Peter Burling doesn't talk in superlatives, having always adopted the laidback-Kiwi-kid attitude, but he's clear on one thing.

"I suppose I have a pretty good feel for how to make a boat go fast," he said after winning silver with Blair Tuke in the 49er at the London Olympics.

It's that ability which will soon see the 24-year-old helm Team New Zealand's next America's Cup campaign, replacing Dean Barker. It was an inevitable transition and something, it could be argued, Burling was destined to do.

Many years ago he was touted as the next Russell Coutts. That's Sir Russell Coutts, who won Olympic gold in the Finn class in 1984, three world matchracing titles and four America's Cups. He has a perfect 20 wins and no defeats in America's Cup history.


Peter Burling back in 2003, when he was learning the ropes. Photo / Mark McKeown

That's quite some CV but Burling is already amassing an impressive one of his own.

Burling won his first world title at 15, was New Zealand's youngest Olympic sailor when he competed as a 17-year-old in Beijing and in London in 2012 became the second-youngest Kiwi sailor behind Bruce Kendall (1984) to win an Olympic medal.

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Last year he was undefeated with Tuke in the 49er class, adding a second world title by a staggering 46 points. Last month he won the moth world championships, beating off a high-class field stacked with America's Cup sailors including Barker.

It was little wonder Emirates Team New Zealand added Burling and Tuke to their stable last year but the pair still have designs on winning Olympic gold in Rio next year.

Burling's Olympic coach Hamish Willcox says Burling is more than capable of stepping up to helm Team New Zealand but was wary of throwing him in the deep.

Burling and Blair Tuke, left, after claiming the 49er silver medal at the London Olympics. Photo / Mark McKeown

"There's still a lot of experience required for him to make a good fist of it and that's where those older, more senior members of the team need to make sure if he's going to take that position, that he's well equipped," Willcox told Radio Sport.

"He's still got a lot of development, too, so what needs to happen is America's Cup sailors, experienced ones, they really need to take a lead with Pete and give him that experience under their guidance."


Willcox said the skills obtained in the Olympic classes can be paramount to success on the larger America's Cup yachts and that Burling and Tuke have managed their workloads well up until now, and that shouldn't change.

"They really want to prioritise winning an Olympic gold medal and I think that they're quite capable of doing that and absorbing the extra responsibility if that were to happen."

Burling is unlikely to get too fazed by the hype and interest around him - he's not that kind of individual - and has lived with the comparisons with Coutts for some time.

"Russell has been one of my sporting heroes," he said in 2012. "It's really impressive how he won the gold in 1984 and managed to go on and now he's Mr America's Cup; winning it again and again for different nations and teams. Just an amazing yachtsman.

"It's a big mantle. But the expectations we put on ourselves outweigh the expectations others put on us. We have always got pressure and expectations. I think it's one of things Blair and I do pretty well. We don't get too wound up about things and don't change too much. We go in and get on with the job at hand."

Helming Team New Zealand is a big job but one Burling seems well equipped to do handle.


Peter Burling
Tauranga-born Peter Burling is one of the hottest sailing talents around. At 24, the helmsman is already an Olympic medallist, two-time Olympian and double world champion.

• He is the youngest ever sailor to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games. He was 17 when he competed in the 470 class with Carl Evans, also 17. At the time Evans was at the helm and Burling crewed.

• He was at the helm in the 49er skiff class when he and Blair Tuke won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

• He has five world championship titles under his belt - in the 49er skiff in 2013 and 2014 and in the 420 class during 2006 and 2007. In January, he beat Dean Barker to win the prestigious moth world championship.

• The sailor signed with Emirates Team New Zealand in January last year. His 49er teammate Tuke also signed.

• Burling shared the Emirates Team New Zealand skipper's duties with Barker over the eight-regatta Extreme Sailing series last year.


• He has won New Zealand Young Sailor of the Year four times.

• He was named 2013 New Zealand Sailors of the Year with Tuke.

• Burling skippered the NZL Sailing Team to victory in the inaugural Youth America's Cup in 2013.