Sailing: Blair Tuke, Peter Burling start journey to Olympic title defence

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke's bid to defend their Olympic 49er sailing gold medal begins next week, when Auckland hosts the world championships.

The Kiwi pair have taken time out of the two-man boat since the 2016 Rio Games to focus on the Volvo Ocean Race and the 2021 America's Cup.

But now the attention's shifted back to the skiff and they're hoping a win next week will go a long way to securing the sole spot at next year's Tokyo Olympics. 

"I think we've got confidence heading into it," said Tuke. "We know that if we sail a good regatta, we'll be somewhere near the front - hopefully the front - so we're pretty excited for next week."

Tuke admitted it had been a demanding year, having to juggle America's Cup commitments with training for the defence of the Olympic 49er title.

"It's been a busy and exciting couple of months, but this has been on the calendar for a while now and you don't want to put in a half-arsed performance at one of these events.

"We're racing against some of the best sailors in the world, and if we don't put in a complete and well-rounded performance, then we won't win."

While they've managed put in plenty of time on the 49er in recent weeks, Tuke said the return to genuine racing situations would be invaluable.

"We're probably the ones that have lacked a little bit of racing, compared to some of the other competitors, so we're learning heaps these few days and it's really helping us to complete our build up." 

Burling admitted the variety of sailing challenges since their Rio triumph has helped keep things fresh and avoided any chance of burnout, paricularly as far as the 49er is concerned.

"It's pretty easy to overdo it in these campaigns and perhaps go a little flat," said Burling.

"We're definitely juggling a lot of balls and have a lot of different projects going on, and I think it's really good for the mind, as well, to keep things fresh."

Tuke and Burling will find out early next year if they've done enough to compete for double Olympic gold.