Alpari World Match Racing Tour 2014 - London, UK (27th May 2014): Italian Francesco Bruni may not have done much keelboat match racing in recent years, but the talented match racer has always shown a remarkable talent for learning the ropes quickly. As the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour prepares to kick off in Germany next week, we speak to the America’s Cup skipper from Luna Rossa about his most challenging Tour ever.
There are few better ways to keep yourself race sharp than competing on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, says Francesco Bruni. While he and his Luna Rossa team mates currently train in Sardinia as they wait to learn the details of the next America’s Cup edition, they know it is just as important to keep racing in high-level competitions. Which is why Bruni wanted a Tour Card for this season on the Alpari Tour.
'As a sailor, you can really choose different paths for keeping your mind sharp,' he says. 'You can choose any kind of circuit, as long as it's high quality. The Alpari World Match Racing Tour is definitely one of those high-quality circuits, even if the boats we race are not the same as the multihulls we are training in for the America’s Cup.'
After a frenetic summer racing aboard Luna Rossa’s 40-knot foiling AC72 in San Francisco, it would be hard to think of more of a contrast than the classic International One Designs used in the Argo Group Gold Cup. Yet in Bermuda last October, Bruni battled a path all the way to the final to find himself face to face with Sir Ben Ainslie, fresh from America’s Cup victory with Oracle Team USA, and perhaps the most feted sailor of the modern age. Unbowed by the weight of Ainslie’s living-legend status, Bruni got the better of Sir Ben to win the final three-two despite having done little keelboat match racing in recent years. Bruni created history that day as the first Italian ever to be named on the oldest match racing trophy, the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
It gave Bruni greater desire for more match racing action and, even if a trip to the Monsoon Cup didn’t go quite so well, Bruni threw his name in the hat for a 2014 Tour Card with Luna Rossa. Having secured it, he is relishing the prospect of going head to head with the match race specialists. 'I am really looking forward to competing at this high level and it was interesting going to the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, because I can see that everyone is very fired up for this year’s World Tour. It will be the first time that I will do the full World Tour, and with other commitments this may be my only chance to do the whole series.' Despite missing one of the events a few years ago, Bruni managed to finish runner-up to Ian Williams. 'That was a busy season - for me it was too busy. I do prefer to have only six events, because you can do them all and be 100% focused on those ones.'
Asked which is his favourite of the venues, Bruni laughs: 'Well, after last October it has become Bermuda! But I love Chicago too. We have a couple of Tom 28s in Cagliari, where Luna Rossa is based, which are the same boats we’ll be sailing in Chicago. For me, and I’m guessing many others, the new event in Poland is still an unknown. Obviously I would like to do better at the Monsoon Cup, because Malaysia has always been a bit of an issue for me. I have never been able to sail well there. I always stopped at the quarter-finals and that's where I lost my world title against Williams three years ago. So I am looking forward to doing better there this year.'
Bruni struggles with the apparent randomness of conditions at the Monsoon Cup, which is where last year’s world title was decided in a very close showdown between Williams and Taylor Canfield. Phil Robertson beat Williams in the final, which gave Canfield his first world title by a whisker. It’s also the biggest prize money event on the Tour with a USD $500,000 prize purse, so there are plenty of reasons for Bruni to want to up his game for Malaysia. But how to do it? 'Maybe with a little training on the same boats before the Monsoon Cup. That's the only thing I can think of. And trying to simulate the craziness of the Malaysia conditions!'
If Bruni finds it hard to adapt to the randomness of the conditions in Kuala Terengganu, one thing the 41-year-old is famed for is his ability to adapt very quickly to different types of boat. He has represented Italy in three very different Olympic classes. 'I did the Laser as a first Olympic attempt in Savannah '96, then I steered the 49er in Sydney 2000 with my brother. Then, the last one I did it was in 2004 in Athens with the Star class. Three very different classes and in the middle of that I did America's Cup campaigns with Luna Rossa, match racing as a crew and as a skipper.'
Bruni has always enjoyed the challenge of learning new skills quickly. 'Adapting quickly to any kind of boat, is not a quality that everybody has naturally. That has always been one of the good - and challenging - things about the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. I don't know if there is something in your chromosomes, I don't think so, it's just a matter of doing it many times in many different boats…'
The 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour championship kicks off at Match Race Germany next week beginning 5 June – 9 June. The Alpari World Match Racing Tour is one of five special events sanctioned under the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) including America's Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race, the Extreme Sailing Series and the PWA World Tour. 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour Calendar
Stage one: 5-9 June Match Race Germany, Langenargen, Germany
Stage two: 30 June-5 July Stena Match Cup Sweden, Marstrand, Sweden
Stage three: 31 July-3 August Sopot Match Race, Sopot, Poland
Stage four: 17-21 September Chicago Match Cup, Chicago, USA
Stage five: 21-26 October Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton, Bermuda
Stage six: 25-29 November Monsoon Cup, Malaysia* (to be confirmed)
Note: dates denote scheduled race days 2014 Tour Card Holders
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour Event website