Tokyo Olympics 2021: Blair Tuke and Peter Burling shift focus on golden double

Encouraging signs for New Zealand’s reigning 49er Olympic sailing champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke as they switch their full focus into winning another gold medal in Tokyo.

The champion duo are in managed isolation at an Auckland hotel having returned to New Zealand late last week following a three-week training block in Spain after the Sail GP season opener in Bermuda.

Tuke says he and Burling were able to test themselves against most of the top crews they will face in Enoshima during their three weeks in Santander in northern Spain.

“It was hugely important for our build-up to Tokyo. We haven’t spent much time in the boat over the last year,” Tuke said.

“We have managed to get in bits of pieces where we can. Our last really solid block was in October when we got a couple of weeks up in Tutukaka in Northland. Since then we had the America’s Cup focus then into the first event of Sail GP.

“The three weeks in Spain were really good sailing against most of the best European teams who have been sailing more than us. It was really important to check in with how we are going. But also just racing the best guys is the best way for you to get back in shape. We are relatively happy with how we are going but plenty of work over the next couple of months.”

Burling and Tuke went to Spain with another Kiwi crew, Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn and their results were impressive during two regattas in Santander.

“In the couple of practice regattas we had over there, we managed to win one and Logan and Oscar won the other one,” Tuke said.

Burling and Tuke will emerge from MIQ over Queens Birthday weekend, at the same time as their New Zealand teammates with a couple of reinforcements compete in the second leg of Sail GP in Taranto in Italy.

The duo will also miss the third event of the Championship in Plymouth in the UK (July 17-19) before re-joining the team for the fourth event in Denmark in August after the Olympics.

“We are certainly into the final push for Tokyo. It has been a strange old Olympic campaign with the delay and adjusting to that and refocusing. We would have loved to have been in Italy and Plymouth but the Olympics are very important to us and we have put in a lot of hard work to this point and we really want to do it justice,” Tuke said.

Burling and Tuke will spend a couple of weeks training with other New Zealand crews when they emerge from quarantine before heading to a pre-Olympic camp in Mooloolaba in Queensland for a few weeks before heading to Tokyo.

“We will link up with the Australian crew, so we should get 10 to 15 boats there, which are just a little bit smaller than an Olympic size fleet so it will be good preparation for Tokyo.”

Tuke says they should get around 10 days on the water at Enoshima before their Olympic campaign begins in late July and he’s confident they will adapt quickly given they went there several times in 2019 and won the Olympic test event.

Having finished an America’s Cup campaign with Team New Zealand and having been to Bermuda for the start of their first Sail GP campaign, Tuke says it’s good to now have the chance to focus 100 percent on preparing for their Olympic 49er title defence.

“We are lucky that we have 10 or 12 years of experience on our side of sailing the 49er together. That’s been the crux of what we’ve achieved in is being around the 49er.

“To start with we have both thoroughly enjoyed being back in the boat in the harness and there is a huge amount of hunger in the group (which includes coach Hamish Willcox and performance planner Dave Slyfield) over the next couple of months and getting to where we need to be to try to win a gold medal for New Zealand.”

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