Blair Tuke is dampening down expectations for the New Zealand team ahead of the Sail GP season kicking off in Bermuda this weekend.
It's the second year of the eight-round series raced in F50 catamarans, which features a New Zealand team for the first time and has Christchurch hosting the seventh leg of the series in January next year.
The New Zealand team, which is skippered by Team New Zealand's America's Cup-winning helmsman Peter Burling, is up against Australia, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Japan, Spain and the United States.
Many of Burling's America's Cup rivals are involved with Ineos Team UK's Sir Ben Ainslie heading up the British team and Jimmy Spithill joining the American team. Australia are the defending champions.
Tuke, who arrived in Bermuda with the rest of the team last Saturday, says it's been a steep learning curve for the Kiwis.
"We are racing against the best sailors in the world and a lot of those sailors have spent a considerable amount of time on these boats," Tuke told the Herald.
The New Zealand team has had to borrow opposition boats for the first few days, only taking possession of their black boat named Amokura, the Māori name of the red-tailed tropic bird, in the past 24 hours.
Tuke says they are definitely in catch up mode.
"For us we have got to try and learn as quickly as we can and develop our roles on the boat to try and catch up to the level they are at. For us the long goal is holding the trophy at the end of season two so we are not coming into the first event here in Bermuda with super high expectations on the overall result. But it's more a learning curve for us to try to develop our systems for the remainder of the season."
The 31-year-old is relishing competing in a series where the boats are identical in every aspect, meaning sailing skills, rather than having the advantage of being in the best boat, will determine the outcome.
"Sail GP being one design you have to eke out all the advantages you can in the settings and the way you sail it to try to get the boat going faster than other teams and then ultimately get around the racetrack quicker," Tuke said.
Tuke has also revealed a change of role for him compared to sailing on Te Rehutai in the America's Cup defence where he was flight controller.
"I am actually trimming the wing sail so the wing trimmer and Andy Maloney has shifted into the flight control role."
Returning to Bermuda for the first time since Team New Zealand won the America's Cup in 2017 has brought back special memories for Tuke who is looking forward to fleet racing in a fast foiling boat for the first time in his career.
"This is the first series where you have boats going this fast racing in a fleet-style race. Before you [only] had the America's Cup where races are going this sort of speed in match racing. So to have eight boats on the start line in these sorts of races is going to make for some spectacular sailing."
Much like in the recent America's Cup in Auckland, Tuke says getting a good start is important in Sail GP.
"Back to reaching starts with this style of racing - you will see eight boats on the start line going 90 to 100 degrees to the wind in any sort of breeze at pretty good pace, so the start is important and then the first turning mark and it will be quick from there. So it's going to be new for us, we have never done this sort of style but absolutely loving the challenge and what we have ahead of us."
Racing takes place on the Great Bermuda Sound on Sunday and Monday morning. There are three races each day lasting approximately 15 minutes each.
Adjusting to live in a Covid environment has also been challenging over the last few days for the Kiwi team.
"I'm not hiding away from the fact it's very different to how we lived in New Zealand for the last year," Tuke lamented. "Bermuda went into lockdown before we arrived. We basically go between the hotels here, the boat yard and out on to the water. We have a bubble within our team, so you see the other teams (from a distance) and say gidday but that's about it unfortunately."
While he is downplaying New Zealand's chances over the weekend, Tuke expects the series to be even with great depth to all the teams.
"Out of the eight teams they will all win races over the season. I think Ben Ainslie and his crew set a benchmark in Sydney last year. We might not be quite there for the first event, we would love to be but will definitely be in the mix for the rest of the season."
After Bermuda the circuit heads to Taranto in Italy in early June. It's followed by Plymouth in England in July and rounds in Denmark, France and Spain before the Christchurch event on the 29th and 30th of January next year. The final event is in San Francisco in late March 2022.
Day 1 & 2 of racing, coverage from 5am on Sky Sport 3 or streamed on Sky Sport Now