Francesco Bruni was in consistent form throughout Match Race Germany, winning Qualifying to earn a direct ticket to the Semi-Finals which he won against Phil Robertson's WAKA Racing team on count back. In the Final against Peter Gilmour, he upped is game even further and benefited from a series of great calls by his tactician Massimo Bortoletto to win 2-0.
Bruni, who has several America's Cup and Olympic campaigns to his name, said after his first Tour victory: "I believe our races against Peter Gilmour in the Final are the best we've sailed. After 12 events we finally won one. My guys have been brilliant and patient with me to give them a win. We're a bunch of friends with a great team spirit."
Going into the final, Bruni held the slight edge in head-to-heads against Gilmour with six victories from their eleven previous races on the Tour. Light wind conditions have been ever-present on Lake Constance during Match Race Germany with many of the teams using their spinnakers in the pre-start to gain as much speed as possible. It was a tactic both Gilmour and Bruni adopted in in the Final.
In the first race, there was an immediate split as Bruni took the left side and Gilmour the right. As they came together on the approach to the first mark, Bruni had the nose on Gilmour. Down the first run Bruni gybed early whilst Gilmour stayed on port tack again creating a big split. Gilmour found better breeze and closed things up forcing Bruni to gybe away when they met again. Bruni held his nerve, rounded mark 2 ahead and never looked back, 1-0 to Bruni.
In the second race, Bruni this time chose and won the right-hand end of the start line. Gilmour's tactician, Cameron Dunn, also wanted the right-hand side, but Gilmour over-rode Dunn and went left instead in another split tack start. When they came back together at the first cross, it was Bruni that held the advantage - and he was brutal in leveraging it into an unassailable lead by the finish. With the wind streaky and inconsistent, the tactician's job to read the course and pick the best route was critical. Bruni was quick to praise his tactician and the role he played in his team's success: "Massimo [Bortoletto] called the best starts -on the left in the first race and then the right in the next. They were great decisions."
With little chance of the wind picking up, the Petite Final was a short, first to one point sprint between Robertson and Eugeniy Neugodnikov (RUS) Team Synergy. Neugodnikov was Gilmour's victim in their Semi-Final which the Australian won 3-0. There was absolutely no room for error but a huge early mistake by Neugodnikov saw the Russian cross the start line early. By the time he had dipped back, it was game over. Robertson was away and held an unassailable lead.
For the young Kiwi, it was little consolation following the Race Committee's decision to call off the last race in his Semi-Final against Bruni. As Bruni beat Robertson in the Qualifying rounds, the count back favoured the Italian. Speaking about that decision, Robertson said:
"We're very happy but deep down we're very disappointed. It was really frustrating that the Semi-Final was called off because we felt we were sailing really well. But that's the nature of this sport. We were really in place mentally and as a crew we sailed really well. When we are on this form I believe we are almost unbeatable whatever boat we're sailing."
The results at Match Race Germany mean the overall 2011 Tour standings are very tight which does not surprise Gilmour:
"I think it's highly unlikely that we will have one team occupy the top of the Tour standings for most of the season like Mathieu Richard did last year. We could well have a different winner at every event."
Robertson won't have to wait long to get back in the boat and take on Bruni again. Stage 3 of the World Match Racing Tour, the Korea Match Cup, gets underway in little over a week where Robertson will re-commence battle against his fellow Tour Card Holders, including Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat and Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar who both return to action.
Results from Match Race Germany:
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 25pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 22pts
3 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 19pts
4 Eugeniy Neugodnikov (RUS) Team Synergy - 16pts
5 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 14pts
6 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 12pts
7 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 10pts
8 Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Okalys Corum - 8pts
9 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 4pts
10 Bjorn Hansen (DEN) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 2pts
11 William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket - 0pts
12 Stefan Meister (GER) - 0pts
2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour Standings (after 2 stages):
1 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 39pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 37pts
3 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 32pts
4 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 28pts
5 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 23pts
6 Bertrand Pacé (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team - 22pts
7 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat - 19pts
8 Eugeniy Neugodnikov (RUS) Team Synergy - 16pts
9 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan - 14pts
10 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 10pts