He might have finished second in the New Zealand Keelboat nationals but Tauranga sailor Peter Burling has won rave comparisons to the likes of Russell Coutts and Chris Dickson.
The 17-year-old Tauranga Boys' College Olympian stunned his older rivals in a classy fleet, finishing only behind Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker with his five-strong, fully professional crew on the Waitemata harbour.
Burling beat Barker in both races on Saturday and the regatta-hardened Barker needed every trick to hold out the schoolboy in Sunday's racing, hosted by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.
Club spokesman Kevin Robertson said Burling emerged as the clear crowd favourite by the end of the regatta.
``To finish second overall in that fleet _ that was the best fleet of quality sailors in New Zealand for a long, long time,' Robertson said. ``You had America's Cup sailors, round the world sailors and most of the Olympic team were there, either as crew or helming.
``People are starting to realise that Peter is something special just by what he does in whatever class he's in.' The 20-strong fleet all raced new Platu 25 boats in the first time they'd been in the water.
Burling represented the Elliot 5.9 class, in which he is current national champion, with father Richard, Blair Tuke, Cam Horn and Andy Robertson also in his crew.
Tuke and Burling are set to partner each other for a crack at the 2012 Olympics in a 49er boat.
The team had never sailed together as a combination and for three of them _ Tuke and both Burlings _ it was the biggest boat they had ever raced.
The helmsman also had a quick dash home after the first day, heading back from Auckland to attend the Tauranga Boys' prizegiving, and he has exams starting at school today.
Barker's experience eventually saw his crew winning the regatta by 10 points, with Burling second and the Wellington crew, headed by 21-year-old Josh Junior, in third.
``I think we might have to up the minimum age for America's Cup sailors in order to keep our jobs,' Barker quipped at the prizegiving.
Robertson, meanwhile, is also predicting a huge future for double world 420 champion Burling.
``He is definitely of Russell Coutts or Chris Dickson calibre.
``He's head and shoulders above any of his peers, probably in the world now, because of what he did with the 420s at the Olympics.'
Tauranga was also represented by Ross Currie (helm) and his team of Mark Findlay, Hansie Echolze, Allan Fullerton and Richard Dent, who missed a place in the gold fleet, finishing seventh in the silver fleet.