Sir Peter Blake – New Zealand’s incomparable Maritime Hero

Friday, February 28, 2014

There are very few individuals who could start out dingy sailing on the North Shore, end up inspiring a national movement and generateimmense international influence.  The leadership of Peter Blake transformed yacht racing into a source of Kiwi pride.  Sir Peter used his profile and influence to campaign for the health of the world’s oceans.  Sir Peter Blake is a New Zealand leadership role model and global, maritime hero.

Like many Kiwis, the young Peter Blake spent a lot of time messing about in boats.  Starting in a ‘P’ class built by his father, he soon found that his big frame could not fit under the boom.  Peter graduated into larger boats like the ‘Z’ class dingy. Peter found a freedom on the water that he was to embrace his whole life.  He also discovered an ability to push himself and his boat hard.  While others would sit out a strong sou’wester, Peter would battle south on the Waitemata Harbour from the North Shore, then turn and scream backhome with his spinnaker flying.

Peter’s first sailing campaign began by building his own boat, Bandit on the family lawn.  He won the Junior Offshore Championship in his first season.  The formula worked and once he had a taste for offshore racing, he saw that he could campaign to build yachtsaimed at more ambitious races.  He made his name in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht race, starting as crew in the inaugural race;then going on to sail in seven Whitbread campaigns, eventually winning the race with Steinlager 2.  He then set the record for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation onboard ENZA. 

These campaigns gave Peter a real taste for success; and he wanted more.  In the wake of Australia’s 1983 victory in the America’s Cup, Peter took a good hard look at it and in his own words; “I decided it was winnable”.  It took another 12 years, but in 1995, Peter Blake and the crew of NZL 32 brought the America’s Cup to New Zealand.    The lucky red socks given to Peter by hiswife Pippa have become a lasting symbol of the uniting spirit that Peter Blake brought to New Zealand’s quest for the America’s Cup. 

Winning the Auld Mug gave Peter Blake a global profile and platform that enabled him to turn to a new chapter with Blake Expeditions.  He began campaigning around the world on the health of the world’s oceans as a special envoy of the United Nations Environment Programme.

His work lives on as an inspiration to many; particularly through the work of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, that helps shape leaders of tomorrow inspired by the work and dedication of this peerless maritime hero.

NZL 32 is pride of place at the Maritime Museum's  Blue Water Black Magic Gallery