New Zealand sailor Peter Burling admits he's had a few "hairy moments" out on San Francisco Bay this week as he comes to grips with handling the high-tech AC45 catamarans.
The Olympic silver medallist will debut in the America's Cup World Series tomorrow, skippering Team Korea in the match racing qualifiers.
Burling joined the team only a week ago, after getting a surprise call-up to replace Australian Nathan Outteridge, Burling's conqueror in the 49er class in London who has jumped ship to lead Artemis' second boat.
After an intensive week of training, Burling said he is happy with the progress he has made and is looking forward to testing himself against some of the sport's greats, including his childhood heroes Dean Barker and Russell Coutts.
"I've had four or five days on the water now and the amount I learn every time we go out is pretty huge, but I'm really enjoying it and can't wait to get out there," Burling said.
"I've had a few hairy moments - I've seen the rudder under the back of the boat a few times - but the boys are all pretty good with that sort of stuff."
Team Korea finished a creditable third at the last ACWS event in San Francisco, a result that prompted Artemis to offer Outteridge a contract, but Burling said he doesn't feel under any pressure to match that result in this week's regatta.
"I suppose it took [Outteridge] a few events to get going, so I don't feel like there's too much pressure on me," he said. "I only got the call about three days before I flew out and haven't had much time to prepare for it at all."
Burling may not be feeling the pressure, but Outteridge's switch to Swedish outfit Artemis has certainly put the heat on their No 1 skipper, Terry Hutchinson.
The veteran sailor, who finished sixth at the last ACWS event in San Francisco, will continue to be at the helm of Artemis White, while Outteridge takes over on Artemis Red.
Hutchinson said the young Australian is a strong addition to the team.
"He's a great sailor and has proved incredibly successful in the 49er. My first instinct is that he is a really good guy and has come in to help make the Artemis team better.
"I think any pressure that we have comes from the outside world, not the inside world, and one of the things we have to do a good job of as a team is have an environment where we all can succeed. At the end of the day we have to prepare both of us to be good on the day if needs be."
Burling's Team Korea will be first on the water tomorrow when they face off against Luna Rossa Piranha, skippered by Chris Draper.
Team New Zealand will race the third match of the day against Artemis Red.
NZH mb lbBy Dana Johannsen Email Dana