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Italy Strong At 5th Star Sailors League Finals In Montagu Bay

IN just a little less than one month the fifth SSL Finals will start in Montagu Bay and this year "we'll have two Italian flags on the starting line," according to a press release.

"Alongside Diego Negri, who's been to every SSL events so far, we are super happy to welcome Francesco Bruni. Francesco is an all-round sailor, he started his sailing life early in his hometown, Palermo, and soon moved to the Laser where he gained the qualifications for Italy to the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

He then competed in two other Summer Olympics, all in different classes. He finished 12th at the 1996 event in a Laser, 11th at the 2000 Olympics in a 49er and 7th at the 2004 Olympics in the Star class. Francesco raced with Luna Rossa Challenge at the 2003 and 2007 America's Cup.

He skippered the Azzurra team during the 2009 and 2010 Louis Vuitton Trophy, re-joining to Luna Rossa Challenge for the 2013 America's Cup and when Luna Rossa withdrew from the 2017 America's Cup, Bruni joined Artemis Racing in Bermuda.

He also has an impressive Palmares in match racing, he won the 2010 Congressional Cup, 2011 Match Race Germany and 2013 King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda and was runner up at the World Match Racing Tour in 2011.

Hamish Pepper (NZL), who was at the Olympic Games in Atlanta for the first time with Bruni, then attended the 2004 also on the Laser, Pepper then moved to the Star and sailed with Carl Williams at the 2008 Olympics, finishing 9th. Pepper and Jim Turner finished 12th at the 2012 Olympics. Pepper has also competed in multiple Star World Championships, winning the 2006 Star World Championships with Carl Williams and finishing second with Craig Monk at the 2009 Star World Championships.

Hamish was a part of Team New Zealand's successful defence of the America's Cup in 2000. He was the tactician on the team's 2003 America's Cup defence.

Hamish participated for the first time at the SSL Finals in 2015 with Bruno Prada (BRA) and they finished 2nd, and we can't expect nothing less this time around with Craig Monk, a Finn bronze medallist in Barcelona 1992 Olympics and challenged, or defended, for five times for the America's Cup winning it with Team New Zealand in 1995 and 2000.

It will also be Craig's second SSL Finals - he was crewing for Sam Meech, kiwi Laser bronze medallist in Rio 2016, last year.

Another nice return will be represented by Ivan Gaspic, a Croatian Finn sailor who attended the Olympics in Bejing in 2008 and he was 5th in London in 2012, he won three European Championships and a silver medal at the Worlds in the very tough Finn class.

A well known sailor in his country, Ivan will be sailing with fellow Split crew Ante Sitic, a proper Star sailor, with whom he attended the 2014 and 2015 SSL Finals. Lucky third time?

Oskari Muhonen is the winner of the Finn Silver Cup, that is the under-23 World Championship of the single-handed dinghy. Oskari is from Finland and he is only 20 years old - 2017 was a very good year for him - who also finished 11th at the Finn Gold Cup - the World Championship - a couple of weeks later the Junior Cup.

"He will be our real rookie this year, as Facundo Olezza (ARG) - second at the 2017 Finn Silver Cup behind him - also attended last year, surprising everyone by doing well in strong winds. We cannot wait to see what the two young Finn sailors will be doing challenging each other once again on the race course but on different boats and with a crew.

25 teams will be competing at the 2017 SSL Finals, the top 10 Star Sailors of 2017 and 15 wild cards drawn from every aspect of the sport. After four days of racing for all, the competition goes into the knockout stages. Single races decide who survives and who is heading for the dock.

The last four teams will contest a thrilling final race, the first to finish will be the winner of the 2017 SSL Finals and take home the lion's share of the $200,000 prize purse.

"You will be able to watch all the action live with expert commentary from special studio guests. On the water, the latest in hi-tech camera technology, as well as Virtual Eye 3D Graphics, will provide thrilling viewing. Armchair sailors can also join the race with Virtual Regatta.

"Keep following us on the official website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be updated on the SSL Finalists' list, social events and more of the Star Sailors League major event of the year," said the release.

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