New Zealand is guaranteed a silver medal at the Olympic Games provided 49er sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke start their medal race on Wednesday. A rest day is scheduled tomorrow.
The pair are second on 76 points after 15 races with just the medal race remaining. Their efforts mean New Zealand has broken a 20-year dearth of podium finishes in the sport, outside of men's and women's windsurfing.
Australia leads New Zealand by 28 points meaning the world champion crew of Nathan Outterridge and Iain Jensen cannot be beaten. The Danish crew are 32 behind the New Zealanders on 108 points. The Kiwis cannot be pushed to third because the maximum points available in the 10-boat, double point medal race is 18.
Yachting New Zealand's decision to take Burling to Beijing as a 17-year-old with Carl Evans in the 470 class (finishing 11th) has proven a worthwhile investment. The 23-year-old Tuke has proven an able replacement for Evans in the transition to the 49er class.
"I've got that much more experience now that I've been before," Burling said. "I'm a bit more comfortable with it all."
Burling is grateful for YNZ's backing. He says the high performance programme has become an accepted part of his life.
"I'm just so used to being in it and competing that I've never really thought about how it's shaped who I am. I've started an engineering degree; I'd probably be finishing that off at the moment if I wasn't here."
He said it's been a different style of sailing to the 470s.
"The 470 is a bit slower so the speed difference is the biggest thing; and the 49ers sail shorter races and do more of them [16 compared to 11 including medal races].
"It's strange at this event how they've dragged it out so long, we usually do three races per day rather than two."
After this achievement Burling may look to the full time professional ranks, at least between now and the next Games.
"There's lots of other cool things going on in the sailing world with the America's Cup and Volvo. I'm always looking for new challenges so I assume I'll be looking into that."
The men's 470 crew of Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders have a multi-crew duel for bronze over their final three races. They are fifth after eight races on 47 points. Italy and Argentina are third equal on 46 with Portugal, France, Austria and Croatia all within 14 points of the Kiwis. Australia and Britain look set for a gold duel on 16 and 17 points respectively.
Andrew Murdoch has finished fifth in the Laser class, matching his effort from Beijing. The 30-year-old has had four podium finishes at world championships but has not converted at two Olympics.
The women's Elliott crew have been eliminated (finishing ninth) while seventh-placed boardsailor JP Tobin and second-placed women's 470 crew Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie had rest days.
Earlier in the regatta Dan Slater finished seventh in the Finn. Star sailors Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner came fifth. Sara Winther was 20th in the Laser Radial.