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Tomorrow,?Sir Peter Blake would turn 70, had he not been murdered in 2001, aged just 53, so it is fitting that we honour Peter as this week’s keen individual who inspires and surprises.

Blake first became a household name in New Zealand through his involvement in the Whitbread Round the World Race series.? Blake raced in the first, 1973?74 Whitbread Round the World as watch captain on board Burton Cutter skippered by Les Williams.? For the next race, he graduated to co-skipper?onboard Heaths Condor.

For the 1981?82 race, Blake mounted his own campaign as skipper of Ceramco New Zealand, a 68 ft sloop designed by an up-and-coming naval architect called Bruce Farr.? For the next race, he skippered?Lion New Zealand, sponsored by the Lion Brewery.

Blake left this race series in style after he won the 1989?90 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. Quote.

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 America? 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, Sir Peter stood down from the team.

Blake was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1996.

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. The same year Blake was named special envoy for the UN Environment Programme.? He began filming documentaries for blakexpeditions, a company he founded.

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 Macap?, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon delta, waiting to clear customs after a trip up the Amazon river. At around 9 pm 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 crew member, 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. The boarders injured two other crew members with knives, and the remaining seven were unhurt.

The only booty the attackers seized from Seamaster 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 9 months.

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.

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

Then Prime Minister, Helen Clark, called Blake a “living legend” and a “national hero”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.”

On 23 October 2002, the International Olympic Committee posthumously awarded the Olympic Order, one of its highest honours, to Blake. End of quote.

Sir Peter Blake, KBE, was the world?s most celebrated yachtsman. In a 30-year career, he won every significant bluewater race on the planet;? won and successfully defended the biggest sailing prize of all, the America?s Cup, and slashed the record for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail.? Kiwi as!