Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

BLAKE Leader 2023

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke wish to have more in common with Sir Peter Blake than their sailing prowess. With six World Championship titles to their names, as well an Olympic gold and two silver medals and key roles in the winning team that helped Emirates Team New Zealand successfully defend the America’s Cup on their home waters in Auckland, the sailors have set out to emulate the legendary helmsman’s commitment to the ocean environment.

In 2019, the sailors founded Live Ocean Foundation, an ocean conservation foundation that focuses on supporting and investing in marine science, innovation and outreach. Blair and Peter share a vision for New Zealand to be a world-leading champion of ocean health.
At ? on ?, the duo were recipients of 2023 BLAKE Leader awards in recognition of their commitment to ocean conservation.

“We’ve learned much more about his environmental path as we’ve set up Live Ocean,” Blair says. “The mission Sir Peter and the BlakeExpeditions Crew set out on in the early 2000s was inspiring and important. Peter was talking about climate change, biodiversity loss, and the ocean before it had entered the public domain. I believe we’d be a different country in terms of our relationship with the environment today if Peter had been able to continue.”

Both Blair and Peter grew up in and around the ocean, mucking around in dinghies, diving and surfing in the waters close to their homes – Blair in the Bay of Islands; Peter in the Bay of Plenty.
Learning to master small boats, they both became adept at reading wind, tide, and currents; understanding how the ocean interacted with the land and sky.

They each picked up the knowledge and tactics to sail their boats faster, and were both crowned world champions – Peter in the 420 and Blair in the Splash dinghy – while they were still teenagers.
When their paths crossed, the pair decided to join forces in an Olympic campaign in the 49er for the 2012 London Games (after Peter had made his Olympic debut in Beijing 2008, at the age of just 17).
It has become a golden relationship. As their 49er coach Hamish Wilcox explains: “When you put two incredible sailors together, then the chemistry works, you’re getting 200 percent out of that performance. Pete and Blair are able to push the right buttons together – and have a huge amount of respect and trust that makes it work.”

That alchemy led to an Olympic silver medal in 2012, followed up by Olympic gold in Rio four years later. They had dominated the class in 28 consecutive regattas between those Olympics, and their supremacy on Brazil’s Guanabara Bay was such that they won with two days to spare – and by the largest winning margin in Olympic sailing for more than 50 years. They have recently won another Olympic silver in Tokyo 2020.

In just over a decade, Blair and Peter have established themselves as two of New Zealand’s great athletes.

They’ve been honoured with carrying the New Zealand flag at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony; recognised as Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their services to sailing; jointly awarded the 2015 World Male Sailors of the Year (Peter winning the honour on his own in 2017) and the New Zealand Team of the Year at the 2016 Halberg Awards; and crowned Yachting New Zealand Sailors of the Year four times.

Through the Foundation the pair have formed a strong connection with the Te Toki Voyaging Trust. Pete says Aotearoa New Zealand’s story is intrinsically linked to the moana, and the wayfinders who voyaged across the ocean to settle here.

“When we founded Live Ocean Foundation, it was really important to us to build strong relationships with everyone in New Zealand who is aligned with the message of ocean health, and the voyaging community have so much knowledge to offer.”

Blair says the pair felt privileged to join Te Toki Voyaging Trust on their waka hourua for a voyage from Auckland to the Bay of Islands last year.

“On the waka they are the masters, and we are their students. Traditional voyaging holds respect for the marine environment at its very core and Live Ocean Foundation invests in Te Toki Voyaging Trust so they can continue their work with rangatahi and the wider community.”

Peter and Blair didn’t stop with the foundation – they have now also launched a purpose-led race to attract attention to women and young people to sailing.

“We’d always been aware of the ability to use the platform of sport as a powerful way to connect people to issues and in 2022 we launched Live Ocean Racing,” Blair says. “It’s a separate entity from the foundation – but they share the same brand and purpose.”

Pete says Live Ocean Racing is a New Zealand racing team with purpose baked into its DNA – racing on the ocean for the ocean. The first two campaigns for Live Ocean Racing are in the ETF26 Series in Europe, skippered by New Zealander Liv Mackay. The team brings together some of the country’s most successful women sailors and promising youth talent.

Blair says their vision when they launched Live Ocean Racing was to rethink what a professional sports team looks like – and that’s on-going.

“Our ambition is for Live Ocean Racing to continue to race for Aotearoa taking on awesome challenges at the pinnacle of sport, while championing action for the ocean on the world stage.”

Pete says his partnership with Blair has always been about learning, growing, and developing. And they will continue to innovate for the good of the ocean.

“Now is our chance to use the platform of sport to drive the ocean health message. It’s never been more apparent – the ocean is changing fast, and it won’t wait. It’s at a tipping point. We can’t look the next generation in the eye and say we didn’t try.”