Pirates kill America's Cup skipper
PARIS, France -- America's Cup winner Peter Blake, one of the most successful sailors in yachting history, has been shot dead in an attack by pirates, his sponsors say.
New Zealander Blake, 53, was killed when he and his crew were attacked by masked gunmen on their boat Seamaster as it lay anchored at Macapa, Brazil, on Thursday, the sponsors, Omega, said.
The New Zealander, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, won the America's Cup twice in 1995 and 2000 with Team New Zealand.
A statement from the trip's sponsors said: "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."
Blake, who died at Macapa Hospital an hour after the attack, had been taking part in the expedition to raise international awareness of the environment.
The gunmen made away with a watch and one of the 36-metre boat's engines, police said.
Blake had set up an organisation, Blakexpeditions, with the aim of protecting life in, on and around the waters of the world.
In July 2001, he was appointed Special Envoy of the United Nations Environment Programme. He was the first New Zealander to be given this role with the United Nations.
He kept a daily log on a Web site about his progress.
The log for Thursday read: "Location-Rio Amazonas. Status-Still motoring. Conditions-pleasant."
Blake said in his log that the boat had been travelling down the Amazon at night.
"Dusk has turned the surface of the river into a greasy grey -- with the sky quickly darkening after the sun's orange and golds have gone," he wrote.
"We always hope for a clear night and tonight the moon will be up soon after 9 p.m. but this means two and a half hours of real blackness before then.
"There are flashes of lightning up ahead -- with the radar showing a band of rain stretching out either side of our course. There are lights of ships, barge traffic, ferries and small towns."
Record-breaking non-stop voyage
Blake won the prestigious Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 and captured the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 with a record-breaking non-stop voyage.
The New Zealander was the only man to compete in the first five Whitbreads and his 1989-90 victory in Steinlager 2 came with an unprecedented clean sweep as his team walked off with line, handicap and overall honors on each of the race's six legs.
Steinlager 2 beat a field of 23 boats from 13 countries.
Blake and his crew had already completed a trip to Antarctica and set out on their Amazon journey in September.
At the beginning of November, when they were in the upper reaches of the Rio Negro, they were joined for a day by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark.
She interrupted a five-nation tour of Latin America, flying over the Amazon jungle in a charter plane to reach Barcelos, where the Blakexpeditions crew were waiting.
Blake's numerous sporting accolades included two New Zealand Sportsman of the Year awards and four New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year awards.
He was also chosen to succeed the late Jacques Cousteau as captain of the marine research vessel Calypso 2.
In his log, he wrote: "Again I raise the question -- Why are we here? What has been the point of leaving Antarctica in March, refitting in Buenos Aires over the southern winter then undertaking the long haul north to spend some time in the Amazon."
Later he answered the question.
"We want to make a difference," he wrote.
United Nations Environment Programme
Omega Blakexpeditions site
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