Bruni finds his form
Francesco Bruni's sailing world turned in the 46th Congressional Cup Thursday when the Azzurra team skipper from Italy swept five races to join defending champion Johnie Berntsson and four-time winner Gavin Brady in Saturday's semifinals, as Bill Hardesty of San Diego slipped into position to claim the fourth slot.
In the steadiest breeze of the week - 8 to 12 knots from the southwest - the springboard for Bruni was a morning hearing that cost Berntsson his bid to keep Wednesday's apparent win over the Italian in the runaway mark incident.
Instead of sinking to 6-5, Bruni then beat Berntsson in the re-sail by a comfortable 27 seconds after Berntsson's sluggish start, then dispatched, in order, Switzerland's Eric Monnin, Wisconsin's Sally Barkow, Italy's Simone Ferrarese and Hardesty to sit at 11-4, two points behind Berntsson and Brady, now tied at 13-2.
Brady beat Iehl by 15 seconds in the other re-sailed match.
None of that ruined Hardesty's 2-2 day but likely just delayed his clinching the last semifinal slot. At 9-6, the first-time Congressional Cup skipper needs only to win two of the last three matches of the double round robin against non-contenders Friday, even if fifth-place Dave Perry (8-7) sweeps his remaining slate. Hardesty owns the tiebreaker with his win over Perry in their second match.
Following his 5-1 record a day earlier, Hardesty opened Thursday by dealing Brady only his second loss of the week. Later he overtook France's Damien Iehl in a flag-waving, come-from-behind frenzy that got Iehl disqualified when he failed to do any penalty turns after two quick side-by-side fouls downwind.
The on-water umpires, showing little patience, flew first one, then two blue flags---Iehl's ID color---then a black one in the array.
Despite slipping to fourth place behind Bruni on the day, Hardesty was happy with that. "We just wanted to be in the top four," he said.
Berntsson, the week-long leader, pushed Brady hard but carried a pre-start penalty into a decisive skirmish at the windward mark. Brady broke off their luffing match and brushed the mark as he fell off to round it. That offset Berntsson's foul, but the latter remained stalled for several seconds until Brady was gone.
But Bruni, runnerup to Berntsson last year, may now be the one to watch.
Bruni said the re-sailed win against Berntsson "was a good start of the day. But we don't want to relax."
Racing will continue through Saturday, starting at 11:30 each day, conditions permitting. Each boat will race every other boat twice in a double round robin. The top four will advance to best-of-three semifinals and finals Saturday. The non-qualifiers will run a fleet race.
The racing is in the Long Beach outer harbor off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, with free grandstand seating and parking for spectators. Snacks and refreshments are available.
Flight 11 (re-sails)
Francesco Bruni, Italy, def. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 0:27.
Gavin Brady, New Zealand, def. Damien Iehl, France, 0:15.
Bruni d. Sally Barkow, USA, 0:23.
Dave Perry, USA, d. Iehl, 0:24.
Berntsson d. Ferrarese, Italy, 0:17.
Bill Hardesty, USA, d. Brady, 0:10.
Evgeniy Neugodnikov, Russia, d. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 0:22.
Iehl d. Ferrarese, 0:20.
Berntsson d. Hardesty, 0:10.
Brady d. Monnin, 0:23.
Neugodnikov d. Barkow, 0:30.
Bruni d. Perry, 0:29.
Brady d. Berntsson, 0:30.
Barkow d. Monnin, 0:26.
Perry d. Neugodnikov, 0:19.
Bruni d. Ferrarese, DSQ.
Hardesty d. Iehl, DSQ.
Monnin d. Perry, 0:13.
Neugodnikov d. Ferrarese, 0:26.
Bruni d. Hardesty, 0:15.
Berntsson d. Iehl, DSQ.
Brady d. Barkow, 0:11.
(after 15 of 18 flights)
1=. Johnie Berntsson and Gavin Brady, 13-2
3. Francesco Bruni, 11-4
4. Bill Hardesty, 9-6
5. Dave Perry, 8-7
6. Evgeniy Neugodnikov, 7-8
7= Damien Iehl and Eric Monnin, 6-9
9. Sally Barkow, 2-13
10. Simone Ferrarese, 0-15.