Yachting: Cup ambitions on hold while 49er champs nail Rio

By Michael Brown

As much as Peter Burling and Blair Tuke would love to be in on an America's Cup campaign, it remains a long-term goal because the priority is winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The London silver medallists recently helped Team New Zealand win the Youth America's Cup in San Francisco sailed on the AC45s, the precursor to the bigger AC72s. Burling had sailed the boats before, having skippered Team Korea for a handful of races in the America's Cup world series, and has been tipped for a big future in the sport.

He clearly has a good partnership with Tuke, who acted as tactician during the Youth America's Cup, and the pair are two of the best of a promising bunch of young sailors emerging in New Zealand.

"I think we were already pretty excited to try to get involved in a bigger campaign of some sort," Burling said. "It was really cool to get involved in that little thing with our mates. We had to work pretty hard over the month to get the job done."

Tuke added: "We have already said we want to get a gold medal in Rio. It would be awesome to be a part of Team New Zealand at some stage but just when that might be, we'll see what happens."

What will happen next are the 49er world championships which start in Marseille, France, on Tuesday night (NZT). The pair have twice won silver at the world championships (2011 and 2012) to go with their Olympic silver but come into the regatta having won their last 49er event, the European championships in July.

It's taken them some time to find their groove again after stepping out of the AC45s and into a skiff but they're in a better position than their main rivals.

Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have dominated the class over the past few years but will come into the regatta cold, considering it's their first event since the Olympics. Outteridge, who has won three of the last four world championships (two with Jensen), helmed the failed Artemis America's Cup campaign and Jensen was wing trimmer.

"It definitely makes them vulnerable," Burling said. "But everyone is vulnerable at these kinds of things. That's one of the good things about the 49er class. I think there's anyone of about 10 to 15 teams who can win this thing if they sail well. They haven't done a lot of events recently but have a pretty good pedigree."

Burling is right to be cautious as there've been 11 different winners at major 49er regattas since London.

Fellow Kiwis Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski will also be among the 98 boats in the men's fleet and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech will be among the favourites in the women's 49erFX class.

The 49erFX will make its Olympic debut in Rio and Maloney and Meech are the world No 1-ranked combination, winning medals at all three major international regattas they've competed in so far. But it's still a new class and the rate of improvement across the fleet has been considerable.

- APNZ

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