Never in sailing history has a sailor won an Olympic Gold medal, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), arguably sailing’s three premier events, dubbed by media, the Triple Crown.

Leg 10, from Cardiff to Gothenburg, start day. 10 June, 2018.

In this 2017-18 race, one of two New Zealand sailors could make sailing history on 30 June as sailing super-stars, Peter Burling on Brunel and Blair Tuke on MAPFRE, both have a chance to win in The Hague.

Sailing together, the pair effortlessly won Rio 2016 49er Olympic Gold Medal, then followed that winning the America’s Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017 in Bermuda, before rushing into the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

But standing in their way is the very determined French sailor Charles Caudrelier and his Dongfeng team.

When this leg 10 from Cardiff to Gothenburg started on the Severn Estuary last Sunday (10 June), Dongfeng was leading overall by a point, MAPFRE just a point back, and Brunel three points away third.

Dongfeng will gain an extra point for the fastest race time, but MAPFRE is leading the Inport race series, which will be the tie-breaker if needed for the overall race win.

As of this very moment (0930 BST Wednesday 13 June), Tuke is in the box seat, as MAPFRE is leading the fleet towards the northern tip of Scotland best positioned for better pressure, ahead of Dongfeng with Brunel back in fourth or fifth place, fighting with AkzoNobel. If current positions were to remain unchanged into Gothenburg, MAPFRE would take the lead and Brunel would have lost her chance of overall victory.

Leg 8 from Itajai to Newport, day 14 on board MAPFRE, Blair Tuke at the helm

Tuke says he only learnt about the Triple Crown after fellow 49er sailor and MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernandez asked him to join the Spanish team.

“The Volvo is actually something I wanted to do before America’s Cup and before I started into Olympic sailing,” he explains. “It’s just happened in reverse order.

“I was the jumper from MAPFRE when they left Auckland in the 2014-15 race. This time I stayed.

“It’s been a great experience right from the first day joining the team in northern Spain and the build-up. We’ve been through some tough times in the last couple of months and I think it makes us stronger for it and we are just looking forward to giving our best over the next few weeks.

“Now the fact that we have sailed around the world and it is going to come down to two pretty short legs in Europe to decide who is the winner. It’s exciting really.

“You can see that anyone can really win a leg. I think there are only two boats that haven’t won a leg in the race and one of them is the one leading [Dongfeng], so it is interesting.

“We are going to push very hard, and we are confident that we can win this race. We are in a pretty good spot, and we have just got to try to push hard in the next few weeks.

“That’s what this race is all about. It is a test of endurance, on the body, the boat, everything. I think it’s been a pretty good test of your resilience, keeping on pushing when it is tough. Probably most difficult for me has been some of the times, not necessarily in hard conditions, but when you haven’t been doing well. That toughness brings you together and when you push through it makes the good stuff even more fun.

“This race has been an amazing experience, one of the highlights of my sailing career doing this and learning a lot and I have really enjoyed the racing side of it as well as the adventure and the sense of achievement you get from sailing around the world.

“Just pushing the boat day in and day out and getting the most from the crew around you and really learning how to keep going when times are tough. At the same time, I have learnt loads from the people around me. I’ve really enjoyed the experience.

“If you become the first person to [win the triple crown] and right now between Peter and me, either of us can do it if Dongfeng is unable to hold on. It’s certainly great to be in that position but for us, we are firmly focused on trying to win the race as a team, and we are right in the mix to do

“We have got a hell of a fight on our hands.”

Leg 6 to Auckland, day 20 on board Brunel. Peter Burling helming.

Peter Burling agrees: “Hopefully, we can have a good leg here, and I think both of us have got a fair bit to do to try and catch Dongfeng as well. They are three points ahead of us and effectively a couple of points ahead of MAPFRE, so it’s going to require a good race from either or both of us.

“The Volvo Ocean Race race is great fun. It’s slightly different challenge to what I usually do, but it has been a great learning experience to see the other side of the sport and a high-level environment. I really feel like I am learning a lot.

“The first half of the race right through to Auckland reinforced just how important preparation is in an event like this. We jumped in fresh with a lot of young guys on board, and initially, we were not really sailing that well together.

“Probably the most disappointing leg was the one down to Auckland. I felt that we had sailed quite well that leg, and we made a lot of improvement but just made a few mistakes on the technical side to be quite far behind which was a shame.

“We managed to get a few good shifts offshore since then and put together a few good results to be in touch with the top of the leader board which is pretty nice coming to the end of the race.

“For me, it has always been about just seeing this side of the sport and learning as much as I can and having a good time. It is always a weird thing just to jump into a team super late like I did but I am glad I took the opportunity and have really enjoyed the experience.

“Regardless of the result in the Hague, for sure I would do it again at some stage. Richard and his team have got some cool plans for the future of the race.

“Post-race Blair and I will sit down with the coaches to talk about the Tokyo Olympics and then there is the Americas Cup defence in Auckland. But right now, we have some serious VOR sailing to do.”

Overall, these two Sailing Super Stars have a little on, not the least of which right now are gale force winds under the Orkney Islands and then some quite extreme conditions in the North Sea.

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