Peter Blake (sailor)

Sir Peter Blake
Peter Blake (yachtsman).jpg
Personal information
Birth namePeter James Blake
Born(1948-10-01)1 October 1948
Auckland, New Zealand
Died5 December 2001(2001-12-05) (aged 53)
Macapá, Brazil
Pippa Jane Glanville (m. 1979)
CountryNew Zealand
TeamTeam New Zealand

Sir Peter James Blake KBE (1 October 1948 – 5 December 2001) was a New Zealand yachtsman who won the 1989–1990 Whitbread Round the World Race, held the Jules Verne Trophy from 1994 to 1997 by setting the fastest time around the world as co-skipper of ENZA New Zealand, and led his country to successive victories in the America's Cup.

In honour of his services to yachting, Blake was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995, and received an honorary doctorate in 2000 from Auckland University of Technology.

Blake was shot and killed by pirates while monitoring environment change on the Amazon River on 5 December 2001. He was 53 years old.

Whitbread Round the World Race

Blake raced in the first, 1973–1974 Whitbread Round the World Race as watch captain on board Burton Cutter skippered by Les Williams. In the 1977–1978 race, he rejoined Les Williams and co-skipper Johnston on board Heaths Condor. For the 1981–1982 race, Blake mounted his own campaign as skipper of Ceramco New Zealand, a 68-foot (21 m) sloop designed by an up-and-coming naval architect called Bruce Farr.

He returned for the 1985–1986 race as one of the race favourites, skipper of Lion New Zealand, sponsored by the Lion Brewery. He won the 1989–1990 Whitbread race, where he skippered Steinlager 2 to an unprecedented clean sweep of line, handicap and overall honours on each of the race's six legs.

America's Cup

Brought in at the last minute by Carl McKenzie to manage New Zealand's 1992 America's Cup challenge, Blake led the Kiwi team to the challenger finals with NZL-20. However, Italy emerged from the controversial series with the Louis Vuitton Cup, and went on to face America³ in the America's Cup match.

Blake was back for the 1995 America's Cup challenge, this time as the syndicate head of Team New Zealand. With NZL 32, "Black Magic", they made a clean sweep, beating Dennis Conner 5–0. Blake's "lucky red socks" (a present from his wife) became something of a trademark. It was commonplace to see New Zealanders sport red socks or fly them from car aerials during the Cup races and a highly successful "fundraising edition" of official red socks emblazoned with the sail numbers of the two NZL yachts was produced to help fund the syndicate. Subsequently, following his murder, red socks became a badge of mourning to his many admirers.

In the 2000 America's Cup, Team New Zealand, still led by Blake, became the first non-American team to successfully defend the Americas Cup, beating Prada 5–0. Following this defence, Blake stood down from the team.

Blake was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1996.[1]

Post racing

In 1997, Blake became the Cousteau Society's head of expeditions, and skipper of the Antarctic Explorer, which he later purchased from the Society and renamed Seamaster. After leaving the Society he led expeditions to Antarctica and the Amazon aboard Seamaster during 2001.[2] The same year Blake was named special envoy for the UN Environment Programme.[3] He began filming documentaries for blakexpeditions, a company he founded.

Death and legacy

On 5 December 2001, pirates shot and killed Blake while he was on an environmental exploration trip in South America, monitoring global warming and pollution for the United Nations. The two-month expedition was anchored off Macapá, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon delta, waiting to clear customs after a trip up the Amazon river. At around 9 p.m. a group of six to eight armed, masked robbers wearing balaclavas and crash helmets boarded the Seamaster. As one of the robbers held a gun to the head of a crewmember, Blake sprang from the cabin wielding a rifle. He shot one of the assailants in the hand before the rifle malfunctioned; he was then fatally shot in the back by assailant Ricardo Colares Tavares.[3][4] The boarders injured two other crew members with knives, and the remaining seven were unhurt.[5]

The only thing seized by the attackers was a 15 hp outboard motor and some watches from the crew. Authorities eventually captured the pirates and sentenced them to an average of 32 years in prison each; Tavares, the man who fired the fatal shots, received a sentence of 36 years.[3] Prior to the attack, the yacht's crew had been very careful when travelling up the river and back down again; they always had crew members on watch. Only upon return to Macapa did they relax their guard.

Blake is survived by his wife Pippa, Lady Blake, and their two children Sarah-Jane and James. Blake's environmental and leadership legacy is continued by The Sir Peter Blake Trust, a non-profit organisation based in New Zealand.

Around 30,000 people attended a memorial service held for Blake at the Auckland Domain on 23 December 2001, and included tributes from Blake's family, the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, the Brazilian Ambassador, and Neil and Tim Finn.[6] Helen Clark spent a night aboard the Seamaster three weeks prior to the attack.[7] She called Blake a "living legend" and a "national hero"[8] in her eulogy she said in part: "Our small nation went into shock. Peter Blake was a living legend. As an outstanding sailor, he had brought great honour and fame to New Zealand. His death was unthinkable."

Blake is buried at Warblington churchyard, near Emsworth on the south coast of England. It is a pilgrimage destination for New Zealanders,[citation needed] who sometimes leave New Zealand coins on the headstone. Emsworth is where Pippa and Peter settled and raised their two children. His headstone bears the words of John Masefield's famous poem, Sea-Fever: "I must down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by....".

In October 2002, the International Olympic Committee posthumously awarded the Olympic Order, one of its highest honours, to Blake.[9]In December 2003, the Sir Peter Blake Trust was established, with the support of the Blake family, "to help New Zealanders make a positive difference for the planet through activities that encourage environmental awareness and action, and leadership development."

The Trust has a range of initiatives, including the annual Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards. These awards consist of the Blake Medal, awarded each year to an outstanding New Zealand leader, and the Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Awards, presented annually to six people recognised as younger leaders of considerable potential. The winners of the Blake Medal, in order starting 2005, are John Anderson, Stephen Tindall, Paul Callaghan, Murray Halberg, John Hood (university administrator), Ray Avery, Margaret Bazley, John Graham, Mick Brown, Peter Jackson, Rob Fenwick,[10] Peter Gluckman, Mason Durie and Tariana Turia.

Seamaster was originally built in France. After Blake's death she was eventually purchased by Étienne Bourgois and renamed Tara expedition. She continues to undertake successful expeditions.

In 1992 the Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre was named in honour of Blake.[11]


  1. ^ "Inductees". Herreshoff Marine Museum. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  2. ^ McCormick, Herb (7 December 2001). "On Yachting; Peter Blake's Legacy Spans the World". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  3. ^ a b c "Long sentences for Blake murder". BBC News. 19 June 2002. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  4. ^ Wise, Mike (28 December 2002). "YACHT RACING; A Year Later, Blake's Widow Searches for Strength". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  5. ^ "Sir Peter Blake murdered". TVNZ. 7 December 2001. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  6. ^ Beynon, Geoff (24 December 2001). "Scoop Images: Sir Peter Blake Memorial Service". Scoop. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  7. ^ "Tributes to a sailing legend". BBC Sport. 6 December 2001. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  8. ^ "PM's eulogy for Sir Peter Blake". The official website of the New Zealand Government, para 6. 6 December 2001. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  9. ^ "Blake honoured by IOC". BBC Sport. 12 December 2001. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  10. ^ "The alumni". Sir Peter Blake Trust. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  11. ^ Winstone, Charlotte (24 June 2003). "Demand for marine education overwhelming Blake centre". New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 29 May 2019.

External links

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