The helmsman of Luna Rossa at the last America’s Cup Checco Bruni, born a traditional sailor, tells exclusively to Giornale della Vela how he became the most famous foiler in Italy.
I learned to fly
by Francesco Checco Bruni*
When I was asked by the Giornale della Vela to tell them how I found myself, as a traditional sailor, first becoming a foiling specialist and then ending up at the helm of Luna Rossa, I had no doubts. The America’s Cup is to blame, of course. Not the last one, of course. But the 2013 edition, the one with the first AC72 flying catamarans.
I was a tactician in Luna Rossa’s team and I remember that helmsman Chris Draper (1) bought a Moth during the Cup campaign: at the time it was the only real foil-equipped dinghy (not like today when you can fly anything over the water: kite foils, wing foils, dinghies of all kinds!) and we had the chance to test it. It seems like fifty years ago. But it was the day before yesterday: in the last decade the flying sail has made huge technological leaps forward.
Anyway, the Moth was so cool. At the end of the 2013 America’s Cup I ordered a hull straight away. I decided, at 40, to get back into the game. I remember that we ordered three and that the boats arrived directly in Cagliari, at Luna Rossa’s base: one was for me and the other two for my team-mates Pigi De Felice (2) and Adam Minoprio (3). “You have to try this too, you have to explore it in all its potential,” I told myself. It was a personal challenge, rather than a “functional” decision dictated by what was happening in the world of sailing and the America’s Cup.
Flying on the Moths is fun, great fun. But first you have to be ready to take a good bath in humility, even if – in my case – I can’t deny that the experience on Lasers, Stars and especially on an acrobatic dinghy like the 49er has helped. You have to be ready to roll over, capsize, find the boat by the hat, drink salt water: at the beginning, especially at lift, manoeuvring is a nightmare. The hardest thing is to make turns, tack, gybe and you have a constant problem of balance in finding the right centre of gravity.
But once you get the hang of it, you never want to go back. What impressed me most was the noise, or rather, the non-noise. On a normal boat, whether displacement or planing, you’re used to hearing the lapping of the water. But when you take off, you don’t hear anything at all. And it all happens in a matter of seconds: first you are almost stationary, then you find yourself flying.
Unlike traditional sailing (which I love very much and have never abandoned!), I have learned that the world of foiling is constantly evolving. We’re only at the beginning and who knows where we’ll end up: when I started with the Moth we were going at 14 knots, now we’re sailing at 20… We’re practically improving by one knot a year! The evolution obviously involves every flying class: classes on which – apart from the latest AC75s – I have been lucky enough to race or sail. AC45, SailGP, Waszp (I bought one for my son Ubaldo, I was the first Waszp owner in Italy in 2016), 69F… you have to keep up to date!
If we think about the last edition of the America’s Cup, all the helmsmen, except my friend Ben Ainslie (4), had experience with the Moth: Jimmy Spithill (5), Dean Barker (6)... Many of them enjoy wing foil and windsurf foil as soon as they can. Speaking of the America’s Cup, I can’t tell you if I’ll still be at the helm of Luna Rossa. I’d like to, because I’m not used to leaving things half done. The Cup has to be brought back to Italy and I’ve got a lot of determination. We still don’t know where the venue of the 37th edition will be, if the “cyclists” will be back on board instead of the grinders, who will be on board but I can assure you that we won’t have an easy life considering the return of Alinghi and the level of the opponents…
FIRST FLYING LOVE IS NEVER FORGOTTEN
Meanwhile, I continue to train and fly Moths. But then again, you never forget your first love. Every world championship I take part in is the best regatta of my life. Every year I say to myself “this is the last Worlds I’ll do, I’m almost 50 years old”. And every year I’m on the starting line, with varying fortunes (my best result was in 2018, when I came second in Bermuda behind Paul Goodison (7), and in 2021 I came fifth): but I can assure you that when I’m up against the “holy monsters” and I manage to beat them, I’m happy as a clam. Like the time I beat Tom Slingsby (8) and Iain Jensen (9): it was windy, and I’m a classic “gag” sailor!
It was windy too, and I’m a classic “drooler” sailor. When my body will say – really – enough and I won’t be able to compete with the young guys, I’ll stop with the Moth. In the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to make an appeal to the “old men” at World Sailing: why didn’t you first think of an Olympic foiling class, the present and future of youth sailing, instead of pursuing an absurd double oceanic offshore race?
*About Checco Bruni
Francesco Bruni was born in Palermo on 11 April 1973. He is one of the most versatile, eclectic and successful Italian sailors still working. Reigning Sailor of the Year, in his 30-year career he has won 7 world, 5 European and 15 national titles in various classes, and has taken part in three Olympic Games (Laser, Star 49er). He has taken part in five America’s Cup campaigns, four of which with Luna Rossa, the last at the helm. A great “flying sailor”, he has tried every kind of dinghy with foils. Aboard the Moth he won second place at the World Championship in Bermuda in 2018, today he continues to be at the top of the world rankings and is one of the great protagonists of the SailGP circuit with the flying F50 catamarans: as flight controller of Japan SailGP Team he won the Italy Sail Grand Prix last year.
The great sailors in order of appearance in Checco Bruni’s story
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