Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Francesco Bruni talks about the LV Trophy and the Monsoon Cup

Francesco Bruni, the skipper of Azzurra, is in Kuala Terengganu with 4 members of his crew, racing in the Monsoon Cup. After following his practice race against Torvar Mirsky we caught up with the Italian sailor and talked about his team's surprising victory in the inaugural event of the Louis Vuitton circuit, his participation in the closing event of the World Match Racing Tour as well as the general state of affairs of match racing in Italy.

Valencia Sailing: Let's start with the LV Trophy in Nice. I suppose that winning the regatta is a stupendous result for you.
Francesco Bruni: Absolutely. It was an unexpected result, but we were well prepared. The fact we had raced in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland was important, we chose a crew that already had America's Cup experience and finally we also had some training in Valencia before the event. We carried out a good preparation job for the event. We went to Nice convinced we would have a good result but we didn't think we would leave with a victory.

Valencia Sailing: You said the result was unexpected. What result did you have as an objective when you went to Nice?
Francesco Bruni: Our objective was initially to repeat the good performance we had in Auckland last February, to show and confirm that it was not an isolated case. Regarding the leaderboard, our objective was to reach the semifinals because we knew there were many teams that were, potentially, ahead of us; BMW Oracle, Team New Zealand, Artemis, Team Origin, even ALL4One. It was the same number of potential teams as in Auckland, the only difference being Artemis taking the place of absent Alinghi. As I said to my crew, if we can repeat the performance we had in Auckland that would be good.

Then we reached the semifinals and as we say in Italy, appetite comes with eating. So we said, it would be nice to beat Team Origin. We beat them in the first race, then we lost in the second one due to an error at the start with strong winds. We finally won the last race and at that stage we were, obviously, satisfied. We approached the final against Team New Zealand relaxed, thinking we had nothing to lose and that was in my view the best psychological attitude possible. We were in ease and we were thinking "we are here, we have had a great performance and we achieved much more than what we had expected". But since we were at the final, we thought we would try and achieve something even better. I was also feeling more confident because we had light conditions in the finals and I knew we could be more competitive.

Valencia Sailing: That was also a general comment throughout the event, that Italians perform much better in lighter conditions. Had the wind been stronger in Nice would your result have been different?
Francesco Bruni: Potentially yes, but don't forget that in Auckland we also had some exceptional races in strong breeze. We raced Team New Zealand twice in Auckland. They won the first race with 15 knots of wind while we beat them in the second one with 13-14 knots of wind. So, going to Nice our score was tied at 1-1. I think that it wasn't a mathematical certainty that in a strong breeze we wouldn't perform well. It's true though that we had one race in strong breeze, the one against Team Origin, and we were badly beaten but it was mainly due to the fact it was 2 weeks we were sailing in light winds and to making the switch wasn't that obvious. I was a little bit out of phase as well but I'm still convinced and I repeat it that it's not a mathematical equation, strong breeze equals bad performance for Azzurra. For the moment, the equation is light breeze equals strong performance but the contrary has to been proven.

It is true that in general lines, Italian sailors sail usually very good in light conditions, in a large number of classes or the Olympics, because our country rarely has strong winds. Yet, in Auckland we were fourth in strong breeze. That doesn't mean we don't have to improve our sailing in stronger winds. It's a point we have identified we have to work on.

Valencia Sailing: Given Azzurra's intention to participate in the entire LV circuit, hasn't this initial victory raised the bar too much? You will now return in Auckland in March as winners of the Nice trophy and the expectations will certainly be very high.
Francesco Bruni: I have had that thought as well. It is obvious it will create some problems. Winning is difficult by itself, but winning twice is even more difficult. In fact, it is my intention to make it clear to everybody (crew, sponsors, management and the media) that it will be extremely difficult to repeat our performance in the next regatta. It's a question I have reflected upon longly.

Valencia Sailing: What is Azzurra's long-term plan? Is it limited to the LV Trophies or will it take part in a conventional America's Cup, if and when it takes place?
Francesco Bruni: Our long-term objective is that. The problem though is that there isn't any clarity in the current situation. Look at all the other teams that had to scale down or even disappear. For that reason, we have decided to take a step-by-step approach. We start with the Louis Vuitton Trophy and we invest into that even. Then, depending on what the 34th America's Cup looks like we will take a decision. We will not participate at all costs!! If for example the protocol is not fair and it's not an interesting game where you have at least some chances in winning then we will not do it. We'll do something different. I only hope that whoever wins the 33rd match doesn't repeat the same errors of the past.

Valencia Sailing: Are other classes, such as the TP52's, under consideration by Azzuurra?
Francesco Bruni: Not the TP52's. Our project, the rebirth of Azzurra is still in its very early stages and we are already investing a lot of resources for the 5 events of the Louis Vuitton circuit, and if you also add the training sessions before the events it will become very precipitated to think about the TP52's. Don't forget that we would be starting from zero if we entered the TP52 circuit. We've never had one before and it would require time and money we can allocate elsewhere. For the moment we focus on the World Match Racing Tour, to sharpen our match racing skills, and the LV Trophies.

Valencia Sailing: What about the RC44's? As a sailor is the circuit interesting for you?
Francesco Bruni: It's an interesting class and circuit and I like the mixture of match and fleet races. Nevertheless, we see that it has reached a limit in the number of teams and we don't see it growing. I doubt Azzurra would enter that circuit at this moment. We would rather do a few things well than a lot of thing bad. If at any stage there is an RC44 owned by an Italian we might have some of crew onboard but there will not be an Azzurra RC44 team. We want to have one project and be successful in that.

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