SIR PETER BLAKE 1948 - 2001



 Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 17:59 GMT

Environmentalist Sailor Peter Blake Killed by Pirates

Sir Peter Blake

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Masked pirates boarded sailing champion Peter Blake's yacht on the Amazon River, shooting and killing the two-time America's cup winner when he tried to resist.

According to his agent, Blake was shot dead when intruders boarded his boat, Seamaster, on Wednesday.  In 1995 he helped make Team New Zealand only the second non-American team to win the America's Cup in the trophy's 144-year history, and they won again in 2000.  He was famous for his lucky red socks, wearing the same pair throughout the entire 1995 America's Cup Challenge.  Knighted by the Queen in 1991, he also captured the Jules Verne trophy in 1994, before being appointed as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme in 2001.


Blake, 53, was on a worldwide expedition to monitor global warming and pollution aboard his 119-foot yacht, said Alan Sefton, spokesman for Blake's organization, blakexpeditions.

The vessel, called Seamaster, was in the mouth of the Amazon on Wednesday night near Macapa, a city 1,600 miles north of Sao Paulo, when three or four assailants approached in a rubber dinghy ``commonly used by river rats that ply the Amazon river in search of victims,'' said state police chief Rosilene Martins de Sena.

``Armed and hooded individuals came over the rail and had the crew at gunpoint,'' Sefton said Thursday in a telephone interview. ``It would appear that Peter was down below and heard what was going on and came charging up'' and was shot at least twice.

Two crew members were slightly injured but have been released from the hospital.

Federal prosecutor Manoel Pastana told reporters the crew was preparing a barbecue on the yacht when the gunmen appeared, shouting ``Money! Money!''


According to local media, the killers took a spare engine and several watches from the Seamaster, which had been awaiting customs clearance to leave Brazil after a two-month stay.

Blake and a crew of 10 arrived in Brazil in October. Sefton said they spent two months in the upper reaches of the Amazon and Rio Negro and had encountered nothing but ``friendly, warm, hospitable people.''

``And as soon as the boat gets back into so-called civilization, something tragic happens,'' Sefton told New Zealand's One News television station.


New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark described Blake as ``a national hero,'' and flags were at half-staff across the country. Parliament paid tribute to Blake with a moment of silence and a native Maori hymn.

``I think he is to the waters what Sir Edmund Hillary (conqueror of Mount Everest) has been to the mountains. He's just the most amazingly accomplished yachtsman,'' Clark said. ``He was an inspiration to all New Zealanders, and we will all feel a tremendous sense of loss.''


New Zealand Ambassador Denise Almao flew into Amapa, the governor's office said in a note.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that ``government deeply regrets the tragic death of New Zealands' renowned explorer, yachtsman and scientist.''

Sir Peter Blake - Environmentalist

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the statement added, ``has ordered that the criminals be promptly identified and arrested.''

Seamaster had been scheduled to sail up the coast to Venezuela to meet blakeexpedition's jungle team. The vessel had previously been on a three-month study of wildlife in the Antarctic region.

American skipper Dennis Conner, a three-time America's Cup winner who was beaten by Team New Zealand 5-0 in 1995, praised Blake.

``He was a hero and role model for the New Zealand people and obviously a winner that was focused and accomplished his goals, whether it was winning the round-the-world race or the America's Cup,'' Conner said Thursday.

In March 2000, Blake said he had received letters from someone threatening to kill him and harm his family.

``We've always got crank mail, but it has been going beyond that recently,'' Blake said at the time. ``So we have taken all the precautions we were advised to take.''


After Blake's 1995 America's Cup win, Governor General Dame Cath Tizard said it was New Zealand's proudest day since Auckland native Edmund Hillary became the first man to climb Mount Everest in 1953.

The America's Cup was the only major sailing trophy that the self-proclaimed ``Nation of Sailors'' hadn't claimed, and Team New Zealand under Blake won with one of the most dominating performances in America's Cup history.

Blake was appointed in July as a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Environment Program. Before that, he headed the Cousteau Society, an environmental group founded in 1973 by the late undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Sefton said Blake considered the current expedition his last and greatest adventure, hoping to create greater awareness of the need to take care of the environment.


Blake, born in Auckland, announced earlier this year that he was relinquishing control of the New Zealand syndicate. He was knighted in 1995.  Blake, who began sailing at age 5, won the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 and took the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 by sailing nonstop around the globe on a catamaran in 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds. The record fell three years later.

Last year, he led the first non-American entry to retain the America's Cup in 149 years, beating Italian challenger Prada 5-0.

He is survived by wife Pippa and two children.  On the Net:  Blake's expedition,

ENZA 1994 - Jules Verne Trophy

Skipperd by RKJ and Peter Blake, 'ENZA' attempted to beat 80 days around the world in 1993 but struck an object in the Southern Ocean and withdrew.  In 1994 with the same skippers she got around the world in 74 days 22 hours 18 minutes, thus setting a new world record and gaining the Jules Verne Trophy. Sold on to Tracy Edwards and re-named Maiden, with an all girl crew she was dismasted in the Southern pacific when trying to better this time. She was subsequently sold to Tony Bullimore. (Originally the Nigel Irens designed catamaran “Tag” built in Canada in 1984)


LINKS  Tuesday February 24, 2004


Herald Feature: Peter Blake, 1948-2001
Editorial: Base the place for Blake memorial
Brian Rudman: Council's Team NZ base buy a bottler of an idea
Seamaster on Blake's old course
NZ bid for Blake's boat
Penguin signs Sir Peter book deal
Sir Peter Blake's life and adventures to be published
Sale of Blake's boat threatens end for nature project
Blake memorial could cost $1m a year
Memorial should be a source of inspiration
Panel to review Blake memorial
Brian Rudman: Win-win? Well, the council vote wasn't a complete loss
Beware of ongoing Blake memorial bills says councillor
Demand for marine education overwhelming Blake centre
Forest and Bird go for Blake's island
Hauraki Gulf perfect location for a memorial
Rocking the boat
Citizens left out of loop
Editorial: Family approves but will the public?
Brian Rudman: Walkabout on Kaikoura Island
Blake display backers stay firm despite opposition
Council narrowly split over $10m Blake memorial
Island tribute to Blake gets $1m backing
Brian Rudman: Banks on Blake: what a difference three months makes
Auckland mayor dismisses Gulf Island plan as Blake memorial
Blake's brother withdraws support for glass memorial
Blake Cup regatta looks like a winner
Brian Rudman: Okay, Mr Banks, let's say it was our idea
Revolt over Blake tribute
More Headlines...


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