Peter Burling & Blair Tuke: champions and future heroes
If you peered into a crystal ball at the future of New Zealand yachting, the chances are very high you would see Peter Burling and Blair Tuke sailing front and centre.
The young Kiwi sailing duo have already taken the sailing world by storm – with an Olympic silver medal and a boat-full of national and world titles to their names. And now they have been charged with injecting their talent, youth and enthusiasm into the next New Zealand campaign to win back the holy grail of yachting, the America’s Cup.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke grew up in different corners of New Zealand, learning the ropes in very different types of sailing dinghy. But fate bought the two sailors together and their natural chemistry saw them quickly tack and gybe to the top of the world.
Burling grew up in Tauranga, spending his first summers in the family fizz boat on the Rotorua lakes, before his father introduced him and his older brother to the Optimist dinghy – the first sailing boat of so many Kiwi kids.
At the age of 12, he won his first Optimist nationals, outclassing his 15-year-old rivals, and two years later, was top of the country’s Starling fleet. At 15, he was crowned world champion in the 420 class, with crewmate Carl Evans. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 17-year-old Burling was the youngest athlete competing in yachting, and the youngest sailor to ever represent New Zealand at an Olympics. Burling and Evans finished 11th in the 420s.
Tuke had grown up in the Northland town of Kerikeri, mucking about in an old P-Class dinghy with his friends before he got serious about sailing at Kerikeri High School – a breeding ground for some of the country’s top young sailors.
He was representing New Zealand in the Splash dinghy at the age of 14, and before he reached the age of 20, Tuke had two world titles to his name – in the Splash and the 29er skiff.
In 2009, Burling and Tuke decided to pair up in the two-man 49er skiff and launch a campaign to get to the 2012 London Olympics. They quickly found a rhythm, and sailed their way on to the medal dais at regattas around the world.
At the 2012 Olympics sailed off Weymouth, the duo claimed silver – winning New Zealand’s 100th Olympic Games medal. Their winning ways continued the following year when they won their first world 49er championship, and were awarded the 2013 New Zealand Sailor of the Year title.
Always looking for a new challenge, Burling and Tuke got their first taste of America’s Cup action that same year, winning the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup off San Francisco, with Burling at the helm and Tuke calling tactics for the New Zealand team.
Suddenly in demand by America’s Cup teams around the globe, Burling and Tuke achieved a shared lifetime dream by signing up with Team New Zealand in January 2014, as part of the sailing crew preparing for the next Cup challenge.
Still in their mid-20s, they are aiming for another shot at Olympic glory – leaping back into the 49er in a bid to win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
What more will they add to their story...