Francesco Bruni drove away with the star prize at the 2002 Laureus Regatta which concluded yesterday in Monaco.
Not bad for Francesco who is ranked 281 on the ISAF World Match Race Rankings as at 17 April 2002!
Bruni, who returned to Punta Ala on Wednesday to rejoin his teammates at the Prada America's Cup campaign headquarters, had a great competition in spite of the lack of wind. On the opening day he won all four of his races and on Tuesday he saw off his old rival from the Laser class, the Olympic champion, Britain's Ben Ainslie, in two straight races in the semi-final.
He then set about the task of dealing with another former Olympic champion Thierry Peponnet of France (Gold Medal 1988 Olympics in the 470 Class) in the final. In the best wind of the day, with a steady seven knots out of the south-west, Bruni won the start and extended his lead on the way round the windward/leeward course to be the new Laureus champion.
The match-racing regatta, which was sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation and organised by the Yacht Club de Monaco from Le Meridien Beach Plaza was held as part of the 2002 Laureus World Sports Awards.
"It's not quite the same as America's Cup racing," said Bruni. "But the time on distance to the start is exactly how we practice with Prada, and that has helped me here in Monaco."
Ainslie had a consolation victory over the American Dawn Riley, the only woman ever to skipper an America's Cup team, in a close battle for third that went all the way to the wire. The Briton clinched it by just seven seconds.
Francesco Bruni was last seen driving around a hairpin bend in his brand new Mercedes-Benz CLK 240!
A £70,000 car that hasn't even be released on to the market is not a bad reward for two days of match racing.
Considering the prize on offer, it is understandable why some eminent America's Cup campaigners and Olympic medallists found the time out of their busy schedules to compete at this event. Tommaso Chieffi won the inaugural event two years ago, but he has failed to claim a second Mercedes finishing last of the eight skippers, whilst double Olympic medallist JJ Isler, last year's winner finished seventh.
At the end of the two days, each skipper also received a limited edition watch.
The Laureus Regatta coincides with the Laureus World Sports Award, which were created in 2000 to pay homage to the annual achievements of the largest names in the sporting world. See article www.sailing.org/Article_content.asp?ArticleID=2373
for details on the posthumous awards presented to Sir Peter Blake by the Laureus Foundation.