Sailing: Silver medal stars to remain together

Kerikeri sailor Blair Tuke - who broke a 16-year medal drought for Northland when he won silver at the 2012 Olympics - has announced he and teammate Peter Burling will campaign towards the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

The pair had been expected to pursue professional sailing opportunities but will instead spend the next three years focusing on going one better than their silver in the 49er skiff class in London.

They were given a rapturous welcome on their return to Kerikeri last August.

"We have loved sharing our medals with the New Zealand public. The reception we got when we returned to New Zealand after the Games was incredible and we are excited to take up the challenge again," Tuke said.

Yachting New Zealand's high performance director Jez Fanstone was delighted the pair would be part of a new-look NZL Sailing Team.

"It's great news that Peter and Blair have confirmed their Rio 2016 campaign and that their goal is to go one better than silver.

With both 2012 Olympic medal-winning crews back in the NZL Sailing Team it puts us in a really strong position moving forward to Rio. This will positively impact the whole team, which will have some fresh faces during this next cycle. The young ones will draw on and learn from their experience," Fanstone said.

Tuke and Burling had taken some time and sailed a variety of boats before confirming their intentions.

"It's not a decision we've taken lightly," Tuke said.

"We understand we have opportunities in professional sailing but to try and stand on the top of the Olympic podium is a goal we've both had for a long time and we see Rio 2016 as the best chance we have."

The pair's 2013 calendar won't be strictly 49er sailing. They will lead the NZL Sailing Team with Emirates Team New Zealand, Burling as skipper and Tuke as tactician; then sail an AC45 catamaran in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup Regatta in San Francisco from September 1-4. They will also travel to Oman for Round 1 of the Extreme 40 Sailing Series for Team Korea.

However, Tuke said the 49er World Championships in Marseille, France, from September 21-28 was their main goal.

"The 49er World Champs is definitely the pinnacle regatta for us this year and we want to be back in top form by then. We know we can't just do the same things we did last time and expect to be at the top of the fleet; everyone else will be upping their game, and we need to do the same. One of the reasons we've been sailing in plenty of other high performance classes since the [Olympic] games is to become better sailors and learn new things that we can bring to the 49er."

Both Burling and Tuke are finding time to pursue other milestones as well.

Tuke started an electrical apprenticeship after leaving school aged 17; that went on the backburner ahead of the London Olympics but he is now finishing some final paperwork and hopes to be a qualified electrician by May.

Burling is continuing his mechanical engineering degree with some second and third year papers.


- Northern Advocate

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