Four-hour sleeps, freeze dried food – the battle to win the ‘Everest of the Seas’

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team skippered by English Ian Walker sails to Gothenburg at the end of Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Lorient to Gothenburg at the end of Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Lorient (France) to Gothenburg (Sweden) to win the overall race in west Sweden on June 22, 2015. The Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 is the 12th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain on October 4, 2014, the route, spanning some 39,379 nautical miles, visits 11 ports in eleven countries (Spain, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, Brazil, United States, Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Sweden) over nine months. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND        (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Volvo Ocean Race: The Everest of the Seas
22:31 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

World sailor of the year Peter Burling speaks to CNN

Kiwi helmsman hopes to win round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

Burling could become first to win sailing's "triple crown"

CNN  — 

He’s just been named World Sailor of the Year for the second time in three years, but Peter Burling was nowhere to be seen at this week’s glitzy Mexican award ceremony.

Instead the Kiwi helmsman is some 10,000km away, guiding Team Brunel through tough seas from Lisbon to Cape Town on the second leg of the ongoing Volvo Ocean Race (VOR).

He isn’t a man to hang about. At the age of just 26, Burling has already proven his credentials in both fleet racing and match racing – winning Olympic gold in the 49er class, and the 35th Americas Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand.

Now he’s stepped right out of his comfort zone, battling day and night in a bid to conquer an event so tough it’s known as the “Everest of the Seas”.

Burling and his crew will visit 12 host cities on six continents over the coming months, covering more than 46,000 nautical miles (85,000km).

“Any yacht race you go into, you want to win,” Burling told CNN Sport. “There are plenty in the world that are incredibly prestigious and this is one of them.”

Peter Burling holds aloft the oldest trophy in sport

Should Team Brunel reach the Hague, on the western coast of the Netherlands, in the quickest time later next year, Burling will become the first person in history to have won the VOR, America’s Cup and an Olympic title.

To have any hope of doing so, he’ll have to sleep in four-hour shifts, subsisting on little more than freeze dried food and chocolate bars.

But Burling is more than ready for the challenge.

“I’ve done little bits of offshore racing, but there’s not really any way of getting experience of the longer legs — like the 30, 35-day legs — without going out there and doing it,” he said.

“It’s obviously very different but in the same light it’s similar. The same things make you win a yacht race or lose a yacht race.

“In this environment it just goes on for a lot longer and it’s a lot more of a race of attrition. You just have to make sure you don’t make any mistakes over a seriously long period.

“It’s all about making the right decisions during that set time and working together as a team to make the boat go fast.”

‘It’s our goal to win’

Until now, Burling has almost always had close friend and compatriot Blair Tuke at his side on the water.

It is testament to the duo’s success that they were named New Zealand’s Team of the Year at the 54th Halberg Awards, ahead of the indomitable All Blacks.

Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling and trimmer Blair Tuke and shore crew manager Sean Regan hoist the America's Cup in the Great Sound during the 35th America's Cup June 26, 2017 in Hamilton, Bermuda. / AFP PHOTO / Chris CAMERON        (Photo credit should read CHRIS CAMERON/AFP/Getty Images)
Blair Tuke's pursuit of history
03:04 - Source: CNN

“Winning that gold medal in Rio with Blair was something that was incredibly special,” said Burling, looking back to their Rio 2016 victory in the 49er class. “To follow that with the America’s Cup was special not only for ourselves but also an amazing part of New Zealand sailing history.”

Now though, with Tuke teaming up with rival boat Mapfre, they go head to head.

Only one man can become the first to win the so-called Triple Crown of Sailing, but Burling has no intention of getting carried away.

“I’m really happy with the bunch of people I’ve gone with, and Blair’s pretty similar,” he said, dismissing the competition between them as something driven by the media.

“You just have to look across the lineup to know there are a lot of Kiwis all across the field. I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and sharing stories from other people’s experience of the legs.”

Which team will win the Volvo Ocean Race? Have your say on CNN Sport’s Facebook page

Not that he’ll be holding anything back in his pursuit of victory.

“For myself, I’m just looking to learn as much as i can from some pretty experienced guys and chip in wherever I can,” he said.

“It’s definitely our goal to win this thing and I’m looking forward to the challenge of the months ahead.”