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America's Cup: Burling and Tuke straight back onto the AC75

by America's Cup Media/Richard Gladwell 8 Dec 2019 17:11 PST 9 December 2019
Te Aihe training in 'The Paddock` off Eastern Beach, Auckland - December 9, 2019 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The day after winning their fifth World 49er Championship in Auckland, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were out on the Waitemata for an early morning training session on Emirates Team NZ's AC75, Te Aihe.

The 75ft foiling monohull was wheeled out of the team base at 7.00am, after having been out of action since late November, whilst Burling and Tuke concentrated on the 49er Worlds, which were expected to be part of a selection series for the New Zealand 49er berth at Tokyo 2020.

The America's Cup Defender's downtime, which had been long-planned, is expected to have been used for a substantial upgrade of the AC75, which has been sailing since has been inside the team shed since the last serious training session on November 22, sailing in 20-25kt winds (see videos below).

Te Aihe hoisted her mainsail at the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour, where 18 hours previously Burling and Tuke had won their 49er World Championship sailing in a northerly breeze averaging 23kts and gusting 28kts. Today with the breeze switched to an offshore direction and gusting 20 kts, the team headed its usual training area, "The Paddock", off Auckland's Eastern Beach for a session that concluded around 1.00pm - ahead of a forecast increase in wind-strength for the afternoon.

While Burling and Tuke have returned to the crew of Te Aihe, two others, Andy Maloney and Josh Junior are away in Melbourne, also on NZ Olympic Yachting program duties, with the Finn Gold Cup, or world championship for the Olympic Heavyweight mens singlehander. Racing in the Finn class gets underway on Monday December 16. That event is also expected to be part of a New Zealand selection trial for Tokyo 2020.

Yesterday's fifth win for Burling and Tuke in the 49er World Championship was mainstream news in New Zealand, highlighted by a tense last day for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke that started with a gear failure causing them to pull out of the opening race, followed by a third place in the next race.

At the start of the medal race Burling and Tuke were eight points clear, needing to finish within four places of the second placed German team also intent on winning the championship. The drama peaked when Peter Burling slipped off the back of the boat and into the water when tacking on the first upwind leg of the medal race, plunging the New Zealand pair to the back of the fleet.

The Kiwi – duo though fought their way back to finish fourth in the Medal Race and to win the gold medal by six points overall. They were beaten to the finish line in the Medal race by another Kiwi crew, Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn - who placed 5th overall, in the World Championship, in which 12 New Zealand crews competed.

"It's definitely the top, no doubt," Tuke told americascup.com when reflecting on a fifth world title win. "We said going into it that racing a world champs on your home waters would be right up there with the Olympics. It feels pretty good.

"It always feels good when you do it in that fashion, when it comes down to the wire as well. We would have liked to have won by more but you take it any way you can. We're really proud that we came back in the end there."

"It was a bit annoying," an understated Burling said of his swim in the medal race. "It was the same thing we did in the first race when we snapped the tiller extension. It was really choppy out there and hard to get the timing quite right.”

Tuke added: "It certainly wasn't part of the plan. We would have ideally sailed a bit better in the morning and wrapped it up but, whichever way we get it, we're pretty happy and we knew that if it came down to this we would be able to step up. To do it in front of our friends, family and supporters is very, very special.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have an intense schedule ahead as they will combine their Olympic campaign with their America’s Cup commitments. The next 49er Worlds are in Geelong, Victoria, Australia in March 2020. They are expected to earn the New Zealand nomination for Tokyo2020, which is sailed in August. The combined America's Cup and Olympic program, runs to a similar timing to the 2016 Olympics in Rio and 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda, except the America's Cup Match is on March, 2021 compared to June 2017 for the 35th America's Cup.

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