Sir Peter Blake
Regarded as one of most successful sailors in yachting history, Sir Peter Blake was twice a winner of the America’s Cup with Team Zealand.
In 1995 he helped make Team New Zealand only the second non-American team in the America’s Cup’s 144-year history to take the coveted silver trophy.
They won again in 2000 – but those achievements were just the tip of the iceberg in Blake’s career.
At 6ft 8ins the New Zealander was a giant in stature as well as in his chosen sport. He was twice named New Zealand Sportsman of the Year and four times New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year.
Blake began sailing at eight and 12 years later he had built his first boat in the family garden – prophetically christened Bandit.
In 1970, having completed his mechanical engineering studies, Blake moved to England and within a year had taken part in his first major race, the Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro event, aboard “Ocean Spirit”.
Blake contested the first Whitbread Round the World race in 1973 and was the only person to compete in the first five Whitbreads.
That run ended when he won the prestigious event in 1989 with an un-precedented clean sweep.
His “Steinlager 2” team took line, handicap and overall honours on each of the six legs in the
In 1994 he captured the Jules Verne Trophy by sailing non-stop around the globe on a catamaran in 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds.
His first America’s Cup victory, following an unsuccessful effort in 1992, came in 1995 and was unquestionably Blake’s greatest achievement.
As well as his studious nature, sailing success and blonde, 1970s-style mustache, Blake was also famous for his lucky red socks.
During the successful America’s Cup challenge in 1995 Blake, who was also the mainsail trimmer, wore the same pair of red socks throughout.
Team New Zealand only lost one race in the campaign – when Blake was rested.
Before the final, team sponsors manufactured tens of thousands of pairs of Blake’s lucky red socks which sold out in days in New Zealand.
The craze resulted in the sale of 100,000 pairs of the socks and with half the money going to the syndicate it proved a masterstroke in subsidising the team’s funding.
On the team’s return hundreds of thousands jammed the main streets of Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to welcome the cup.
Blake repeated the success in the millennium year when he became the first non-American entry to retain the America’s Cup in 149 years, beating Italian challengers Prada 5-0.
Blake was also chosen to succeed the late Jacques Cousteau as captain of the marine research vessel Calypso 2.
In July 2001 he was appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Environment Program.
He then traveled to the Amazon for eight months’ sailing.
His reputation was one of a meticulous planner and gifted leader.
Blake’s fierce determination to win always inspired immense loyalty from his crews and unlimited confidence from his backers – who had the unpleasant task of announcing his death.
His management skills involved placing the best people in positions where they would be most effective and giving them room to operate.
Blake, who was born in Auckland on 1 October 1948 and attended Takapuna Grammar School, was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1983 for services to yachting.
An OBE followed in 1991 and four years later he received a knighthood from the Queen.
Blake is survived by his wife, Pippa, and two children.