Francesco Bruni and his team Azzurra crew squeezed the last bit of breath out of the 46th Congressional Cup Saturday to outsail Gavin Brady, 2-1, and deny the four-time winner an unprecedented fifth Crimson Blazer in the only Grade 1 Open match racing regatta in the United States.
Instead, it was the affable Italian who donned the traditional prize after reveling in a champagne shower and a proper dunking at the dock that blew off the tension of a hard-earned victory.
“We were very scared, especially after the score was one to one,” Bruni said, fearing that Mother Nature would rule the day beyond all of his sailing skill.
Unusually capricious conditions for the venue bedeviled the four semifinalists with a simmering offshore Santa Ana desert breeze arriving at 18 knots from the east. Later, after one round of racing parallel to the sand-blown beach, the wind switched to 150 degrees onshore from the southwest but dropped to 7 knots.
Azzurra, an Italian team with America’s Cup ambitions, hung tough, although pushed to the limit of three races by defending champion Johnie Berntsson in the semis and by Brady in the final.
Bruni will share his $10,000 prize with his crew of Tom Burnham, tactician; Ben Durham, main sail trimmer; Pierluigi De Felice., trimmer; Pietro Mantovani, pit and trimmer, and Matteo Auguadro, bow.
“We worked hard to win it,” said Bruni, who lost 2-0 to Berntsson in last year’s title match. “We weren’t very focused … and this year we were this close to losing. We’re really happy.”
The title turned on another reversal of the Long Beach norm: the left side of the course was favored. Before each of their three starts Bruni and Brady fought hard for that privilege in last-minute luff-ups below the line, and the boat that started to leeward with a direct shot at the pin end of the line won every race: Bruni by six seconds, Brady by 2 minutes 22 seconds and Bruni again by 1:29.
In the first final match Brady, who had eliminated Bill Hardesty 2-0 in the semis, even forced a foul on Bruni, but the latter built enough of a lead by going left to drop his spinnaker and do a penalty turn around the pin at the finish.
“It was all about winning the left,” Bruni said.
Eric Monnin of Switzerland won the fleet race around the harbor the competitors who failed to reach the finals.
The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization over the years with a volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew is assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 45 years.
Spinnaker sponsors were F&M Bank, the Press-Telegram and Oceanaut Watches. Sails sponsors are MCA Logistics, Gladstone’s Restaurant, Newmeyer & Dillion and Union Bank. Hospitality sponsors are The Port of Long Beach, St. Mary Medical Center, City National Bank, The Breakers of Long Beach and Mount Gay Rum. An Honorary sponsor was Catalina Yachts.
ROUND ROBIN STANDINGS
1. Gavin Brady, New Zealand, 15-2.
2. Francesco Bruni, Italy, 14-3.
3. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 14-3.
4. Bill Hardesty, USA, 11-7.
5. Dave Perry, USA, 10-8, $3,500.
6. Evgeniy Neugodnikov, Russia, 9-9, $3,100.
7. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 7-11, $2,700.
8. Damien Iehl, France, 7-11, $2,300.
9. Sally Barkow, USA, 2-16, $1,900.
10. Simone Ferrarese, Italy, 1-17, $1,500.
Bruni def. Berntsson, 34 seconds.
Berntsson d. Bruni, 0:51.
Bruni d. Berntsson, 0:01.
(Bruni wins series, 2-1).
Brady d. Hardesty, 0:09.
Brady d. Hardesty, 1:23.
(Brady wins series, 2-0).
Bruni d. Brady, 0:06.
Brady d. Bruni, 2:22.
Bruni d. Brady, 1:29.
(Bruni, $10,000, d. Brady, $6,000, 2-1)
Berntsson d. Hardesty, 0:20.
Berntsson d. Hardesty, 0:09.
(Berntsson, $5,000, d. Hardesty, $4,500, 2-0).
Mail (will not be published) (required)