Blair Tuke has confirmed his bid for sailing’s triple crown, signing with Spanish team MAPFRE for the upcoming edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Just three weeks after lifting the America’s Cup in Bermuda with Emirates Team New Zealand, Tuke will link up with MAPFRE in Sanxenxo next week to begin preparations the 2017-18 race, which gets under way in Alicante in October.
Tuke will be a trimmer/helmsman with the Spanish team, which is skippered by his long-time friend and rival in the Olympic 49er class Xabi Fernandez.
Tuke’s participation in the iconic round the world race gives him a shot at pulling off a rare treble of Olympic, America’s Cup, and Volvo Ocean Race victories in consecutive years. Only American John Kostecki has been close, with wins in two of the three but a Silver Medal at the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
The 27-year-old said the chance of making history is not his main motivation for doing the race, which he has dreamt of doing since he was young.
“I’ve only been told that in the last few days. That would be amazing to do, but for me it’s not my driver at all,” he said.
“The Volvo is actually something I wanted to do before the America’s Cup and maybe before I started to get into Olympic sailing. It’s just happened in a round-about way. My motivation is just to go out there and hopefully help MAPFRE get across the line first at the end, and for myself to grow as a sailor and to broaden my skills and basically get better.”
While ocean racing will be Tuke’s focus over the next year, he said he has not ruled out another Olympic campaign with his long-time sailing partner Peter Burling. The pair already have Olympic gold and silver to their name, but still have aspirations of another title in Tokyo 2020.
“The Olympics is still something that very much appeals to Pete and myself, that option is still there and to have the opportunity to represent our country and go for another gold medal would be very cool,” he said.
Burling, who was at the helm of the Team NZ boat in Bermuda, also has aspirations of doing a Volvo Ocean Race, but is still mulling over his options. If Burling does take up an offer to compete in the upcoming race, it is likely it will be on a different boat to his Olympic sailing partner of nine years.
Tuke admits it will be “a little weird” to be in a different boat to Burling, but said they have faced off against one another before.
“In 2014 when we did the Fiji race we were on different boats, that was kind of fun. It will be different, but we know that we’ll have the Olympics together after this and then try and defend the Cup for New Zealand together.”
For Tuke, joining MAPFRE comes after a long association with the Spanish team. During the Auckland stopover for the 2014-15 race, Tuke was involved with the in-port racing with the team, and was the “jumper” on board for the start of the southern ocean leg. This time around they are letting him stay on board.
The opportunity comes after an extremely busy few years for Tuke, who, along with Burling, juggled Olympic and America’s Cup commitments with Team NZ. They had barely a week off after claiming gold in Rio before linking back up with Team NZ for a busy period of testing and development.
Before the dust has even settled on the America’s Cup celebrations, Tuke is now heading off to Spain to take part in his first qualifying race with his team and doing mandatory medical training and safety courses.
“This is an amazing opportunity and I once I thought about it, I didn’t want to get five or 10 years down the track and think ‘shivers, I really should have done that’.”
Pedro Campos, chief executive of the MAPFRE team, said while Tuke will fill one of the two mandatory under-30 spots on board, he brings with him a great deal of experience.
“It is excellent news that Blair has joined us; there is no doubt that he is one of the great names of our sport at the moment. The fact that he has accepted our invitation to join the team makes us proud and demonstrates the international prestige that MAPFRE has acquired.
“If we win this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, Blair would be the first sailor in history to get the triple crown: Olympic gold medal, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, which would be an amazing achievement for Blair and our team”.