Sailing: Pair gets world campaign off to winning start

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Blair Tuke (left) and Tauranga's Peter Burling lead the 49er World Championship after day one in Clearwater, Florida.
Blair Tuke (left) and Tauranga's Peter Burling lead the 49er World Championship after day one in Clearwater, Florida.

Defending champions Peter Burling from Tauranga and Blair Tuke have opened their 49er World Championship with a win in the opening race of the regatta in Clearwater, Florida, where three Olympic class sailing World Championship regattas got under way yesterday in challenging conditions.

Another Tauranga sailor, Trent Rippey, and his team-mate, Isaac McHardie, who are part of New Zealand's Aon Fast Track squad, can be pleased with their first race in finishing 11th. The young pair will be buoyed as they head into day two of racing against the world's best.

Tauranga's Trent Rippey has made a great start to the 49er World Championship.
Tauranga's Trent Rippey has made a great start to the 49er World Championship.

The 49er fleet, featuring close to 70 boats, sailed just one heat in blustery, wavy conditions which increased as the day progressed. The women's 49erFX skiff fleet including Tauranga's Molly Meech was scheduled to sail after the men but their racing was abandoned.

Taking the win in their first fleet race, Burling and Tuke share the early lead in the championship with Denmark's Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen, who took the gun in their heat.

"Today was day one of the 49er World Champs and it was a pretty big forecast last night," Burling said. "I think there was a fair bit of tension this morning as to whether we'd actually get out there for a race today because we've all seen how choppy and tricky it gets out there when the breeze gets up."

"We were really fortunate that it was light enough this morning to get out there for a race."

"We're really happy to take a win in that first race. We got off the line pretty well and managed to keep it upright. I think a fair few guys were swimming and doing a fair bit of damage to their gear and we're really happy to get a solid one under our belt to start with.

"This is our world champs in an Olympic year and the goal for us for the whole campaign is to try and get the gold in Rio. We've got a lot of little steps along the way, and we're trying a lot of things this week. It's good to check in and see how everyone is going."

One race was possible to open the 2016 Nacra 17 World Champs. Sailing Team's Gemma Jones and Tauranga's Jason Saunders finished 25th.

Racing resumes today in Cleawater. Qualifying racing finishes today before the regatta moves to finals racing.

Medal races are planned for Sunday February 14.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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