Sailing: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

It would be understandable if Kiwi sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke had some difficulty in selecting the highlight of their podium-topping year in the 49er class.

Clinching the win at the Rio International regatta -- a test event for the 2016 Olympics -- was a significant marker in their quest for Olympic gold in 18 months and their stunning come-from-behind win at the South American championships to complete an unbeaten year was a hugely satisfying result for the pair, particularly after missing the first three races.

But both Burling and Tuke were unequivocal about which result meant the most to them in 2014 -- defending their world championship crown in Santander, Spain.

While their win in 2013 came when some of their key rivals were involved with America's Cup campaigns, this year Burling and Tuke took on a full-strength fleet ... and dominated.


The pair won the event by an incredible 46 points, amassing six wins across 13 races including the medal race -- albeit gold was already assured before the double-points medal race -- and finished outside the top six only once in race 11 when a collision disrupted their race.

"The definite highlight was the worlds in Santander," said Burling, who turns 24 tomorrow. "To step up and perform at our peak event is pretty pleasing."

Their perfect year comes at a time when Burling and Tuke have significantly increased the workload away from their Olympic campaign, juggling Team New Zealand commitments and the extra media and sponsorship demands that come with being newly acknowledged rockstars in their sport.

The Olympic silver medallists signed with Emirates Team New Zealand in January as the team sought fresh, young talent to rejuvenate the syndicate following last year's painful America's Cup loss.

Burling and Tuke's decision to link up with the Kiwi syndicate midway through another Olympic campaign have raised some concerns that their Team New Zealand commitments may distract them from their quest for gold in 2016.

But their impressive run of results this year suggests that they aren't in any danger of taking their eyes off the Olympic prize.

Their goals for 2015 are firmly set around their 49er campaign, too, with the Rio Olympic test event in August and the world championships in Argentina the twin targets for next year.

The pair plan "two or three trips" to Rio next year to help further familiarise themselves with what they could face at the Games. "It's definitely a tricky place to sail," Burling said. "The amazing landscape of Rio makes pretty unstable conditions, but we enjoy those trickier conditions.


"We haven't spent a lot of time in South America ... but it's important to feel as comfortable as possible onshore as well as off it."