Yachting: Blair Tuke awash with awards honours

By Peter Thorley

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Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke have been honoured at award ceremonies for their success this year. Photo/Sailing Pix.
Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke have been honoured at award ceremonies for their success this year. Photo/Sailing Pix.

Kerikeri sailor Blair Tuke was clearly delighted about his embarrassment of riches after winning the top award at two major sporting ceremonies on Friday.

Tuke won the Northland Sportsperson of the Year Award for the second successive year while he and 49er teammate Peter Burling also scooped the main prize, Yachting New Zealand's Sailor of the Year award, in Auckland.

Tuke said that while he was "gutted" he couldn't be in Whangarei to pick up his award, he put together a couple of video presentations for Sport Northland's ceremony at Kensington Stadium. He said attending the golden anniversary of the YNZ award ceremony and being presented with the prestigious award by former winner Sir Russell Coutts was a special moment.

"It was pretty awesome to get recognised for what we have achieved in front of so many great people who have done amazing things in our sport ... It was a great evening in Auckland and I'm sure it was in Whangarei as well," he said.

Tuke believed their extremely busy 2013 season had swung the YNZ award their way over some very stiff competition, including International Sailing Federation female sailors of the year and World 470 champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie and 49erFX world champions Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.

"If you looked at all the results in Olympic class sailing, we won both two major regattas, the World Championships and the European Championships and while the others won at the worlds, no one achieved what we had and plus we did a lot of other sailing as well, including the Youth Americas Cup," he said.

Tuke's parents Andy and Karin joined him in Auckland for the event along with well wishers and people who have helped the sailors along the way.

"This sort of award has taken a lot of hard work from us but also from our team and it was good to have them there around us but also to have all the other sailors who have done so well this year," he said.

Tuke said he and Burling are both building up to sailing the Sydney to Hobart race on Boxing Day on a 100 foot super yacht. The next major event after that will be the A Class Catamaran Championships in Takapuna in February before they prepare to defend their 49er World title in Spain in September.

"That's the first chance to qualify a New Zealand crew for Rio [Olympic Games] but obviously we'll have to prove ourselves after that with Marcus [Hansen] and Josh [Porebsky], the other Kiwi boys so close behind us," he said.

Competition from the silver medallists at this year's 49er World Championships is welcomed by Tuke, who said it can only improve both teams.

"We back ourselves to do well in Rio if we do qualify for the Olympics and I'm sure if we work hard over the next few years then we can do that."

After winning the Youth Americas Cup in San Diego this year with Tuke as the tactician and Burling the skipper, further involvement in the next America's Cup - this time at the senior level - is not out of the question.

After all, if you look at the names on the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy - the award the pair received in Auckland on Friday night - many of the previous recipients have gone on to become well known for their efforts in the biggest match racing event of them all.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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