Please select your home edition
Edition
Vaikobi 2019 - Leaderboard 3

The Ocean Race: Unfinished business

by Jonno Turner 18 May 08:04 PDT
Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 06 on board MAPFRE, speed record day. Blair Tuke with the main sheet, Xabi Fernandez at the aft pedestal. 25 May, 2018. © Ugo Fonolla / Volvo Ocean Race

Kiwi star Blair Tuke on trying to win the Race that 'pushes you like nothing else'.

When Blair Tuke looks back on his first crack at The Ocean Race, onboard MAPFRE, he describes it in two words: unfinished business.

His Spanish boat, led by Ocean Race veteran Xabi Fernández, came within minutes of winning the trophy for the first time in Spain's history heading into the final leg as one of three teams with a chance of victory, only to be beaten to the line by Dongfeng Race Team.

And, reflecting on the 2017-18 edition nearly a year down the line, Tuke pinpoints the Southern Ocean leg as a key turning point in his team's mission to win the trophy.

Racing between Auckland and Itajaí, MAPFRE's mainsail tore in half and they had to seek shelter and suspend racing at Cape Horn giving Tuke and co the unique tale of having rounded the Cape not once, not twice, but three times in just one leg!

"You do think back on the milestones like the Southern Ocean we had a hard time there, with many gear issues and the main splitting in two at Cape Horn, it was a tough experience," he explains.

"It was pretty disappointing for us in terms of the Race, and that leg really put us on the back foot. But you look back at those moments and realise how well you were bonded together, and we bounced back pretty well."

Indeed, MAPFRE kicked on from Brazil, and got right back into the running for the trophy winning the leg from Itajaí to Newport despite running out of food, and taking three podiums from the final four legs.

"Going into the race, you never know exactly how you're going to react when the pressure comes on and you're in difficult situations," he continues. "You don't get many more difficult situations than being in the Southern Ocean and dealing with conditions like there are down there.

"You learn a lot as a person, you learn a lot operating in a team environment, and seeing how each and everyone responds differently to that kind of pressure. I definitely feel like a much more well-rounded sailor and person after doing the Race."

The Ocean Race is known as one of sport's greatest endurance challenges with the world's best sailors pushing beyond limits through the most extreme conditions on the planet.

But what happens when the racing stops? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and for many, the comedown from the race can be just as tough as the racing.

"It is tough to transition back to normality after the Race," admits MAPFRE's Kiwi star Blair Tuke. "You've missed out on a lot while you're away, and your body has gone through a lot mentally and physically.

"It takes a while to get back into a normal routine, and it's probably the best part of six months before you feel yourself again."

For Tuke and his long-time partner, Pete Burling it's been a busy few years. A 49er gold medal at Rio 2016 was followed by an historic America's Cup win with Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017 and set up the Kiwi sailor for a bid at winning The Ocean Race to complete the 'Triple Crown' before the age of 30.

So when the Race came to an end, he took the opportunity to head home for a breather before turning his attention to new projects, including the America's Cup, the A-Class Worlds and the Olympic 49er class.

But despite having a packed schedule, Tuke and Burling both admit that they're watching The Ocean Race progress closely and are keen to be on the start line in 2021.

"We both have an eye on the next race for sure," Tuke confirms. "When we finished the last edition, we had unfinished business after what was a brutal finish for both of us. We'd love to go back and try to win the Race, and if we could do that for a Kiwi team that'd be pretty awesome. There's a lot to get to that point, we've got a lot in front of us already and a lot on our plate, but that's definitely the goal."

The Ocean Race is all new a new name, new logo and new boats. But, Tuke says, the spirit of the Race, and the attraction of racing around the world remains the same.

"The Race has changed over the years but what hasn't changed is that you're still racing around the world, and you've still got to do it out there in nature, in the elements. That'll never change.

"You'll always be pushed, no matter what boat you're racing on, or how many boats are racing against you. It's a combination of adventure and competition and I think these new boats in the IMOCA 60 class are going to be a bit more technology-focused and you're going to have to push harder to try and have a fast boat, but you're still out there, trying to get from A to B faster than someone else. It's going to be an awesome race."

With super-fast, foiling IMOCA 60 boats, the Race is certainly going to be a spectacle but there will be less space onboard, and it will be much more demanding of the sailors. Tuke believes that places a lot more emphasis on boat development.

"I don't think you can push much harder than we pushed last time in the Race there isn't much more you can do physically as a human but there will be bigger speed differences next time, so there's more onus on having a fast boat at the start of the Race," he says.

"With less people onboard you're going to need more well-rounded sailors. Every person onboard is going to have to be able to do the majority of roles, you're probably not going to have specific people, such as a bowman or a helmsman."

Kiwi favourite Bianca Cook and Race veteran Tony Rae have already announced a NZ campaign in the VO65 class but Tuke is keen to see New Zealand represented in both classes in 2021.

"It'd be great to have two Kiwi entries in the Race," he admits. "New Zealand has an amazing history in The Ocean Race, and it's something you always follow when you're growing up, and having that stopover in Auckland really lights up the city. I think all sailors and shore crews enjoy visiting New Zealand, it's one of the best stopovers."

He adds: "All Kiwis, whether they're America's Cup or Olympic sailing fans, know about The Ocean Race it pushes you like nothing else."

Related Articles

We speak to North Sails' Quinny Houry in Palma
At the epicentre for all superyacht matters in Europe We spoke to Quinny Houry of North Sails in Palma, the epicentre for all superyacht matters in Europe. Posted on 19 Jun
The French Revolution
Meet the sailors hoping to bring some 'je ne sais quoi' to the next edition of The Ocean Race Since 1973, The Ocean Race has been the toughest test of a team in sport - and next edition, it's about to become even tougher. Posted on 13 Jun
Sailors ringing the changes in The Ocean Race
The Ocean Race is set to expand with a combined fleet that could see up to double the entries The Ocean Race is set to expand with a combined fleet that could see up to double the number of boats on the start line in Alicante in 2021, compared to the last few editions of the event. Posted on 12 May
Hat-trick award success for the Ocean Race
Hat-trick award success for the Ocean Race The Ocean Race has secured another major prize at a prestigious global sport awards ceremony – making it three big wins in just seven days. Posted on 6 May
Inmarsat helps deliver BT Sport Industry Award
Ground-breaking live coverage and raw storytelling wins prestigious Cutting Edge Sport category Enabled by Inmarsat's flagship satellite communications services, the gripping multimedia content distributed to a global audience throughout the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race has won a prestigious BT Sport Industry Award. Posted on 2 May
The Ocean Race partners with Bluewater
Collaboration builds upon the partnership during the past edition of the race The Ocean Race will partner with pure water provider Bluewater in a bid to reduce global reliance on single-use plastics, it has been announced. Posted on 27 Apr
The Ocean Race wins two sport industry awards
The Ocean Race fights off competition from some of the biggest names in sport to pick up two prizes. The Ocean Race has won two BT Sport Industry Awards, earning recognition amongst some of the world's biggest sporting brands and organisations by scooping the Cutting Edge Sport Award and the Social and Sustainable Development Award. Posted on 26 Apr
The Ocean Race wins Cutting Edge Sports Award
The Ocean Race fights off competition from the biggest names in sport to pick up the prizes The Ocean Race has won two BT Sport Industry Awards, earning recognition amongst some of the world's biggest sporting brands and organisations by scooping the Cutting Edge Sport Award and the Social and Sustainable Development Award. Posted on 26 Apr
Racing with purpose for Ocean Health
A visionary partnership with 11th Hour Racing The Ocean Race is building on its position as the sustainability leader in global sport by announcing a visionary partnership with 11th Hour Racing -- the largest of its kind in sport. Posted on 22 Apr
The Ocean Race: 'This is a special race'
Kiwi Race veteran Tony Rae on working with Bianca Cook's NZ-flagged campaign Kiwi Race veteran Tony Rae on working with Bianca Cook's NZ-flagged campaign – and why The Ocean Race means so much to New Zealand. Posted on 18 Apr
WindBot-COACH-660x82Gul 2018 October - Code Zero FOOTERMarine Resources 2019 - Footer