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Peter Blake: A hero of sailing

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- New Zealand's Peter Blake, with his lucky red socks and blonde, 70s-style moustache, unified a nation when he won yachting's premier trophy, the America's Cup.

Blake, who was head of the 1995 "Black Magic" syndicate that won the America's Cup off San Diego, was killed in Amazonia when his boat Seamaster was attacked by pirates.

New Zealand became only the second country in 145 years to take the prestigious trophy from the American defenders in 1995.

In 2000, in his hometown Auckland, Blake and Team New Zealand became the first non-American team to retain the America's Cup.

Blake, 53, twice a New Zealand Sportsman of the Year, left the job in August 2000 and took over the old Jacques Cousteau boat Antarctic Explorer, renaming her Seamaster.

He was in the Amazon raising international awareness of the area's importance to the world environment when he died.

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During the successful America's Cup challenge in 1995 Blake, who was also the mainsail trimmer, wore the same pair of red socks throughout as Team New Zealand went through the campaign winning all but one of their races.

The only race they lost was when Blake was rested.

New Zealand swept aside Team Dennis Conner of the U.S. in the America's Cup final 5-0.

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.

Upon the team's return hundreds of thousands jammed the main streets of Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to welcome the cup to New Zealand.

Before his involvement in the America's Cup Blake was best known for his ocean racing exploits, competing in five round-the-world races, culminating in his victory in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World race aboard Steinlager 2.

Known for his meticulous planning, Blake did without the creature comforts normally associated with ocean racing yachts of the time, stripping his double-masted ketch down to a pure racing machine.

Blake's yacht, despite gear failures and dismastings, won all six legs of the race to take line, handicap and overall honours.

One of the most thrilling legs was when he battled with fellow New Zealander Grant Dalton in Fisher and Paykel as the pair raced down the east coast of New Zealand's North Island for Blake to pip his compatriot by only six minutes into their home port of Auckland.

Blake's first experience of America's Cup racing was in 1992 when New Zealand lost the challenger finals to an Italian syndicate.

He then won the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 by setting the fastest time around the world of 74 days 22 hours 17 minutes 22 seconds on catamaran Enza.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, and was probably as recognisable in his homeland as Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, but Blake was always relaxed and understated.

He leaves his wife Pippa and two children, Sara-Jane and James.


• Blakexpeditions
• United Nations Environment Programme
• Omega Blakexpeditions site

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