Yachting: Burling and Tuke join Team NZ

By Paul Lewis

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke claimed silver in London in the 49er class. Photo / onEdition
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke claimed silver in London in the 49er class. Photo / onEdition

Emirates Team New Zealand's first move towards the next America's Cup - likely to be in San Francisco in 2017 - was to give a glimpse of the future today with the selection of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke as the newest members of the team.

They will be part of the ETNZ effort in fielding two AC45 catamarans in the next international campaign building up to the next Cup. But it is clear that the long-term intent is for the pair to become key members of the team - and not just in a sailing sense.

That 23-year-old Burling and Tuke (24) were chosen is no surprise; they have been building an ever higher profile as Olympic medallists in the 49er class and the pair led the crew that won the Red Bull Youth America's Cup last year - sailed between the Louis Vuitton Cup and theAmerica's Cup match.

They are also aiming for a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and have been noticed internationally by other syndicates. ETNZ boss Grant Dalton was quick to recognise that, by 2017, Team NZ would be needing new
blood.

"We thought that in 2014, we'd have a better start than 2013 had a finish,'' he said, "and we thought we'd start with a positive message. This organisation needs to grow and change. We came up short last time and if we are headed to 2017 and San Francisco for the next America's Cup, we have got to develop new guys and talent - and particularly Kiwi talent and particularly in the sailing team.

"There is no better talent than Blair and Peter.''

Dalton said some of the Team New Zealand yachtsmen could not be retained "because we can't afford it'' and some would just not be retained ("that's sport''). It was up to people like Burling and Tuke not only to challenge for a spot in the sailing team in 2017 but also to help keep the healthy ETNZ brand alive.

While details of the next America's Cup are still yet to be divulged by holders Oracle Team USA, their discussions with the challenger of record, Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, are advanced and Dalton said he was pleased with how things were progressing.

"It's looking like we have got a [real] challenger of record this time and not a puppet like we have been dealing with for the last 10 years.''

Those discussions mean that it is almost certain that there will be international racing in the AC45s (the 45-ft catamarans as opposed to the 72-foot AC72s used in the America's Cup match last year) - and Dalton said ETNZ were planning on fielding two AC45s in 2015 as opposed to one last time round. That would be Burling and Tuke's focus as sailors.

"As the team goes forward, it [where Burling and Tuke fit in] will become clearer. How we put this together will be figured out; it's not likely a case of the young guys being on one boat and the old guys on another - they will probably combine under Dean Barker, who will head the sailing team.

"However, that's the challenge for these guys [Burling and Tuke]. As we go forward, they can't just be involved in the sailing side; they need to be involved in more than just one aspect - they need to be involved in every aspect if they are to take over in the long run. They have to learn everything going about every part of the operation, not just sailing catamarans.''

That and winning a gold medal was the challenge for the pair.

Burling, who skippered the crew to victory in the Youth America's Cup, said he and Tuke were committed to going one better than their silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"Having spent four years in the 49ers, we have a really good base there and we will be learning so many different skills [with ETNZ] that we think it can only be positive for our yachting.''

Tuke said: "Once it was clear we could do both and still give 100 per cent to the Olympics, we jumped at the opportunity. One [form of yachting] will help the other.''

- Herald on Sunday

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