In 2013 Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were preparing themselves for the opportunity of a lifetime, competing in the New Zealand entry in that year’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in San Francisco, a regatta Burling and Tuke would go on to win.
Fast forward four years to 2017 and both Burling and Tuke are back in America’s Cup action, but this time it is at the ultimate level as key members of the New Zealand team’s race crew in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.
For Burling, in particular, the spotlight will be shining particularly brightly on him and his performances as he is helming the boat that carries the hopes of an expectant Kiwi nation. It is a simple mission for Burling and his team – to take the “Auld Mug” back to New Zealand.
As key personalities in the Kiwi team, Burling and Tuke recently gave some excellent insights into how they are feeling about the forthcoming challenge in Bermuda, and how the famous pair started sailing together. Blair Tuke explained first what it means to be part of the New Zealand team, saying, “Every Kiwi has a memory of the America’s Cup and it’s no different for us, and to now be part of it and part of Team NZ is an amazing honour.”
Team New Zealand Helm Burling added, “It’s one of the unique sporting events in that, if you win it, you get to host it. We are pretty fired up to bring it back to NZ, where it belongs, and we think we have got a good shot at it.
“I’m really excited about the challenge of the new boats. These boats are so different to anything we’ve seen before, so much quicker, so much more maneuverable. Us coming from a high performance background, where we have to make decisions very quickly, is a massive benefit to this team.”
Tuke added, “Everyone in the whole team believes we can win it. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be there. There’s a big belief in team that we can do it and I think the country deserves to have it back.”
Looking back at where the ultra-successful pairing of Peter and Blair started their sailing adventure together, Tuke explained that, “I knew this kid from Tauranga who was going pretty well and he’d beaten me once or twice. He came back from the Olympics and sent me an email, saying ‘shall we give London a crack’, straight away I said yes.”
Burling picks up the story, saying, “Both of us shared a common goal at the beginning. We were the right size and were keen to take on a campaign. We didn’t know each other, but it’s seemed to work out pretty well.” Olympic gold medals and now a shot at the America’s Cup suggests that “pretty well” is an understatement, but Burling explained more about what he believes it takes to keep progressing, saying, “I don’t think there’s many sports with more variables than yachting, from the boat, the weather, the wind. Everything has to come together and you have got to keep improving your skills all the time, or you get left behind.
“We enjoy what we do, we love our sport, love being based in New Zealand and make sure we have fun on the way. It makes it easier to put in the hard yards and dig deep, when you need to go get something done.”
This summer Burling and the New Zealand crew definitely have a desire to “get something done”, but one of the key questions of the 35th America’s Cup will be how Peter and his crew handle the pressure of being one of the favourites to challenge ORACLE TEAM USA for the oldest trophy in international sport. They start their campaign on Friday 26th May with race three of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers against Groupama Team France, an event the whole of New Zealand will be tuning in to watch.