we have”. After exhausting various improvement opportunities with the previous Black Pearl, a Carkeek 47, several new hats were thrown in the ‘ring’. Options for TP 52’s, Class 40s, IMOCA 60s and larger all received airtime at some stage before the perfect solution was found with Botin, a custom 56-footer, built specifically for offshore racing that will be sailed at a very high level with the same, small but loyal crew.
Marc Lagesse has been with the programme for more than eight years and manages the team and current project under construction. The key for Marc was to incorporate everything they had learned from the Carkeek 47 and transfer that into reality with the common goal of pushing boundaries and delivering the ultimate purpose-built yacht. Marc commented, “we don’t always measure success on results, of course we all enjoy competition by nature, but we’re not fanatical, if we don’t do as well as we would like in a race, we analyse, we learn, and we move on”.
The evolution of technology and the opportunity to learn from partners is what has driven the partnership between Black Pearl and Doyle Sails for this project. This yacht has been designed as a pure offshore racing yacht, with a coach roof for protection, a deck-stepped mast and flush decks, so the ability to link the sail and rig design into the design of the yacht has led Black Pearl to take full advantage of the Doyle Sails Structured Luff technology. Structured Luff technology allows for overall loads to be reduced, easier sail handling and more drive from greater sail projection – a technology Marc Lagesse and Paul Standbridge call a ‘no brainer’ for both new build and existing yachts. With Stefan commenting “once you’re down that road you are committed and we are very excited to see it pay off”.
As someone who describes himself as having a naturally competitive gene that can’t be suppressed, Stefan finds himself continually striving to achieve more - drawing every little bit of performance he can get out of his yachts. Working with Doyle Sails Palma and Luke Molloy, it allowed him and his crew to sit down and discuss what we wanted to achieve or accomplish and what is the best way to achieve those goals. Alongside collaboration with other project partners, Stefan commented ‘Doyle Sails’ ability to approach a project with an open mind and to be entirely customer-focused is a refreshing change for a sailmaker’.
The ability to approach constructive criticism and analyse the good and the bad, is a non-negotiable attribute of a Black Pearl crew member, ensuring that everyone fundamentally shares the same mindset focused on improving the yacht and crew’s performance. Marc mirrored the importance of having a good team “we’re mates. When we are at a regatta or preparing for a race, we all stay at the same hotel, we all eat our meals together, we cycle together before sailing, it’s an important part of building and maintaining the comradery”.
The Black Pearl crew often refer to themselves as ‘a cycling team, with a sailing problem’ and can usually be found riding as a peloton in their custom Black Pearl cycling kit before they head out on the water for the day.
As a campaign with deep-seated philosophies and the fundamentals right, it is no surprise that everyone onboard believes they must allow others to become involved, making room for new sailors to join their crew. While the majority of the team sail professionally full time, there is always two (a male and a female) up and coming youth sailors on board to ensure that the promotion both women and youth sailing remain a priority.
It comes as no surprise that the Black Pearl standard is high, so for a young sailor looking to earn their stripes on the Grand Prix circuit, sailing with this crew could be a potentially daunting challenge. Having young sailors on board is what Stefan refers to as a ‘generational obligation’, which this crew accept as a premise – an interesting concept and one which they are happy to oblige for as long as possible.
“We are where we are because we have some degree of talent, but this is often surpassed by a lot of hard work and luck. Every one of us onboard Black Pearl has had someone helping or mentoring us and often opening opportunities. I don’t believe in the self-made ‘man’, people always give others a chance, I wouldn’t be where I am without someone giving me a chance” says Stefan.
So, what do you need as a youth sailor with eyes set on the Grand Prix circuit? Some sailing skills, obviously, but the ultimate attribute is having the right attitude and a willingness to learn – a solid foundation that will set each sailor up for success. No crew is excluded from the ‘team’ mentality here, every sailor that is part of the programme is an equal, there are no exceptions, including Stefan.
Stefan notes that one of the most accomplished sailors on board is Paul Standbridge - a world-renowned UK yachtsman with multiple America’s Cups and Whitbread races to his name who often takes on the ‘housekeeping’ when preparing for an offshore race. Paul’s role includes all safety, meal planning and supply organisation, alongside his role onboard as a helmsman and trimmer.
Part of being an equal means that the learning isn’t reserved only for the amateurs - having a varied age group onboard opens up everyone’s minds to see situations from a different perspective. Stefan teaches at his local university and explains that the 20 to 30-year-olds move in what he calls a ‘different world’. A world that exists with unlimited opportunities, a world where boundaries are there to be pushed, and technology is continuously evolving – a world we would be foolish to ignore.
Black Pearl is due to launch in August 2020, with a full race calendar, pandemic permitting. The first opportunity for Black Pearl to stretch her legs will be out of Valencia, before lining up on the start line of the Middle Sea Race in October. From there it will be a mixture of Caribbean events for two seasons – and all of the highlights including the Transatlantic, Caribbean 600 etc., before heading back across to Europe to take part in the Fastnet, Middle Sea Race and the other Eastern Mediterranean regattas.
As sailors, our obsession with sailing connects us to our customers – the water is a place that unlocks our sense of adventure wherever that adventure might take us and we are proud to share the journey with Stefan and the Black Pearl crew.
Doyle Sails has become a world-leader in racing sails through a combination of practical on-the-water experience and continual product development. Whether rum racing on a Friday after work or racing around the world non-stop; Doyle can give you the edge you need to win.
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