Sea change imminent for champion 49er duo

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke
WORLD CHAMPS: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke race a 49er.

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World 49er champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are taking on Team New Zealand's stars as they look to add variety to their sailing in a busy 2014.

The pair were yesterday named by Yachting New Zealand in a powerful NZL Sailing Team, the sport's elite who have the ultimate aim of contesting the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Burling and Tuke have set their main goal as defending their world title in Spain in September and with it the first chance to secure a qualifying berth for Rio.

They'll campaign in other 49er events in Europe as well as sailing a regatta at the controversial Olympics venue.

Right now they are preparing to crew on separate boats in the famous Sydney to Hobart race that starts on Boxing Day.

Then it will be back to race the Sail Auckland regatta which has attracted a world-class field. They'll then jump into catamarans to sail the world A-class championships off Takapuna Beach.

The singe-handed cats will have some big names on board with Team New Zealand stars Dean Barker, Ray Davies and Glenn Ashby all involved in the event.

"It's a top fleet and I'm looking forward to the challenge of racing against those guys," said Tuke, whose dabbles in the A-class included winning this year's New Zealand title in Christchurch.

As far as the America's Cup is concerned, Tuke said he and Burling had made "no secret" of their desire to get involved.

Burling and Tuke, having won the Youth America's Cup on top of their 2012 Olympics silver medal and subsequent world title, are hot property.

Tuke said they had received no formal offers from rival syndicates and Team New Zealand "would be the ultimate".

He's itching to start his second Sydney to Hobart while Burling will debut in the blue water classic. "I really enjoy ocean racing, the endurance aspect and pushing the boat 24 hours, day on day, it's great," he said.

But he was just as enthused by his surroundings yesterday in a New Zealand team that has three world champion crews, including Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (women's 470) and Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX).

Maloney and Meech have made the New Zealand team for the first time.

"It's awesome . . . the three world titles and a lot of other people who have proved themselves. It's not easy to get into this team. Everyone here is really proud to have made it," he said.

"We're all working hard at becoming better with the ultimate goal being Rio." Fairfax NZ

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