Francesco Bruni and his Italian crew defeat Emirates Team New Zealand 2-0 in the Grand Final
Azzurra, from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, made its international sailing debut at the 1983 Louis Vuitton Cup but has been in hiatus since the 1987 event off Western Australia. The team was re-launched last month and yesterday Azzurra won the first race by 25 seconds and the second by 17 for a well-deserved championship.
“It’s an amazing sensation. I can’t find the words to describe it,” said skipper Francesco Bruni, the 40-year-old from Sicily. “We knew we could do a good job. We had very good training before the event. But we never thought about beating New Zealand in the final.”
Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) entered the final as favourite. It won the round robin, suffering just one loss in 10 starts, and then defeated Synergy Russia Sailing Team in a hard-fought semi final match.
ETNZ won many regattas this year, including the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in February and the TP52 World Championship in September. Today, however, the Kiwis lost the first cross in both races and could never find a way around the Italians on the short courses of less than 5 nautical miles.
“I think we sailed well today but Azzurra was clearly better than us. They did everything right,” said Dean Barker, ETNZ skipper. “Sometimes that’s just the way it is. You’re either in the right place or you’re not. Today Azzurra sailed very, very well.”
The northwesterly wind blew between 6 and 10 knots for the two races and was very shifty and patchy. Pressure differences often accounted for different sailing angles as 1 or 2 knots more wind can lift a yacht as much as 10 degrees higher than its opponent.
Tactician Tommaso Chieffi, who won the 1992 Louis Vuitton Cup as tactician of Il Moro di Venezia, thought the Kiwis’ success played against them in the final. “Beating TeamOrigin yesterday was a big plus for us; we’d done our share of work, so we came in with smiley faces today despite the early morning. I could sense the Kiwis were more tense because they were the favourite; they were leading throughout the regatta. This played a role in our favour.”
Despite the win, Azzurra had its mishaps on the racecourse. The skipper and tactician both described three problems in the two races. In Race 1 a helicopter got too low to the water and disrupted the wind flow, reducing a four-boatlength lead to one. In the second race the crew didn’t judge a bias in the leeward gate. They made a starboard rounding, but the mark was farther downwind and again they gave away three boatlengths.
The biggest mishap came at the top of the second beat in the second race. Approaching the windward mark on starboard tack with ETNZ two or three lengths behind, Mantovani, the mid-bowman, slipped overboard while preparing the spinnaker for the rounding. As the yacht sailed past the aft grinder, Romero, ran into the scoop and grabbed him out of the water “like a fish,” according to Bruni.
Chieffi said: “Even with the mishaps, the crew did a solid job to not lose concentration. Yes, we had five-boatlength leads, but one length is enough. The crew did an outstanding job keeping it calm, steady and tidy. We’re very pleased with the result.”
Louis Vuitton Trophy, Final Standings:
Team (Country) Skipper (Nationality) Won-Lost
1. Azzurra (ITA) Francesco Bruni (ITA), 11-5
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker (NZL), 11-4
3. Synergy Russia Sailing Team (RUS) Karol Jablonski (POL), 8-6
4. TeamOrigin (GBR) Ben Ainslie (GBR), 9-6
5. All4One (FRA/GER) Jochen Schumann (GER), 5-8
6. BMW Oracle Racing (USA) Hamish Pepper (NZL), 5-8
7. Artemis (SWE) Paul Cayard (USA), 5-7
8. TFS – PagesJaunes (FRA) Bertrand Pacé (FRA), 1-11
(NB: Won-lost records do not reflect penalties assessed by on-water umpires or the International Jury.)
For more, visit www.LouisVuittonTrophy.com