Burling and Tuke win gold on dramatic final day at Hyundai 49er World Champs
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have been involved in a few dramatic days during their sailing careers but few as sensational as today and it just made a fifth world 49er title that much more special.
Capsizes, broken equipment... it had it all and that was just in the two gold fleet races this morning at the Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 world championships in Auckland.
Peter Burling then slipped off the back of the boat and into the Waitemata when tacking on the first upwind leg of the high-stakes medal race, plunging the New Zealand pair to the back of the fleet. They fought their way back to finish fourth in the top-10 shootout, only one place behind the German pair of Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel, to win by six points overall.
"It's definitely the top, no doubt," Tuke said when reflecting on a fifth world title. "We said going into it that racing a world champs on your home waters would be right up there with the Olympics. It feels pretty good.
"It always feels good when you do it in that fashion, when it comes down to the wire as well. We would have liked to have won by more but you take it any way you can. We're really proud that we came back in the end there."
They were thankful they still had a good drop for their worst result up their sleeves because the pair broke their tiller extension in the first race of the day and eventually withdrew from the race. They came back with a third in the second race - the Germans won - meaning they went into the medal race with an eight-point advantage.
That didn't look like enough at one stage, as the Germans threatened the lead, but Burling and Tuke kept composed and nearly pipped their rivals on the finish line.
"It was a bit annoying," an understated Burling said of his swim in the medal race. "It was the same thing we did in the first race when we snapped the tiller extension. It was really choppy out there and hard to get the timing quite right."
Tuke added: "It certainly wasn't part of the plan. We would have ideally sailed a bit better in the morning and wrapped it up but, whichever way we get it, we're pretty happy and we knew that if it came down to this we would be able to step up. To do it in front of our friends, family and supporters is very, very special."
Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn also had their challenges on the final day, and also snapped their tiller extension in the morning session, but finished second in the medal race and fifth overall. Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie agonisingly missed out on the top 10 on countback.
"It's been a difficult week and not quite the week we hoped for," Dunning Beck said. "There were some really good moments in there, like yesterday, but some pretty disappointing results in there as well. There's a lot to improve on. We're certainly not satisfied at the end of this regatta."
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech expressed a similar sentiment after finishing sixth overall in the 49erFX. The Olympic silver medallists made up ground in the morning session after posting two third placings which left them only seven points off third but capsized on the final run of the medal race in the strong breeze and choppy conditions.
"There were some pretty testing days this week," Maloney admitted. "We were pretty frustrated with our overall performance. Today we went out with a pretty good mindset and had a couple of nice races but that last one was pretty tough. I think we are pretty determined to improve on it.
"It's nice there's a quick turnaround [to the next world championships in Melbourne in February]. It feels like there's an opportunity and, with the Games next year, it's all to play for. If we do a few key things and keep chipping away, we will definitely get there."
Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz could afford to take their foot off the throttle late in the 49erFX medal race after their nearest rivals, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, dramatically capsized midway through the race.
Italy's Vittorio Bissaro and Maelle Frascari held on to win gold in the Nacra 17, narrowly finishing ahead of Lin Cenholt and CP Lubeck of Denmark. Liv Mackay and Jason Saunders were the best of the Kiwis in 17th overall.
Burling and Tuke will have little time to relax over the Christmas period with the next 49er world championships just three months away. But the pair don't tend to sit still and will look to add to their list of achievements over the coming months - just maybe without so much drama.