Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winning helmsman Peter Burling is joining Team Brunel for the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The signing of the world’s most in-demand sailor is a major coup for Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking – and sets up what should be a compelling rivalry with Burling’s long-term sailing partner Blair Tuke, who is competing with Spanish team MAPFRE.
Together, Burling and Tuke carried the flag for New Zealand at the 2016 Olympics and came home from Rio with a gold medal in the 49er.
The pair followed up that success by playing influential roles in Emirates Team New Zealand’s victory in the America’s Cup earlier this year.
"Team Brunel and Bouwe both have a long history with the Volvo Ocean Race," said Peter. "It's an honour to be part of this talented team and learn from the breadth of experience on board.
"Round the world ocean racing has always excited me and I'm stoked to be part of Team Brunel on this epic edition. I can't wait to be thrown into the challenge of extreme offshore racing and broaden my skills and sailing experience."
Still only 26, Burling is the youngest winning helmsman in America’s Cup history.
Either Burling or Tuke could become the first sailor to complete the Triple Crown of sailing’s major events. To date, no one has won an Olympic gold medal medal, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. Both teams will start among the favourites.
Burling continued: “It’s going to be awesome racing against Tukey! We have huge respect for each others skill and talent and we are each other's biggest supporters. We are both in a position to gain amazing experience to bring to our future sailing goals. I look forward to sharing a few stories and beers with him in every Host City.”
Team Brunel were runners-up in 2014-15 under Bekking and have hit the ground running in their preparations for the upcoming race. Burling is the seventh sailor to be announced for the Dutch team following the signings of America's Cup sailors Carlo Huisman (NED) and Kyle Langford (AUS), Argentinian Juanpa Marcos, and Volvo Ocean Race veterans Alberto Bolzan (ITA) and Maciel Cicchetti (ARG/ITA) by skipper Bouwe Bekking (NED).
"Team Brunel is on track for the start in Alicante – we will use the rest of this Leg Zero to sail in different compositions and prepare ourselves," said Bekking. "At the same time we're still working hard to prepare and organise everything as well as possible."
Despite only announcing their campaign at the end of June they have shown the value of recent experience by taking podium finishes in each of the two stages so far in the Leg Zero series of qualifiers.
MAPFRE have looked equally convincing under skipper Xabi Fernández, winning the first stage and finishing very close runners-up behind Dongfeng Race Team in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Burling has joined Brunel at the finish line of the Fastnet and will be on board for the third stage of Leg Zero qualifying, a short run from Plymouth to Saint-Malo in France, starting on Thursday.
Bekking continued: “I see Peter as an exponent of the new talented generation. The great thing is that he has proven himself in spite of his young age. I’m glad that we can add him to the team, especially with his experience in Olympic sailing and the America’s Cup."
The 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race begins from Alicante on 22 October. The race will take the teams 45,000 nautical miles around the world via a series of Host City stops – including Auckland.
"It’s going to be pretty special to be on board to see Auckland, the City of Sails, welcome an epic race like the Volvo Ocean Race," added Burling.
"Having just toured NZ with the America's Cup I got to witness how much kiwis really do love sailing and know they will really get behind the Volvo Ocean Race coming to town."