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Meet the 29er fleet #11 - Blair Tuke (NZL)

by International 29er Class 29 Jul 2023 14:19 PDT
Blair Tuke (NZL) © International 29er Class

From 29er World Champion to a glittering professional career, 6 x 49er World Champion, Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, 2 x America's Cup Winner, 2nd in the Volvo Ocean Race, SailGP Team NZL Co-CEO and founder of Live Ocean, we meet Blair Tuke, NZL.

What was your journey into sailing?

The ocean has always been a big part of my life. Growing up in Kerikeri in the Far North of New Zealand with three brothers, my childhood revolved around the outdoors and in particular the ocean. We had a family cruising yacht from a young age but my first time sailing small boats was when I was 11 years old, I really enjoyed the sense of freedom that sailing gave me as a youngster.

Why did you choose the 29er and how old were you?

I started sailing the 29er when I was 17, it was the double handed class at the Youth Worlds that year and my sailing partner at the time, Paul Snow-Hansen and I won the youth trials in the 420 and then quickly shifted to learning how to sail the 29er, we had 4 months to learn how to sail the boat. The learning curve was steep! And that period in the 29er with Paul was some of the most fun, challenging and rewarding sailing I have done.

Did you helm or crew and why?

Crew. Size mainly. I had sailed a mix of double handed boats both crewing and helming as well as single handed boats up until then but at that stage crewing was the natural fit.

What did you learn in the 29er that you think has helped you in your sailing beyond youth level?

The importance of being in sync with your teammate. When you are sailing the 29er, much like the 49er it is a very humbling boat when you are learning, so being in sync with your teammate is a must. So too is having respect for the boat you are sailing.

Do you think the 29er prepares you well for professional sailing, Olympic, Offshore and foiling sailing like SailGP and Americas cup and why?

Absolutely, the 29er gives a really good foundation to build from. Especially now as boats are starting to go faster and faster this is still a very good platform for learning how to sail a high performance boat fast!

Who inspired/s you both as a youth sailor and today?

A person I really looked up to was Sir Peter Blake, not just his achievements as a sailor but because of his work he was doing around the environment, he really was ahead of his time. Since forming Live Ocean, the marine conservation charity I founded in 2019 with Peter Burling I have continued to learn about the work that Sir Peter was doing and I am inspired to continue to use the platform I have in sport to make a positive impact on the health of the ocean and inspire the next generation of ocean champions coming through.

What are your main strengths as a sailor and what are the biggest things you have learned in your sailing career?

Keep learning, never sit still and enjoy the ride.

What would be your advice for our 29er sailors if they want to pursue a career in sailing?

Take any opportunity that presents itself and sail different types of boats to widen your skill set.

We are approaching our World Championships in Weymouth this summer - do you have any top tips and words of wisdom for our sailors racing there?

Embrace the opportunity to go up against your competitors, no doubt friends and some of the best youth sailors in the world. Back the training you have done and race for every metre.

What are your future goals in your sailing career and what drives you to keep sailing?

I'm incredibly fortunate to have made a career out of sailing and have a job doing what I love every day. My immediate focus is as Co-CEO of the New Zealand SailGP team as well as my role with Emirates Team New Zealand's 37th America's Cup defence. The launch of Live Ocean Racing is really exciting as well as we seek opportunities to take on new challenges while highlighting the need for a healthy ocean.

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