Italy’s enigmatic Francesco Bruni admits that he needs to learn from the mistakes that hampered his debut year on the World Match Racing Tour in 2010 as he sets out his goal of a top three finish for his Mascalzone Latino team in 2011.
Francesco Bruni at the Portimao Portugal Match Cup 2010 - World Match Racing Tour
Despite being one of the world’s most experienced sailors with two America’s Cup campaigns and three Olympic appearances to his name, Francesco Bruni knows past performances and reputation count for nothing on sailing’s most fiercely fought series.
'Last season we had a lot of ups and downs. A lot of times we went well through the round robins but we seized up in the quarter finals. We only competed in two semi-finals, resulting in a third in France and a fourth in Denmark which simply isn’t good enough. We need to do better this year. We expected more.'
'It was our first season as Tour Card Holders so we gained a lot of experience and we are ready for this year.'
Having suffered a succession of near misses in 2010, Bruni takes heart from the experience gained in his first year on Tour but recognizes the need to sharpen his team’s results when it gets to the knock-out stages.
'Honestly, this season we’re looking at the top 3 – we have to get there. We seem to do well in qualifying but we’re missing something in the knock-out phases. A lot of times we ended up losing 3-2 and not progressing to the semi-final. This happened 3 or 4 times – just 1 point can make a huge difference. The experience of last year will help us a lot.
'It takes a lot of teamwork, you need a lot of training and race time. It takes time, you can’t just come to the WMRT and win an event – it doesn’t happen, the level is so high. You need to get to the semi finals first and only then think about winning one. You don’t get a lucky win – results show that.'
With match racing being the embodiment of on-water combat Bruni reflects that his style last year may not have been as aggressive as it needs to be.
'Light winds suit my style – smooth sailing. I’m not very aggressive usually, I look for the wind shifts and I like to win with no penalties. Sometimes I’m too animated, I need to improve this. Sometimes it’s not the right approach, you need to relax and take it easy sometimes.'
Bruni enjoyed his best result of the 2010 season in last year’s opening regatta in Marseille where he finished third and is targeting another strong start to his campaign.
Francesco Bruni - World Match Racing Tour's 2011 Tour Card Holders
'We want to do at least as well as last year and win at least the semi final. From there we hope to play our cards right and win the final.'
'France last year was one of our best results as we finished third so we have a good feeling with the boats. They are one of the smallest boats on the Tour so you need to have quick reactions and be very fast with all your movements. They are definitely very particular boats so we have to adapt our sailing to become as quick as possible.'
Bruni believes they are ready for the start of the season and the recent Congressional Cup in Long Beach, California gave them the perfect opportunity to come together as a team.
'So far our main training race has been the Congressional Cup where we came second. We feel this is really good training so we focused mainly on that as our preparation for France. Our next step of preparation will be to arrive in Marseille one day in advance to learn as much about the boats as we can and get in some training there.'
Preparation aside, Bruni is well aware of the challenge he faces in France as he realises all the teams will be looking to start the season on a high.
'Ian Williams will be one to watch as he is very prepared and proved to be at a good level at the Congressional Cup.
Torvar Mirsky has also been sailing a lot this winter so those are the two guys who will have a good shot at winning in France.'
With the previous two Tour winners not taking part in 2011 (2009 Champion Adam Minoprio is competing in the Volvo Ocean Race and 2010 Champion Ben Ainslie is focusing on qualification for the Olympics), one would forgive Bruni for thinking his chances of making that podium finish could increase slightly. However, Bruni is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead and believes the level of competition will be as high as ever.
'For the two guys that are gone three or four come in who are just as good as the ones who departed. The new skippers and their teams are very motivated. (Jesper) Radich and (Phil) Robertson want to win it and they proved that last year – they are incredibly tough competitors. The level this year will be as good as last year and it will be a great challenge.'
Match Race France kicks off with a practice day on May 10 before racing starts on May 11.
Alexis Littoz-Baritel (France) – Savoie Mont Blanc
Francesco Bruni (Italy) – Mascalzone Latino
Peter Gilmour (Australia) – YANMAR Racing
Bjorn Hansen (Sweden) – Hansen Sailing Team
Damien Iehl (France) – French Match Racing Team
Alvaro Marinho (Portugal) – Seth Sailing Team
Torvar Mirsky (Australia) – Mirsky Racing Team
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (France) – Extreme Team Morbihan
Bertrand Pace (France) – Aleph Sailing Team
Jesper Radich (Denmark) – Radich Racing Team
Phil Robertson (New Zealand) – WAKA Racing
Ian Williams (Great Britain) – Team GAC Pindar
2011 WMRT Tour Card Holders
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Mascalzone Latino
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
Jesper Radich (DEN) Radich Racing Team
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing Team
Ian Williams (GBR), Team GAC Pindar
World Match Racing Tour website
The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the leading professional sailing series featuring 9 World Championship events across the globe, sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) with 'Special Event' status.
The World Tour awards over US$1.75million in prize money with points awarded at each event culminating in the crowning of the 'ISAF Match Racing World Champion'. The prize fund includes a US$500,000 overall prize pool for the top nine teams in the Championship.
Events take place in identically supplied racing yachts to place the focus on team work and skill. Racing takes place close to the shore for the general public to follow the races as virtual on-the-water stadiums.
Media and television highlights coverage reaches in excess of 183 countries around the world.