Sir Peter Blake continues to inspire the team
He was born in Auckland, and spent his childhood on and around the Hauraki Gulf. The Blake family loved to sail. They always had yachts and would spend weekends and holidays sailing together. Even during term-time the Blake children would spend hours after school rowing around the harbour and the mangroves at the bottom of the garden.
From a young age, Sir Peter Blake was a talented and competitive sailor. He started racing his P-class yacht Pee Bee with the Takapuna Boating Club, and won the New Zealand Junior Offshore Group Championship in 1967-68 in his yacht Bandit – a boat he built himself on his parents’ front lawn.
Sir Peter Blake went on to become one of New Zealand’s greatest yachtsmen – competing in five Whitbread Round the World Yacht Races (now the Volvo Ocean Race) and eventually skippering Steinlager 2 to victory in 1990 – 17 years after he first attempted the race. He followed this up in 1994 with a win and a new record in the Jules Verne Challenge on board the catamaran ENZA, sailing around the world in 74 days, 22 hours and 17 minutes.
Sir Peter then turned his attention to what is arguably yachting’s greatest prize – the America’s Cup – as manager of the 1992 challenge. However, it wasn’t until 1995 that New Zealand truly made its mark on the cup, with NZL 32 “Black Magic” beating the defender, Team Dennis Connor, in the 29th America’s Cup in San Diego. It was during this challenge that Sir Peter Blake’s lucky red socks, a gift from his wife, Lady Pippa, emerged – and quickly became a national obsession! Every day Sir Peter wore his red socks on board Black Magic the boat was victorious out on the water. In fact, the only race Team New Zealand lost throughout the entire campaign was the day that Blake remained on-shore with an injury. Back at home, red sock fever gripped New Zealand, with New Zealanders wearing red socks to support the boat and the proceeds from these helping to fund the syndicate. Almost overnight, Team New Zealand became a team of 3.6 million!
Team New Zealand then became the first non-American team to successfully defend the Americas Cup, beating Prada 5-0 in 2000. Sir Peter Blake was the syndicate head of Team New Zealand throughout this period, and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in honour of his services to yachting.
Having achieved all his major sailing goals, and because he felt he had gained so much from his career at sea, Sir Peter Blake wanted to give something back. He was determined to pour his energies into building public awareness of the threats facing the environment, particularly water, through his environmental organisation – Blakexpeditions.
Tragically, Sir Peter Blake was killed in Macapa, Brazil on 6 December, 2001 at the end of a two month expedition up the Amazon River. His untimely death shocked New Zealand and the country mourned the loss of a talented sailor, an inspiring leader and a dedicated family man. Today, Sir Peter Blake lives on through a number of organisations and events that bear his name, including The Sir Peter Blake Trust, Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre and the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Torbay Youth Regatta.
He is survived by his wife, Lady Pippa, and children Sarah-Jane and James.