Best of 2013 – “Mom I Built a Rocket!”


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Genoese skipper Alessandro Bruno died Friday, Dec. 27, in an accident in Chamois, Aosta Valley, while skiing with his daughter. We met him this year at the launch of Tenace, the Class 9.50 he had self-built and with which he had begun racing around the Mediterranean. To remember him, we repost the article we published in the days of the launch. Hello Alexander, from the entire editorial staff of The Journal of Sailing.

To Alessandro Bruno, the first donut succeeded with the hole. And what a doughnut. His passion for the “course au large” (in fact, he is a seasoned minista) led him to the decision to self-build a Class 9.50. Two and a half years ago he rented a shed on the outskirts of Genoa, his hometown, and after commissioning a French ocean sailing “guru” Sam Manuard (who has signed Mini 6.50s, Class 40s but also “racing” boats such as the recent Seascape 18) to design the hull, he set to work nonstop. Churning out, after 3,000 hours of toil and sweat, a veritable missile that, at the last Giraglia, made the other 9.50 French cousins, specialists in the category, eat their dust. “It is a boat somewhere between the Mini 6.50,” says Alessandro, “and the more challenging Class 40. I wanted to start something new, at least in Italy, and so I decided to throw myself into the 9.50: to make a Class 40 with my own hands, given the size and cost, would have been really impossible.”


Bruno could count on an uncommon manual dexterity, but he was at his first experience in construction and preferred to entrust the hull design to Manuard: “Sam followed me step by step and I trusted him completely; we only compared ourselves for a few details on the deck. He provided me with drawings characterized by such a scale of precision that assembling the boat was almost as easy as assembling Ikea furniture. Whenever I encountered a technical problem, Sam was always ready to provide me with the solution.” In two and a half years, Tenace, a small bolide with a non-random name, was thus born.


“I had some money to spend and a lot of free time on my hands,” Alexander continued. “The construction of such a boat I recommend only to those who can devote themselves to it full time: otherwise you never finish. In the end Tenace cost me about 120 thousand euro, ready to sail: I have to thank the many partners who have stood by me and, in some cases, donated material or given me killer discounts, such as Diab who gave me PVC as a gift or Acciai di Qualità who provided free steel for the keel. In addition, the Italian Yacht Club and President Croce have passionately indulged my madness.” The mast and rigging were made by Franco Manzoli’s Velscaf, while electronics tuning, with a totally watertight rig, was overseen by Daniele Menegatti of Technautica: the 30-horsepower inboard is Lombardini while the sails were commissioned from Quantum Italia.


The Class 9.50 built by Alessandro Bruno differs from previous models starting with the water lines: it could not miss the now classic “edge” (rediscovered by Juan Kouyoumdjian, the Argentine architect who revolutionized the world of ocean sailing by signing the designs of ABN Amro I and II, the Dutch hulls that won gold and silver in the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race), but in this case it is much more extensive than usual. It runs almost the entire length of the hull, providing Tenace with more power when the boat is heeled combined with better stability in carrying gaits, making it more difficult to heel. The increased edge also results in increased interior volumes that make the Class 9.50 possibly convertible into a cruising hull (a hypothesis that, for now, does not cross Alessandro’s mind in the slightest): even the deckhouse presents a height that allows one to stand comfortably in the saloon. But this is not the only special feature.



Intrigued by this “do-it-yourself” boat, born on a French design but entirely Made in Italy, we wanted to go on board noting peculiar solutions that are the result of Alessandro’s ingenuity and sailing experience. Every detail, on board, is taken care of to the smallest detail: for example, we noticed the maniacal attention to weight saving: the loops at the top of the mainsail and jib halyards made by Bruno are made of textile, and the same goes for the jib garrots, which in addition to weighing less avoid damaging the PBO forestay. Only the rigging is steel rod, as required by the Class 9.50 tonnage rules. “Based on Manuard’s design, the boat should have weighed 2,340 pounds: done and finished, the positive difference was only ten pounds.” The extra weight, which is really laughable given that we are talking about a self-built hull, can be attributed to precise modifications made by Alessandro: such as the oversized battery bank and the installation, on the transom, of a carbon pedestal in which the AIS, VHF and GPS antennas as well as an infrared camera capable of making HD videos and images find their place. An interesting choice, the latter, for a class that needs to boost communication and increase the number of active hulls. There are currently 15 on the class website, including 5 in Italy. As we went out to sea, we had a chance to check Tenace’s speed: with 7 knots of air, she was traveling at 6 1/2 knots upwind and 7 1/2 knots on the grand slack under spi. Another “treat”: the rotating carbon bowsprit system. “I was inspired by the Mini 6.50s. From the cockpit, it is possible to rotate the bowsprit, which ends in a clevis engaged in a pulley at the base of the forestay, until it is put into position.” But there’s more: with the help of two removable jockey poles (also made of carbon) that fit into two pre-drilled holes in the sides of the deckhouse, it is possible to easily square and forestay the bowsprit, which becomes a mini tangon. Alexander will take to the water again as part of the upcoming “Tour de Corse à la voile” scheduled for September.



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