10 Feb 2020

World champion sailors to defend title won two months ago

8:46 am on 10 February 2020

Sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke's reign as 49er world champions could be short lived.

The pair won their fifth 49er world title in Auckland in December but are now chasing a sixth in Melbourne just a couple of months later.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling celebrate their fifth world title

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling celebrate their fifth world championship title in Auckland in December Photo: Photosport

The 2020 world champs have been brought forward because of the Tokyo Olympics later this year but Burling isn't concerned.

"I don't think it really matters," Burling said.

"It was pretty similar to how it happened last [Olympic] cycle. We had a world champs in Buenos Aires and then one in Clearwater a couple of months later. It's the way it works out sometimes. It just gives you a bit more motivation to go out there and try to win another one."

With the Olympics on the horizon many countries are using the world championships as a selection event for the Tokyo Games, putting pressure on crews to perform, and Melbourne will also bring a different set of complexities.

"It's Melbourne and it changes more than Auckland," Tuke said. "It's a really classic place to sail."

The pair got a taste of it last week during the four-day Oceania championships, the warmup event for the world championships, when strong winds buffeted the race course.

Burling and Tuke finished second in that, with fellow New Zealanders Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn third and Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie fifth, illustrating the depth of the New Zealand 49er squad.

"It was pretty full-on...it's been a while since we've sailed an event with four solid days like that," said Tuke.

"It was pretty good for us to have that warmup event a week out from the worlds. It gave us a pretty good test. It was windy the whole time so it was really good to get that many races in strong breezes. It gets you back into shape pretty quickly. We are happy with how we are going and where we are at a few days out."

Burling and Tuke will be among a strong contingent of New Zealand sailors in Melbourne with the Laser world champs also on in Melbroune.

Nine 49er combinations will line up in Geelong, where the skiffs and catamarans will be competing, along with two in the 49erFX and four in the Nacra 17 to make New Zealand the most represented country behind hosts Australia.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech were among the contenders in the 49erFX and were keen to add to the world title they won in 2013 and bronze they collected in 2017.

However a foot injury for Maloney, sustained during training, has ruled the pair out of the championships.