Peter Burling has completed his first regatta at the helm of Team New Zealand with a podium finish at the Extreme Sailing Series in China, maintaining the top three spot on the overall standings established by Dean Barker.
The 22-year-old Olympic silver medallist, who is splitting the regattas on the circuit with Barker as Emirates Team New Zealand look to groom new talent, guided the Kiwi boat to third in Qingdao - the same venue he made his Olympic debut at just 17 - with a consistent run of results over the four days. The final day produced boisterous conditions, with gusts of up to 25 knots blasting across the course, creating chaos.
Even with the 12-boat fleet split into two groups of six to minimise the risk of collision, there was still carnage, with overall leaders Alinghi involved in what has been described as the biggest crash in the series' eight-year history. The Swiss team were T-boned by the Red Bull sailing team as they maneuvered in the start box, forcing both boats out of the final races with extensive damage. Despite watching the final races from the dock, Alinghi still topped the podium in Qingdao after the international jury awarded them a redress - much to the relief of skipper Morgan Larson.
"It's great to have won, we had such a great regatta that it was bittersweet to end that way, but I think we earned it so it feels good. We're just glad that no one was hurt and that the boat is repairable - it will take a week in a good boat yard, but it will be back and ready to race," he said.
In the race for the remaining podium spots, Burling kept a cool head to hold off the defending series champions The Wave, Muscat to take third place and keep the pressure on the overall leaders..
Burling, who was joined in the crew by his Olympic sailing partner Blair Tuke, Glenn Ashby, Jeremy Lomas and Edwin Delaat, said it was a good result considering it is the first time the group have sailed together, but having been in the position to challenge for a top-two placing, he was disappointed not to finish any higher than third.
"I suppose there's a little disappointment that we couldn't get there. Coming into the start of the week we would have been pretty happy getting a third, so as the week goes on you seem to up your expectations - but overall we're really happy to come away with a podium and keep in contact with the top guys on the overall series rankings."
Burling will again be at the helm for the next regatta in St Petersburg, Russia at the end of next month.
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 overall standings
1 Alinghi (SUI) 28 points
2 The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 26 points
3 Emirates Team New Zealand 24 point
4 Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 22 points
5 Gazprom Team Russia 15 points
6 Groupama sailing team (FRA) 12 points
7 Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 11 points
8 J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 10 points
9 SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 9 points
10 Oman Air 8 points
11 GAC Pindar (AUS) 3 points