Two young Tauranga sailors are on the same pathway that helped kick start Olympian Peter Burling's career.

Lachlan Dillon, 12, and Joel Kennedy, 13, will represent New Zealand for the first time at the IODA Cinnamon Optimist Asian and Oceanian Championship that begins on Saturday in Sri Lanka.

The Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club (TYPBC) members are well aware that a 12-year-old Burling won the New Zealand Optimist Nationals (under-16) and also competed at the world championships the same year.

Lachlan, who attends Aquinas College, says it was great spending time with Burling over the summer.


"It is nice having someone like that around in the club. It is quite cool because you get to see what you need to do to get up to that level," Lachlan said.

"It is helpful seeing how he trains and figuring out what you need to learn by how he does it. If you do the same things you might just be as good as him." Joel agrees there is no better role model for all the young sailors at TYPBC to follow.

"It is just like being on the right path knowing that you are going to be doing pretty cool things when you are older," the Otumoetai College student said.

"Like leaving college you might be going to the Olympics or something like that like he did."

Lachlan and Joel earned their places in the New Zealand team with top-class performances over four qualifying regattas.

TYPBC Sailing School manager John Revington is proud of the on-going programme Lachlan and Joel are part of.

"This year we employed coaches from Argentina, Ireland, UK and US as well as our own home-grown local coaches," Revington said.

"It is absolutely motivating the children.

"They can see what an international sport it is and what international opportunities there are for them.

"We're incredibly grateful for the support from Dean Bowden from Academy Cars for providing a car for our coaches. It has made a huge difference with our coaches being able to travel to regattas and better support our sailors out on the water."

The sailors do not have to look far for inspiration.

Four TYPBC sailors in Burling, Jason Saunders, Sam Meech and Molly Meech will compete at the Rio Olympics.

"It is incredibly special and I think any sporting club anywhere in the world would be incredibly excited to have so many people representing them at that level. It is just a phenomenal achievement," Revington said.

"Peter on his occasional forays back to the club has been fantastic at actually coming down and just having a word to our young sailors. You can see they just mob him.

"He is a rock star to them."