Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are soon likely to return their attention to the America's Cup.

The Herald on Sunday understands they will officially be part of Team New Zealand's 2021 defence and may have already re-signed.

Sources described them as committed to the syndicate.

Negotiations are understood to have advanced in late summer while the pair were in port during the Auckland stopover after the sixth of 11 legs of the Volvo around-the-world legs.

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Sensitivities around contracts meant no one contacted wished to be quoted.

Any points of debate were expected to have hinged less on salaries and more around the pair's chances of defending their Olympic 49er gold medals at the Tokyo Games, which run from July 24- August 9, 2020.

Despite Burling and Tuke's Olympic pedigree, which also includes a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, they will require months to prepare.

That is likely to overlap with a crucial period building up to the America's Cup where, as defender, Team NZ would likely be perfecting their techniques on the next generation of boat in the Hauraki Gulf.

Still, Burling and Tuke have always been coveted by the syndicate.

One source described the pair as more interested in sailing for New Zealand - albeit under the Team NZ corporate banner - than testing the waters via the chequebooks of rival entries.

Their priority was believed to be ensuring the next generation of boat goes faster, and "making the country proud".

If so, their aspirations mirror what many Team New Zealand sailors from the victorious 1995 vintage wanted when Auckland first hosted the regatta in 2000.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have become two of New Zealand's most successful sailors in recent years. Photo / Photosport.nz
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have become two of New Zealand's most successful sailors in recent years. Photo / Photosport.nz

In April, the Herald reported Team NZ's Ray Davies confirmed Burling as skipper during a live Q&A session on Facebook.

"It's really exciting times for the team and, yeah, we have [signed him] - he is going to be the skipper," he said.

Glenn Ashby skippered the team in Bermuda and told the Herald in February he was returning for the 2021 campaign. However, his role with the team was still to be defined.

Davies said more than half the 2017 team had been signed for the next campaign but they weren't in a position to hire a full sailing squad with the regatta so distant.

"We've got a few key guys that are helping with the design and we'll build on that as it comes closer to the time."

The earliest date teams are allowed to launch is April 1 next year but the narrow window for development means that is more likely to extend to June.

Tuke and Burling missed out on securing sailing's triple crown last week with their respective Volvo Ocean Race boats MAPFRE and Team Brunel finishing second and third overall.

Both had the chance to achieve the feat on the final leg from Gothenburg, Sweden, to the The Hague, Netherlands.

The Dongfeng entry, including Kiwis Stu Bannatyne and Daryl Wislang, won the race.

- Additional reporting: Christopher Reive