Sir Peter James Blake of New Zealand wore several different hats during his lifetime. He was best-known as a world-class yachtsman. But he had other roles including an adventurer, a leader and an environmental advocate.
Blake has been hailed for his leadership skills, for possessing a determined spirit and for being a thorough planner. His life came to a tragic end on December 5, 2001 at age 53. He was hailed as a national hero in New Zealand.
Born with the sea in mind
Blake's dad was a gunboat captain in World War II. His mom and dad owned boats, so the Blake children including Peter grew up learning about the sea and its ways. His sister Janet said his dad liked to win boating races but the family enjoyed its time on the water.
Blake had a long career in yachting. In 1973-74 he raced in the first Whitbrand Round the World race. In 2001 the ownership of the race and name was changed to the Volvo Ocean Race. This yacht race is considered the creme de la creme of yacht races.
Blake participated in five races, the only person to do so. Besides the 1973-74 race, Blake sailed in the 1977-78 race and the 1981-82 race as the skipper of Ceramco New Zealand. He returned for the 1985-86 race. He won the 1989-90 Whitbrand race with the Steinlager 2.
After this, Blake participated in the America's Cup sailing competition. He was involved at various times between 1992 and 2000. In the 1995 America's Cup competition, Blake was a crew member of the New Zealand team. The New Zealanders were first in every race save one. Blake's inspiration abilities were key to the win.
In 1996 Blake was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame. He was bestowed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire(MBE) by Queen Elizabeth in 1991.
Life cut short by pirates
Blake said in the year 2000 that he had been the recipient of letters from someone threatening to kill him and his family.
In late 2001 Blake and a crew of ten set out on a yacht on an expedition. His intent was to monitor global warming and pollution on behalf of the United Nations. He and his crew were at the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil.
Then a group of armed pirates stormed his ship. Blake was shot at least twice in the back by the assailants and he died. Two of his crew were injured. The robbers were eventually apprehended and sent to prison.
The Sir Peter Blake Trust
To perpetuate Blake's spirit, vision and work, the Sir Peter Blake Trust was launched in June, 2004. The New Zealand government created an endowment of $3.8 million, one dollar for every New Zealander. The Trust's mission is to honor Blake's visionary leadership skills and to keep those values alive for people in the future.