Silver delight in sight for pair

By Peter de Graaf, Peter Thorley

Kerikeri sailor Blair Tuke looks certain to bring home Northland's first Olympic medal since Blyth Tait in the 1990s.

At edition time Tuke, 23, and his Tauranga teammate Peter Burling, 21, had yet to sail their 49er class medal race - due to take place off Weymouth on Wednesday UK time - but they were so far ahead of the third-placed pair on points they are all but guaranteed a silver medal.

The bad news is they cannot catch the Australian pair Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, who have built up an unassailable lead over the past 15 races. The only real contest will be for bronze.

Virtually all Tuke and Burling have to do to win New Zealand's ninth medal and second silver of the London games is turn up.

Northland's last Olympic medals, one gold and one bronze, were won by Whangarei equestrian star Blyth Tait at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Yachting New Zealand 49er coach Jez Fanstone said the pair had to keep out of trouble in the medal race.

"As long as they sail sensibly, they'll be coming home with a silver medal which is a real testament to all the hard work they've done over the last three years."

Sport Northland chief executive Brent Eastwood said Tuke's achievement proved coming from a big centre was not a prerequisite for success.

"Some of the medals have come from the Invercargills, the Nelsons, and now Northland.

" It shows dreams can come true," he said.

"To produce 12 Olympians from a population of 160,000 is a great thing. To see one, and hopefully more, go on to win a medal will be a real boost for sport in Northland."

Mr Eastwood was delighted the pair's success had come in a sport in which Northland had traditionally excelled, and in which the region's juniors had long punched above their weight.

Next Mr Eastwood was keeping his fingers crossed for the Whangarei-dominated women's hockey team.

Tuke's parents, Karin and Andy from Dove's Bay, are in the UK and were expected to join the sailors for a celebratory dinner at the Royal Dorset Yacht Club in Weymouth last night.

Northland's other sailing medal contender, Andrew Murdoch in the laser class, stormed up the leaderboard this week but his improved form came too late for a medal. He finished yesterday's medal race in fourth place in front of a big crowd of Kiwi spectators on shore, putting him fifth in the final standings. The 30-year-old rounded off his campaign by vowing to return to Rio in 2016.

Murdoch also hails from Kerikeri. His father Jim is a former racing car driver and Formula One mechanic.

The Far North town's sailing success has been attributed to a strong sailing programmes at Kerikeri High School and Kerikeri Cruising Club. Perhaps the single most important factor, however, is former sailing coach Derry Godbert.

Now retired, Mr Godbert was a science teacher at Kerikeri High who set up the school's sailing academy and the cruising club's learn-to-sail programme.

Although he has taken a step back from coaching, he continues to support and encourage young sailors and has achieved near legendary status.

- Northern Advocate

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