Monsoon Cup is the final stage of the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) and will take place from the 22nd to 27th November 2011 in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
Francesco Bruni stands on the brink of becoming the first Italian to capture the ISAF Match Racing World Championship this month but remains undaunted by the task that awaits him. Should he win the title, the 1994 Laser World Champion and Olympic and America’s Cup campaigner says it will be a career defining achievement.
The popular skipper started the 2011 World Match Racing Tour in great form with podium finishes at his first three events but followed that with a series of lackluster performances before fighting to third place at the Argo Group Gold Cup to give his season a timely fillip. In the ISAF rankings he holds the bragging rights as the World number one and in the Tour Championship he sits just six points behind two time Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar.
The scene is set for a three-way showdown between Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat, Williams and Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing. While the likes of Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing and Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team can still mathematically capture the 2011 world title in Malaysia, Bruni believes 'it’s unlikely that Torvar, Ian or myself will sail badly enough that none of us make it to the quarter-finals.' Ironically, Bruni’s worst win rate amongst the Tour Card Holders is against his two chief rivals however the Italian isn’t fazed by those statistics: 'Yes, we have made some mistakes against these guys this year which have cost us points but I’m not scared about our matches against them. We aren’t really worried about taking on any team particularly, we just have to sail our best.'
Both Williams and Mirsky have placed a lot of emphasis on their team spirit and Bruni is no different, citing his experienced and close team mates as good reason to be confident:
'Experience definitely helps in dealing with pressure. We’ve had moments like this already this year so hopefully they will help our team get through it. It’s not going to be easy, our opponents are very tough but we’ve been working a lot as a team and feel confident. We will feel the pressure obviously but we’ve been through a lot this year as a team so that will help us.'
This is Bruni’s first full season on the Tour and he will be relatively inexperienced to racing in Kuala Terengganu compared to his two nearest rivals. Bruni also accepts that he gives further ground to Mirsky when it comes to the boats, the Italian saying 'Torvar definitely has a big advantage as he’s from Perth and he’s grown up with these [Foundation 36] boats so he knows them very well.' So where does Bruni feel his advantage lies?
'Malaysia and the Monsoon Cup are noted for light winds which are conditions we are confident in – so we will get even on that. We get good boat speed and everyone else needs to be careful of that. The big boats also suit us - it’s no secret that our best events are in big boats.'
Last year, Ben Ainslie chose the high risk option to take on the then Championship leader Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team at the earliest opportunity in the knock out rounds. If he lost that was his Championship challenge over. Ainslie took the match 3-1 and went on to capture both the Monsoon Cup and the World Championship – Bruni though, would not be drawn on whether he’ll do the same if given the option: 'It all depends on how well the others are sailing, it’s too early to say what we would do. We will go out there and do our best in the Qualifying rounds and then decide after that. Hopefully we will be lucky enough to have the choice of opponents.'
Pundits have all said Bruni’s season will be deemed a success whatever happens in Malaysia however the Italian says he has raised his expectations since the start of the season when he said: 'Honestly, this season we’re looking at the top three – we have to get there.' Just eight days from the Monsoon Cup, a determined Bruni re-assessed his goal: 'We are definitely aiming for the win now, we can’t accept third - we can’t think third would be a success. We never expected to be heading into the Monsoon Cup with such a strong chance of winning so this season has been a big success for us already but it would be silly to think that’s enough.'
Bruni is certainly determined and unfazed and while he holds some advantages over both Williams and Mirsky, they can say the same about him. So could it come down to his superstitious cap – the Match Race Germany cap he has worn all season since his victory there in May?
'The hat was one of my first ones and it’s been lucky for me at times but not always! I will wear it in Malaysia but will alternate it with a new hat!'
The 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship will be decided at the Monsoon Cup. Overall Championship Standings – after seven stages:
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 106pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 100pts
3 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 99.8pts
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 78.8pts
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 75pts
6 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 74pts
7 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 73.2pts
8 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 71.2pts
9 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 69.6pts
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 64.4pts World Match Racing Tour website Monsoon Cup website