Sailing: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke on prospect of America’s Cup moving offshore and Olympics preparation

Peter Burling says while Team New Zealand’s sailors would love to defend the America’s Cup on home waters again, the “commercial realities” of the event have forced the team’s leadership to look offshore for a host venue.

Team New Zealand confirmed it had concluded exclusive discussions with the New Zealand Government and Auckland Council over a second defence in the City of Sails, and would now be opening the opportunity to all bids.

The New Zealand Government offered $99m in support of the team and the event, which did not meet the expectations of Team New Zealand leadership.

“Everyone would love to compete here if we could, but obviously there are commercial realities of the event,” Burling said. “You’ve got to feel for the people involved in the event; they’ve got to be able to make things work and that’s what they’re doing.”

The decision to take the Cup offshore was not received well by local fans of the event, particularly given the sum turned down.

Team New Zealand flight controller Blair Tuke said the sailors could understand the sorts of feelings the public might have.

“For us as sailors, we love racing here on the Hauraki Gulf – it’s where we’ve done the majority of our sailing in our careers – but it’s very challenging times at the moment, so it’s a difficult situation.”

While they were able to comment on the situation, the America’s Cup has been far from their priority Burling and Tuke. After their successful defence in Auckland at the start of the year, the pair quickly changed their focus to a debut SailGP season and their upcoming Olympic Games campaign in July.

“There hasn’t been a heap of looking at how that [America’s Cup] defence would look,” Tuke admitted.

“For Pete and I, we’ve been so head down with the Olympics campaign. There are not many hours to go until that first race so the majority of our focus has been there.

“But in saying that, we loved the time that we had here in March racing on home waters and we’d love for that to happen again, but we’re also aware of the challenges of having an event like the America’s Cup here in this climate.”

Burling and Tuke will again represent New Zealand in the 49er when the Games roll around later this year, looking to defend the gold medal they won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

It will be the duo’s third Olympics campaign in the 49ers together, following 2016 and their silver-medal campaign in 2012, while Burling also competed in the 470 Class alongside Carl Evans at the 2008 Games.

Tuke said it was a different build up this time around given the Covid-19 climate, and it was something all athletes were aware of as the Games drew ever closer.

“There’s been no real big international competition for 18 months now,” Tuke said of the 49er field. “The last serious event was when we won the world champs back in February 2020. That was a long time ago now.

“There have been little regattas going on and we got a taste of that up in Santander (Italy) where we did a couple of practice regattas which went reasonably well for us and we were happy with where we’re at, but we’re still striving to be in a better position come the end of July and we know we need to be there if we want another shot at winning another gold medal for our country.”

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