Sir Peter James Blake KBE (1 October 1948 – 5 December 2001) was a New Zealand yachtsman who won the 1989–1990 Whitbread Round the World Race, held the Jules Verne Trophy from 1994 to 1997 by setting the fastest time around the world as co-skipper of ENZA New Zealand, and led his country to successive victories in the America's Cup. He led two successful America's Cup campaigns as syndicate head, winning the Cup in San Diego in 1995 and defending it in 2000 in Auckland (the first non-American team to do so). For the 2000 regatta, Blake's vision and determination for an America's Cup village of yachts and superyachts resulted in the development of Viaduct Basin on the edge of Auckland Harbour.
Blake was shot and killed by pirates while monitoring environment change on the Amazon River on 5 December 2001. He was 53 years old.
Blake was made an MBE in 1983 and an OBE in 1991. He was knighted in 1995 for services to yachting. He received many other awards and accolades throughout this period, including New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year in 1982 and 1990. Later he was awarded World Sailor of the Year in 1994. Blake was New Zealand Sportsman of the Year in 1990, and again with Team New Zealand in 1995. He received honorary doctorates from Massey University in 1999 and Auckland University of Technology in 2000.
Sir Peter Blake had a very specific idea of the boat that he wanted to build for the 1985/86 Whitbread around the World Race. After discussions with a number of top New Zealand yacht designers the design was awarded to New Zealander Ron Holland, based in Ireland.
The boat had to have the following criteria: 31tons actual displacement weight (light but stiff)
• It needed to excel to windward
• It had to be very fast when reaching under two sails
• It had to be fully controllable downwind with a spinnaker up
• It had to be a masthead rig
The result was one of the finest International Ocean Racing (I.O.R). maxi sloops ever built.
Construction of Lion NZ began in 1983, with a launch date set for November 1984. This was to coincide with the Sydney to Hobart Race beginning on Boxing Day - her first real test.
Unfortunately, on completion Lion NZ came in 8 tons heavier that the original design draft and to make matters worse all the weight was in the wrong places, her hull and fittings. It became apparent that the extra weight was going to slow the boat down in lighter conditions. Lion's first race - the 1984 Sydney to Hobart Race - was a true test. After 3 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes, 21 seconds Lion NZ crossed the finish Lion in First Place. She had proven her strength and gained the nickname, "The Urban Assault Vehicle".
Lion NZ went on to finish a commendable 2nd Place in the Whitbread Around the World Race.
NZ SAILING HEROES - THE LION NZ CREW
Andrew Taylor - Aran Hansen - Bob Graham - Cole Sheehan - Ed Danby - Fraser Maxwell - Glen Sowry - Godfrey Cray - Graeme Handley - Grant Dalton - Grant Spanhake - Kevin Shoebridge - Martin Ford - Mike Quilter - Paul MacDonald - Paul von Zalinski - Peter Blake - Ralph Lucas - Ross Guiniven - Roy Mason - Simon Gundry - Tony Rae
Due to race course changes for the 1989/90 Whitbread, a different kind of yacht was called for and again Sir Peter Blake drew from his experience and knowledge of sailing to create Steinlager2. The crew were chosen not only for their excellence in sailing but between them had all the skills and expertise to contribute valuable knowledge and input to the design of this yacht. Such were their skills that they were able to repair and maintain absolutely everything on board while at sea.
Much of the design for Steinlager2 was based around the 60ft trimaran Steinlager1. Steinlager1 was built using materials and techniques that were new to boat building and the construction method was tested when Sir Peter Blake and Mike Quilter sailed the boat around Australia.
Blake commissioned the US based New Zealand Yacht Designer, Bruce Farr to design Steinlager2. The base design was the same as four other boats entering the Whitbread. Once the basic design was done, Blake came forward with the changes that the team would require for their boat.
The yacht was to be as long as possible while still complying with the rules (the longer the boat the faster it will go) The yacht must be easily steered and track well when fully under load. The yacht must be a ketch rig.
The Farr office delivered a design that looked very similar to Grant Daltons entry and Blake was not happy. Last minute changes called for a fractional rig set up. Meaning in order to balance out the loads the boat would be longer and therefore faster. The Steinlager2 team went to great lengths to hide the boats design from the other syndicates until it was too late for any of them to make any further changes.
The famous Fastnet Race in England was to be the testing grounds for this new design and the first time the boat would be up against most of the other Whitbread fleet. Steinlager2 proved very fast downwind and the yacht proved very fast - this was to be the first of many wins for Steinlager2 and her crew - but this was the most satisfying win of all as it proved that what they had designed was right.
1989/90 WHITBREAD AROUND THE WORLD RACE
Steinlager2 and her amazing sailors went on to win an unprecedented full sweep of all six legs of the race. Never had this been done before. Not only winning on their handicap but winning overall honours as well.
NZ SAILING HEROES - THE STEINLAGER 2 CREW
Sir Peter Blake - Tony Rae - Ross Field - Glenn Sowry - Godfrey Cray - Martin Ford - Mike Quilter - Dean Phipps - Graham Fleury - Kevin Shoebridge - Don Wright - Brad Butterworth - Mark Orams - Craig Watson - Barry McKay - Cole Sheehan