Silver lining for relatives of BOI medallist

By Peter de Graaf, APNZ

Kerikeri sailor Blair Tuke and his teammate Peter Burling have won Northland's first Olympic medal in 16 years.

The pair's silver in the 49er class off England's southern coast yesterday was even sweeter because it was also New Zealand's 100th Olympic medal and broke a 20-year drought for Kiwi sailors at the games on anything but a windsurfer.

Northland's last Olympic medallist was Whangarei equestrian Blyth Tait with a gold and a bronze at the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Although the pair's medal was no surprise - over the previous 15 races they had built up an unassailable lead over the teams vying for third - watching their skiff cross the finish line about 1am yesterday was still a thrill for 40 friends and family members gathered at Rocksalt bar in Blair Tuke's hometown.

Also there were Burling's grandparents, uncle and cousin - all Kerikeri residents - and members of Andrew Murdoch's family, the Kerikeri sailor who finished a respectable fifth in the laser class.

Blair Tuke, 23, and Peter Burling, 21, finished second in yesterday's double-points medal race, but any placing would have ensured silver. Gold went to Australian pair Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, with the Danes beating five other contenders for bronze.

They were awarded their medals yesterday by Kiwi boardsailer Barbara Kendall, a three-time Olympic medal winner.

Peter Burling's grandfather, Bruce Burling, said the previous night, after the pair's silver had been locked in, was the family's first night of sleep in several days.

"But we're still excited. It makes us feel very proud. It's fantastic actually."

His grandson's love of sailing started with his father, Richard Burling, who sailed P-classes, starlings and lasers on Whangarei Harbour with the Whangarei Cruising Club. Richard Burling later moved to Tauranga, where Peter Burling was raised, but the rest of the family remained in Northland.

Asked if the family was planning to celebrate, Bruce Burling said: "Celebrate? We've been celebrating for the past two or three days. We've been living on a high."

Kerikeri was a great sailing town with the high school's sailing academy, an active Kerikeri Cruising Club, and the legendary sailing coach Derry Godbert.

Blair Tuke and Andrew Murdoch's parents were watching the race from the shore in Weymouth, where TV coverage showed them cheering together.

Silver sailor an amazing talent, says first coach

Kerikeri sailor and Olympic silver medallist Blair Tuke has been described as "an amazing talent" by the coach who gave him his start in the sport.

Tuke got his start at the Kerikeri High School sailing academy and the Kerikeri Cruising Club, under the guidance of legendary coach Derry Godbert, of Waipapa.

Mr Godbert said it had been exciting to see Tuke, Burling, Andrew Murdoch and other young sailors do so well at the Olympics.

He was only one of many coaches to have worked with Tuke, whose success was down to "huge family support", natural talent and hard work.

"He's put in such hard yards, and he's got so much ability. He's a neat guy, he responds so well to everything you suggest," Mr Godbert said.

What had really impressed him was Tuke's ability to organise himself and other sailors on the water as demonstrated when he led the Kiwi contingent at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Perth.

"He's a young bloke of amazing talent," Mr Godbert said.

- Northern Advocate

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