Kiwi Kings get back in the saddle

Published on March 31st, 2019

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have been there, done that. The kiwi duo wrestled their way to the top of the Olympic heap and then took on all the other challenges the sport had to offer. And now they are back where it all began.

After four 49er Class World titles and Olympic Gold at Rio 2016, they helped Team New Zealand capture the 2017 America’s Cup. Then for sh*ts and giggles, they raced against each other in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. But their focus is again on Olympic Gold.

They will be under the spotlight at the 2019 Princess Sofia regatta in Palma (April 1-6) which marks the pair’s first international regatta in the 49er since the 2016 Olympics. Can they pick up where they left off?

“For us, it’s about doing the things we can control well and sailing the boat really well,” notes Tuke. “If we do that, we should be somewhere towards the front. You can only do the best you can. That’s what we did last time and it worked alright for us.”

It went better than alright as Burling and Tuke famously won every major regatta between the London and Rio Olympics, but it was only last October when they began training for the Tokyo Olympics.

They’ve returned into a strong local 49er scene, and have been working closely with three other New Zealand teams who all have Olympic ambitions of their own. They all train together and there’s also a talent pool of promising skiff sailors below this that Burling and Tuke have been helping.

“We are aware that the better the New Zealand group gets as a whole, the better we will be,” Tuke said. “When we first started sailing the 49er 10 years ago, there were only two or three boats.

“To see the level of people sailing them in New Zealand and the depth of the fleet is pretty exciting for us because we know we have been a part of that. It’s been an awesome summer and a great bunch of guys we have been sailing with. It’s really helped us get back to a high level quickly.

“The 49er is always good fun. For Pete and I, the last two-and-a-half years we have been sailing in much bigger teams in the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. It’s neat to get back into the 49er. You pull the sails up yourself, launch the boat and just go sailing.”

As many as 106 49ers will line up at the Princess Sofia regatta, which is being touted as the largest 49er fleet seen at an international regatta. The event itself is massive, with more than 860 boats and 1200 sailors from 67 nations in the 10 Olympic classes.

For Burling and Tuke, they know time is short and must be wisely used. “We have to be very clinical with everything we do, and that’s why getting off to a good start in these first couple of events will be important to us,” Tuke said. “It’s exciting. That time pressure, and knowing you have to be good pretty soon is good for us because we often go better when we’re up against it.”

Source: Yachting New Zealand

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