Peter Burling is set to have a crack at sailing's triple crown, with the Olympic gold medallist and America's Cup winner having signed with Team Brunel for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race.
As first revealed by the Herald, Burling will join the Dutch-flagged team in the next stage of the qualifying race - referred to as "leg zero" - from Plymouth to St Malo beginning overnight. The addition of Burling to the crew for the next stage is the first real signal of his intent to do the iconic round the world race having been coy about his plans up until now.
Team Brunel have yet to finalise their crew for the race, which gets under way in Alicante, Spain in late October, with Burling the seventh sailor to sign on. The Herald understands the 26-year-old may only take part in selected legs however, with Burling reluctant to commit to a full campaign after an exceptionally busy few years. After winning gold at the Rio Olympics, Burling had barely a week off before linking back up with Team New Zealand for testing and development.
"Round the world ocean racing has always excited me and I'm stoked to be part of Team Brunel on this epic edition. I can't wait to be thrown into the challenge of extreme offshore racing and broaden my skills and sailing experience," said Burling.
Burling's inclusion in the Dutch team will see him go head-to-head with his Olympic sailing partner and close mate, Blair Tuke, who will be on board Spanish team Mapfre.
The pair are in the hunt to become the first sailor in history to pull off the triple crown by becoming and Olympic, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race champion, but unlike their previous successes, they cannot pull it off together.
"It's going to be awesome racing against Tukey!" said Burling.
"We have huge respect for each others skill and talent and we are each other's biggest supporters. We are both in a position to gain amazing experience to bring to our future sailing goals. I look forward to sharing a few stories and beers with him in port."
Like Mapfre, Team Brunel, skippered by ocean racing veteran Bouwe Bekking, is a well-established team and considered one of the frontrunners for the 2017-18 edition. After the first two stages of "leg zero" Mapfre lead the rankings on 15 points, while Brunel are tied for second with Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team.
Burling may have a compatriot on board Team Brunel, with fellow double Olympic medallist Jo Aleh in trials with the Dutch team. Aleh was on board for the first two stages of leg zero, and is expected to find out over the next week if she has been selected.
If Aleh signs up, she will be the first New Zealand woman to do the round the world race in 15 years.