For our latest episode of the Best Run Podcast, I spoke with New Zealander sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who’ve been sailing together for the past 12 years and have both been awarded New Zealand Orders of Merit, Olympic gold medals, and just prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, the 2020 World 49er Championships in February.

“That was probably a great indicator of how our campaign was going in the 49er,” Peter explained. “We were really looking forward to the final build up through to Tokyo and we literally would have been finishing the final race in the Olympics yesterday or a few days ago with the closing ceremony of the Games coming up tomorrow. It’s amazing to look back and see how much COVID has changed things – it has thrown around the sporting calendar a lot.

“That’s something that sailing has taught us – you’ve just got to deal with the cards that are on the table play the best hand that you can. It’s a similar thing in sailing and dealing with what you get in the winds, since the winds are a pretty fickle thing, so you’ve just got to play what you see and try to make the best out of it.”


According to Peter, the pair are currently working towards America’s Cup in March next year. “We’ve also got an ocean charity that we’ve founded about ten months ago now, which we’ve enjoyed putting a little more time into than we perhaps could have,” he added.

“We’re also in the background planning as to how we think the next year is going to unfold and trying to account for a few scenarios – when borders are going to open up, if there is a second wave of COVID, etc. Right now, we’re really working hard for team New Zealand in America’s Cup commitments, but it’s really good to have those balancing items in your life that give a bit of diversity to what you’re doing.”

Blair noted that he and Peter have been using SAP Analytics for with their day-to-day debriefs. “The boats are tracked so you can see the tracks, the speed, and see how different situations play out in the racetrack, because you might not catch all of that while you’re head down in your own boat,” Blair said.

“That really helps from day to day and we use it to change or adapt our strategy for the remainder of the competition. Generally, these sailing competitions like the world championships go for five days, so you really have to be on from the first day to the last.”

“It’s a great tool and we’ve enjoyed it through the Championships, but now, when you can’t get to high-level competition, we’ve had some time to look back on some historic races and learn that way too. It’s an absolutely amazing tool and we’re lucky to have access to it.”

Peter added that he and Blair have seen trials for an SAP sailing app that is in development and shows great promise for the sport. “I think it could change the way sailing is, from a club level right through to an Olympic level,” Peter noted. “Just making it easier for more mainstream sailing to really track and learn and make it easier. We’re really excited to see that unfold.”

According to Blair, COVID-19 has provided a great chance to unwind, reflect, and plan. “We have had an incredibly busy time over probably the last ten years – hardly stopped – so this was the first real chance to do that, so we’re probably in a little bit of a different situation than other people.

“People’s values, what they wanted, and the direction they’re headed probably became a lot clearer during lockdown period. Also, going into it, everyone was pretty frightened by the unknown, but for us in New Zealand, but to get through that and be out the other side, hopefully, is something that gives you a lot of confidence going forward.”

Peter affirms that it has been a challenging time for everyone globally, but it has provided opportunities to support each other. “It shows you that everyone in New Zealand has managed to take a step back, really evaluate what’s important, and put their best foot forward. That’s something that a lot of Kiwis who normally would have been overseas during this period are starting to love being at home a little bit more. There are a lot of people down in the South Island enjoying the snow and around the country doing things with domestic tourism.

“Obviously, we can’t travel to where you are but from where we are but it’s great to see Kiwis supporting Kiwi business and helping other people that are struggling during this time. I think it’s definitely a time to look after your friends and family, and make sure that people who are struggling get helped out – definitely acknowledging that it’s a tough time and being able to support the people around you that need it is a pretty key thing to do.”

Blair expressed the importance of having clear goals and directions in terms of what you want to achieve and get through challenging periods. “I think you need to have something like that where you’re in business or whatever you want to achieve, you need to know where you’re heading. Then you’ve got to have some good values in your team and who you are as people.

“From there, you’re working towards your goals, you’re trying to learn and improve as a person in everything you do. You’re trying to find more efficient ways to tackle the problem. Through that, you’ve got to push yourself and go outside your comfort zone and be prepared to fail a little bit. As long as you’re learning and improving the whole time, then you get there – that’s how we’ve approached things.”

To hear more from my conversation with these two sailing heros, check out our latest episode of the Best Run Podcast.

If you’re a sailing fan and you’d like to see more of the specific analytics tool in action you can view the 49ers race here.

This article originally published on Linkedin