With the weight of the world off their backs after securing their fourth consecutive 49er World Championships title earlier this week, Peter Burling and Kerikeri sailor Blair Tuke now only have to withstand the weight of a nation as the Microsoft Surface Team of the Year finalists do battle against some formidable opponents at tonight's 53rd Halberg Awards.
Facing off against current supreme Halberg Award holders Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, Burling and Tuke will also need to fend off the back-to-back Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks side, as well as hit the Black Caps - New Zealand's first men's team to reach a Cricket World Cup final - for six if they're to successfully stake their claim on the prestigious accolade.
Four-time world champions in the 49er, and with a streak off 24 straight regatta victories, superior boat handling, tactical brilliance and great teamwork are among the campaign assets which have set the star duo - the 2015 ISAF World Sailors of the Year - apart from their rivals.
The pair is coached by Hamish Willcox, a three-time World Champion in the Olympic men's 470 class himself, who is up for the Coach of the Year award against Steve Hansen (rugby), Gordan Walker (canoeing), and Mike Hesson (cricket).
Another sportsperson with strong ties to Northland, Tai Wynyard is in the mix for an award at tonight's ceremony.
Wynyard is a finalist for the Emerging Talent award.
The full list of finalists for the 53rd Halberg Awards:
* High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportsman of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award): Daniel Carter (Rugby), Danny Lee (Golf), Kane Williamson (Cricket), Scott Dixon (Motorsport)
* High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award): Lauren Boyle (Swimming), Linda Villumsen (Cycling), Lisa Carrington (Canoeing), Lydia Ko (Golf).
* Disabled Sportsperson of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award): Corey Peters (Para-Skiing), Michael Johnson (Para-Shooting), Nikita Howarth (Para-Swimming), Sophie Pascoe (Para-Swimming).
* Microsoft Surface Team of the Year (Eligible for the supreme Halberg Award): All Blacks
(Rugby), Black Caps (Cricket), Men's Pair; Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (Rowing), Men's 49er Class; Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (Yachting).
* Sky Next Emerging Talent: Campbell Stewart (Cycling), Dylan Schmidt (Trampoline), Eliza
McCartney (Athletics), Tai Wynyard (Basketball).
* Coach of the Year: Gordon Walker (Canoeing), Hamish Willcox (Yachting), Mike Hesson (Cricket), Steve Hansen (Rugby).