Peter Burling excited to be keeping up appearances in Bermuda
As the adage goes, “there is no rest for the weary”.
Such has been the case lately for the highly decorated sailing duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
Fresh off a successful America’s Cup title defence with defender Emirates Team New Zealand, the pair are now “juggling” commitments in preparation for their debut on the global SailGP circuit and title defence in the 49er at the Olympic Games this summer.
“Olympics is now in the middle of this first season [of SailGP], so that is definitely going to be a tricky time for us trying to juggle a few commitments coming straight off the back of the America’s Cup, which was an incredible time,” Burling, the New Zealand SailGP team helmsman, told The Royal Gazette.
“We ended up training in our Olympic boat in New Zealand for a week or so to make sure that everything was good there to send to Japan and then obviously up here now. That juggle is going to carry on until the Olympics, really.”
Burling’s team will make their SailGP debut this weekend at the Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess.
The regatta will be held in the Great Sound where the multiple world sailor of the year, Olympic and world champion has fond memories of steering Emirates Team New Zealand to victory against defender Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup in 2017.
“We are really excited to make our debut as New Zealand team in the SailGP league,” Burling said. “And it’s pretty cool to also be doing that in the Great Sound, where we had some pretty incredible success as the New Zealand team four years ago when we first won the America’s Cup.
“We felt we had pretty incredible support by the Bermudian public there. It always amazes me how many New Zealand flags were around and how much support we felt from the locals, which we really appreciated.”
He added: “It’s definitely great to be back in Bermuda; a lot of our team have some pretty fond memories of being here during the America’s Cup.
“It’s obviously a shame we can’t actually get out to interact with the public and obviously Bermuda is going through quite tough times at the moment being locked down.
“But it’s great to be back and be able to be sailing around the Great Sound, where a lot of us first won the America’s Cup.
“Literally the last time we sailed an F50 was in that last race of the America’s Cup, so it’s been a little while. But we are definitely incredibly excited to get back into sailing the F50s. They are really cool boats and they are going to provide some really tight racing.
“There’s a lot of really good teams here this week and, unlike the America’s Cup environment, you’ve got to use the one-design equipment and try and make the most of it.”
The one-design features are among the significant modifications having been made to the supercharged wing-sailed foiling catamarans that were raced here in 2017.
“The boats are relatively different to what we had in Bermuda,” Burling said.
“First, there’s one less person and we use battery power for a lot of the functions now. All the hydraulic functions get driven by the batteries, so you end up sailing the boats in quite a different way to what we did back then.
“But in the same essence the boats really share the same DNA; a lot of the same things that make them go fast now that made them go fast back then.”
Burling and his team-mates are in a race against the clock coming to grips with the boat’s new features, having been the last of the eight national teams to arrive on the island.
“We definitely feel we like we are slightly on the back foot, having come into this event pretty late and just trying to figure it out as we go along, really,” he said.
“We obviously have a very tight training window building into this event. But I think we are definitely very confident that we will be able to learn and adapt to how to sail these boats well very quickly.
“We just really need to work as a group on making sure we sail the boat well, do the manoeuvres well and then the result will take care of itself.”