Loving our midwinter pit stop in NZ, nothing like home

On the winners podium - 49er Europeans, Finland.
NZL Sailing Team
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are back in New Zealand and report on their Extreme Sailing Series experience, the Auckland Fiji Race, and their defence of their European 49er Champions title

We have been back in NZ for the last 10 days having just completed the Rio de Janeiro '2-year-out Olympic Sailing Test Event'.

This was our first chance to start sussing out the 2016 Olympic sailing waters. Photo below has us practicing with the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in the background.

We’ve been keeping ourselves pretty busy since our last update (May) when we headed to China for our first event with ETNZ in the Extreme 40 catamarans.

Below is a quick chronological summary of our adventures …

May … With catamaran guru Glenn Ashby on the main, Jero Lomas on bow and Edwin Delaat we were up to speed quickly in Qingdao and managed our first podium finish (3rd) on the Extreme 40 World series. With the X40’s lack of manoeuvrability, compared to the 49er, you have to plan so far ahead on the tight 8 minute stadium courses.

Another Zhik testing team member, Peter Burling - aboard Wired - 2014 ANZ Fiji Race

June … We both competed in the Auckland Fiji ocean race starting with a few days of strong wind on the nose - two thirds of the way there our 50 foot canting keel boats were in sight of each other. Blair’s boat 'V5' slowly pulled away to lead Pete’s boat 'Wired' by a couple of hours into Denarau after nearly 6 days racing. Fun few days hanging out and surfing before getting back to NZ to get our flight to Europe.

The beautiful city of St Petersburg was our next stop on the X40 World series for ETNZ. We were racing on the river Neva, right outside the world famous Palace Embankment and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Plenty of current (up to 3 knots) and a shifty wind coming around the historic buildings made for some interesting racing. Ray Davies was subbed in for Glenn for this Act. We felt we were sailing much better as a team, after winning the last race we just missed second overall by 2 points.

Practicing with the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in the background at Rio
NZL Sailing Team

July … Then it was off to Helsinki to defend our 49er European title. Temperatures as low as 4 deg C the week before had us scrambling for our thickest wetsuits. Luckily the weather settled and we even had some amazing days in the mid 20s. Qualifying had a mixture of conditions - day 3 was fresh. Our 4 races on this day produced a couple of wins and 3 capsizes shedding a bit of blood for the cause but we did avoid the hidden rocks – a GBR team hit a rock the day before, breaking their centreboard and splitting their hull.

Day 1 of Gold fleet was one of our better days, winning all three races. Photo above has a nice port tack start. We won 10 of the 16 races over the regatta to retain our European 49er title. Really pleased with how we sailed but still have plenty of things to work on.

Video of 49er medal races starts at 1hr 16min, Interview at 2:32:18 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56hBu_SKGK0

Another long flight had us in Rio for the Test event – 2 years out from the Olympics. Practice with the team on all the different course areas was great value. The sailing window was very limited with the breeze mostly not arriving till after noon and then darkness just after 5pm – winter in Brazil.

Blair Tuke dockside - 2014 ANZ Fiji Race

Our three course areas were all inside the bay surrounded by mountains – Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer etc meaning that the wind was rather gusty and shifty, significant current and flotsam all adding to the challenge. We were all looking forward to the Olympic Test event regatta with all the top 49ers competing – a chance to put into practice some of the weeks before learning and log some new conditions.

The day before racing Blair went down with the flu but managed to battle through the week.

August … Day 1 of the Test Event – the wind was the most we’d seen so far, anything from 6 to 18 knots. Boats were heading downwind at the same angle but on different jibes, heads out of the boat was the order of the day. A good day was hurt by an unexpected capsize while leading race 4, leaving us with a big job of getting back to the front.

Burling and Tuke approach Christ the Redeemer - Day 7 - Aqueece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014

Day 2 saw no wind, with only another 3 races completed on Days 3 and 4.

With only 7 of the 12 qualifying races sailed, the results were really close going into the top 10 medal races - we went in with a narrow lead after winning the last qualifying race. A solid medal race day had us take out the regatta. See photo above of the medal race course under Sugar Loaf Mountain.

We still have plenty to learn about the Olympic race course conditions but we’re really pleased with our start so far. Our boat is now all packed up in storage all ready for our next trip back to Rio.

Loving our midwinter pit stop in NZ, nothing like home.

Next stop Santander, for our 49er Worlds. Racing starts 15th Sept … Cheers Pete and Blair

Peter Burling, Ray Davies, & Blair Tuke take a breather between races on the final day of Act 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series in St Petersburg, Russia

Burling works out whether to go to the left, right or over the top - 2014 49er and 49erFX European Championships - Day 5

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke with coach Hamish Willcox - 2014 49er and 49erFX European Championships - Final Day 5

Burling and Tuke climb over the Australian 49er crew - Day 7 - Aqueece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014