Blair Tuke looking forward to a different sort of sailing in upcoming Sydney to Hobart race.
Sailor Blair Tuke's silver medal from Weymouth was Northland's highest sporting honour since Bythe Tait brought home a gold medal from the 1996 OIympics.
Blair Tuke is a celebrity much in demand these days, but he remains very attached to the Far North community he grew up in.
After taking a well-earned break from a whirlwind of appointments and speaking engagements that naturally followed him bringing home an Olympic silver medal from Weymouth, he's been back at it again in the past couple of weeks.
But in the North, the task isn't really onerous, he said, especially when he gets to spend an afternoon at his old primary school in Kawkawa.
"They had a class come up to join in the Kerikeri parade [that welcomed him and Peter Burling home after the Olympics] so it was good to give something back to them by spending half a day there playing rugby, ki-o-rahi and being a part of their Olympic project, which was really cool," he said.
After bringing home the highest sporting honour since Bythe Tait's gold medal at the 1996 OIympics, there's no shortage of requests for his presence. In the past 10 days he has been the guest speaker at the Kaipara Sports Awards and the Northland Secondary Sports Awards as well as making an appearance on a stand-up paddleboard at Saturday's Russell to Pahia open water swim.
"It was an awesome month or so after the Olympics and we enjoyed sharing our medals with as many people as we could - we loved the support we got in Northland and that's still continuing now - it's great to be from the Far North and I'm stoked to be able to help out. If what I do helps get an extra kid into sport then it's all worth it," he said.
He was relieved to finally get a well earned break and did what most 23-year-olds want to do - let their hair down and spend six weeks touring around Europe with a friend.
"I did what every Kiwi wants to do and went on a Kontiki Tour in Europe, all my brothers have done it so it was my turn ... it was good to get away for some down time and to do a bit of partying with my best mate," he said.
On the way back from Europe, he took a detour and stopped in at Miami to sail in the World A Class Catamaran Championships in Florida but it was shut down after two days racing when Hurricane Sandy hit. He and helmsman Peter Burling have decided to compete at the Rio Olympics, once again in the 49er Class. But before they really contemplate that, they are keen to compete in the Youth America's Cup next year and they are expecting to hear about the selection process soon.
Tuke's immediate focus is different again - he will crew for leading Bay of Islands' offshore skipper Ray Hasler on Rikki, a Reichal/Pugh 42 footer, in this year's Sydney to Hobart race.
"It's the first Sydney-Hobart for me and I'm really looking forward to it and getting the experience of sailing that sort of boat ... and it's a great opportunity to learn from Ray and he will give me some extra responsibility and that will help me to improve my skills," he said.
It's a big change from the kind of sailing he's used to and delivering the boat to Sydney in the weeks to come will give him another chance to take stock of his new status while learning about blue water sailing.
"I haven't really been offshore since the family sailed to Fiji when I was 12 or so I'm really looking forward to getting away from land for a while," he said.
With all the attention he has been getting, it's not hard to understand why.