Sir Peter Blake, one of the world's leading and most illustrious yachtsmen, has been murdered on board his yacht Seamaster off the mouth of the Brazilian Amazon.
Omega Press Release
It is with deepest regret that OMEGA learned of the death of Sir Peter Blake, K.B.E., who was shot and killed by armed intruders who boarded the "blakexpeditions" vessel Seamaster, anchored off Macapa at the mouth of the River Amazon, early this morning (Central European Time). Sir Peter apparently died instantly despite desperate resuscitation efforts by members of the Seamaster crew. He is survived by his wife, Lady Pippa Blake, and their two children, Sarah-Jane and James.
Seamaster was anchored off Macapa awaiting customs clearance to depart Brazilian waters after a two-month expedition exploring the Amazon and the Rio Negro as part of the "blakexpeditions" programme to monitor the affects of global warming and pollution on the most environmentally sensitive regions of the world. She was due to depart tomorrow for the Orinoco river, in Venezuela, to meet and pick-up the "blakexpeditions" jungle team which has continued the exploration work, crossing from the Rio Negro into the head waters of the Orinoco and down to its mouth in the Caribbean. The group of seven or eight armed and hooded intruders boarded Seamaster at approximately 10.15pm local time.
Sir Peter was fatally shot and two other members of Seamaster's crew were injured, one with a gunshot wound across the back, the other with a blow to the face. Both injured men are back aboard Seamaster after receiving hospital treatment. The other seven Seamaster crew were badly shaken but unharmed. Brazilian police are investigating. OMEGA is deeply shocked and devastated by this senseless killing.
Nicolas G. Hayek, Chairman and CEO of the Swatch Group, OMEGA's parent company, said "Sir Peter has been a personal friend for a number of years and we were honoured to support his worthwhile cause. No words can express our sorrow at this sad loss and at this time our thoughts are with his family in England and his close friends within the blakexpeditions organisation". "Sir Peter was a very special person to many people around the world, highly regarded because of the man he was, because of everything he had achieved and because of everything he represented," said blakexpeditions spokesman Alan Sefton. "He had left behind his many major achievements in sport to dedicate himself to creating greater awareness of the need to take better care of the world in which we live. "And, typical of the man, he was giving it his heart and soul along with all those other virtues with which he had become synonymous - total passion, charisma, commitment, leadership and integrity. '
We are struggling to come to terms with his loss and our hearts go out to his immediate family here - Lady Pippa, Sarah-Jane and James - and to his mother Joyce and family back in New Zealand."
It was in 1995 that 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 - Team New Zealand's "Black Magic" crushed Italy's "Prada" by five races to nil - but those achievements were just the tip of the iceberg in Blake's career.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand on 1 October 1948, Blake began sailing at eight and 12 years later he had built his first boat in the family garden.
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 Whitbread in 1989/90 with an un-precedented clean sweep, on Steinlager 2, taking line honours on each of the six legs in the nine-month race and the overall coveted title.
In 1979, Blake took line honours and the course record in the Fastnet, followed in 1980 by line honours and handicap honours in the Sydney-Hobart.
In 1994 he captured the Jules Verne Trophy by sailing non-stop around the globe on the multihull ENZA with Sir Robin-Knox Johnston in 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds, and it was for this achievement that Sir Peter and Sir Robin were together crowned as the ISAF World Sailors of the Year in 1994.
His 1995 America's Cup victory was unquestionably Blake's greatest achievement. As well as his studious nature, sailing success and blonde, 1970s-style moustache, 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 red socks and with half the money going to the syndicate it proved a masterstroke in subsdising the team's funding.
And upon the team's, return hundreds of thousands jammed the main streets of Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to welcome the cup.
In recognition of his achievements, Sir Peter was knighted in 1995 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to yachting.
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, after beating Italian challengers Prada 5-0.
He was twice named New Zealand Sportsman of the Year and four times New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year.
Blake was also chosen to succeed the late Jacques Cousteau as captain of the marine research vessel Calypso 2.
In July of this year he was named as special envoy for the United Nations Environment Programme, and was travelling in the Amazon as part of his UN duties, monitoring the effects of global warming and pollution in the region.
Sir Peter announced earlier this year he was giving up competitive yachting to devote himself to environmental work, at the head of his "blakexpeditions" organisation.
Statement from Yachting New Zealand
Sir Peter Blake
It is with great sadness Yachting New Zealand sends heart felt condolences to the family and friends of Sir Peter Blake.
The tragic death of Sir Peter is an enormous loss to yachting in New Zealand and world-wide, and to humanity.
Sir Peter gave so much of himself - his time and his vision, to so many within the yachting community, and through his dream revitalised a nation.
Our collective passion for the adventures and victories on the sea were so often inspired by this wondrous and yet humble man.
Today, and in the weeks and years ahead, yachties from Bluff to Cape Reinga,and New Zealanders everywhere, will reflect upon the marvellous and lasting contributions Sir Peter Blake made to enhance our lives and our communities.
Courtesy of BBC Online Website:
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, with whom Blake made the fastest ever circumnavigation of the world, told BBC Sport Online "it was a pleasure sailing with him".
"The great thing about sailing with Peter was he was a first-rate seaman, a very, very good organiser and had great tactical judgement and was good company," Knox-Johnston said.
Sir Chay Blyth and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark were also quick to pay tribute to one of the greats of sailing.
Blyth, one of Britain's most accomplished yachtsmen, added his tribute.
"He was loved by everyone and will be greatly mourned, especially back home in New Zealand. He was a very quiet man, there was nothing flash about him and he achieved so much in sailing."
"I first came across Peter in 1974 in the first Whitbread race when he was the watch officer on board the Burton Cutter," Bltyh added. "From there, he rolled on to the very pinnacle of sailing and what he achieved in the America's Cup was quite amazing. From a small country like New Zealand, which had a small budget, he took on the might of American yachting, in America, and won - it was a remarkable achievement. Peter was renowned for his attention to detail and planning and he had a massive impact on our sport."
Prime Minister Clark said she was "totally devastated" by the murder of one New Zealand's favourite sons. Clark, who had spent the night on Blake's yacht on the Amazon three weeks ago added that it was "too distressing for words".
"This is a dreadful thing. A life has been wasted by a criminal act. He was the Hillary of the waters, our greatest sailor," she said in reference to Mount Everest conqueror and fellow New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary.
The New Zealand parliament will be briefly suspended and flags will be flown at half-mast.
ISAF expresses our sincere condolences to Lady Pippa, their children and all Sir Peter's family.