28 Nov 2019

Olympic sailors back to defend their title

7:02 am on 28 November 2019

New Zealand sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke took a break from the 49er World Championships but they are making a comeback on home waters.

(L-R) Blair Tuke and Peter Burling.
Oceania 49er ChampionshipS.

49er sailors Blair Tuke and Peter Burling Photo: Photosport

Auckland will host the 2019 World Championships from December 2 and for Burling and Tuke this event is a step towards their third Olympic Games.

The 2016 Olympic gold medallists won four consecutive 49er world championships titles in the lead up to the Rio Olympic Games, before they focussed on a different type of sailing with stints in the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

But the formidable pairing are ready for their return to the top 49er competition.

"Our last worlds was back in 2016, so it has been a little while but we did a lot of hard work in the 49er at the beginning of this year through the European season to get a couple of good wins at the European Championships, which was the big one out of the European season this year, and also at the Olympic test event in Japan, it's given us a bit of confidence going into this event that we are on the right track," Burling said.

Burling and Tuke finished third in the 49er Oceania Championships in Auckland on Wednesday, behind Austria's Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl, with Diego Botin and Iago Lopez from Spain third in a warm up event for the World Championships.

It is rare for the New Zealand sailors to get a world regatta on home waters but Tuke said the label of "favourites" did not faze them.

The depth of the New Zealand 49er field has increased since Burling and Tuke first became involved in the class and Burling said the emergence of more New Zealand 49er sailors is good for the sport.

"When we first started sailing the 49er we pretty much had no one, so if we wanted high level training we had to go overseas and now we're all pushing each other along and it is definitely raising the bar and I think the depth we've got in the 49er fleet at the moment is pretty incredible," Burling said.

New Zealand sailors will make up 12 boats in the 49er class at the World Championships, in an event which has attracted hundreds of sailors from around the world to compete in the 49er, 49erfx and Nacra classes.

New Zealand sailors Peter Burling (R) and Blair Tuke (L).

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have more Kiwi 49er competition than they did early in their career. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Burling and Tuke have been sailing with Team New Zealand this year in the lead up to the 2021 America's Cup to be held in Auckland.

Despite a hectic schedule, sailing both the America's Cup boat and the 49er was beneficial heading into the world regatta, Tuke said.

"It has been busy the last couple of months but we've enjoyed spending so much time on the harbour, we're pretty lucky to spend six, seven days on the water each week between both boats but now we are fully head down into this, we're in camp and looking forward to putting in a good one next week."