Premiere sailing duo return for Tokyo gold

Olympic champion Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have returned to sailing’s 49er scene for the first time since winning gold at the Rio Olympic Games two years ago.

They’ve been racing at the Oceanbridge NZL regatta on the Auckland harbour this weekend and it appears they haven’t lost any form in their two years away from the class.

“I think when you jump in something small again like the 49er it's actually refreshing that you haven't sailed the boat in a while,” Burling said.

That became clear after the duo claimed the win in their very first race back.

“We've probably done more hours on the water than anyone else has in the last couple of years but in a slightly different context.”

In that time, the pair became America’s Cup champions and endured the gruelling Volvo Ocean Race, sailing over 45 thousand miles around the world.

It’s been an unusual build up to Tokyo, when before Rio, the duo spent four years solely racing 49ers. But it’s likely to mean they'll be the most accomplished sailors on the start line.

And Tuke believes they’re already preparing better than they were four years ago.

“It's all the little things that add up in these boats and that's going to take us a little bit [of time],” Tuke maintains.

But there's no guarantee they'll be at the Olympics, with three other strong Kiwi crews eyeing the only spot available.

They'll race off at the World Championships in Auckland in December, and again in Melbourne next year.

“We've done so many hours out there now that if anyone should be comfortable out there, it should be us,” Burling said.