World sailor of the year, and master of understatement.

Peter Burling's unflappable nature was once again revealed when he received the news late Wednesday night he had picked up world sailing's top prize. The Team New Zealand helmsman and double Olympic medallist was anointed world sailor of the year after being recognised for his crucial role in the Kiwi challenger's victory at the 35th America's Cup.

It was the second time in three years Burling has received the award, but the first time he had been honoured as an individual having picked up the top prize alongside Olympic 49er teammate Blair Tuke in 2015.

Burling, who is currently competing in the Volvo Ocean Race aboard Team Brunel, was, quite literally, all at sea when he was notified of the accolade.


The crew on board Brunel delivered the news their teammate after a receiving message from Burling's parents, Richard and Heather, which read: "Huge congrats mate, world sailor of the year! Well-deserved. Love you heaps. Hope all going well for you. Mum and Dad".

Burling's reaction - his trademark chuckle and sheepish grin - seemed to baffle his teammates.

"It's awesome. Really cool year up in Bermuda," Burling said before shifting his attention to the horizon.

"It's just awesome to get that accolade but we're pushing hard here. Struggling a bit at the moment but that's alright," he added, referring to Team Brunel's positioning towards the back of the fleet early on in leg two from Lisbon to Cape Town.

Burling's unemotive response was perhaps fitting. His nerveless performances at the helm of Team NZ in his first America's Cup was one of the great storylines of the Kiwi team's victorious campaign in Bermuda.

This is the most animated Peter Burling got at the America's Cup. Photo / Photosport
This is the most animated Peter Burling got at the America's Cup. Photo / Photosport

The 26-year-old's composure and apparent relaxed state at the wheel was a constant source of wise cracks from the race commentators, who were bemused by Burling's "driving Miss Daisy" approach.

Pitted against defender and regatta overlords Oracle Team USA on the opening day of racing - a highly anticipated re-match between the victor and vanquished of the 34th America's Cup match in San Francisco - Burling looked positively nonchalant about going toe-to-toe with the uber-aggressive Jimmy Spithill.

"Gee Peter Burling looks stressed in his first America's Cup," one of the commentators joked.

"He looks like he is about to go to sleep," the other replied.

But it was ultimately his freakish skill, strategic brilliance and courage that saw Burling - a match-racing novice going into the America's Cup, albeit with a pretty handy track record in the Olympic classes - take out the award.

After being schooled by Spithill in the early stages of the regatta, he transformed from a gun-shy driver in the start-box, to the wily aggressor at the start-line, in little over a fortnight (although some have suggested Burling was deliberately playing dead in the early races), winning all but one start in the nine races it took for Team NZ to secure the Auld Mug

With Burling reluctant to go overboard about his latest accolade, it was up to his Team Brunel crewmates to make a big fuss. Well, some of them.

Kyle Langford, the wing-trimmer aboard vanquished defender Oracle Team USA, found it hard to muster enthusiasm.

"I'm absolutely thrilled for him, couldn't be happier," the Australian deadpanned, before adding: "To win world sailor of the year two times obviously shows he's a pretty good sailor, up against the best of the best, and to win it in different disciplines - the America's Cup and the Olympics is seriously impressive."

Team Brunel's navigator, Andrew Cape, joked having Burling on board was "like having Mick Jagger in your garage band".

If Mick Jagger was entirely unaware of his rock star status, maybe.