Sir Peter Blake was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 1 October 1948. He grew up on and around the water, like many of his contemporaries – Auckland being a yachting paradise – and he even built his own keeler yacht as a kid.
He took part in his first round the world yacht race in 1974 as watch officer on the Burton Cutter and in 1979 he took Line honours and set a course record in the Fastnet race on Condor. . A year later he took line and handicap honours on Ceramco in the Sydney-Hobart race and in his third Whitbread campaign, he skippered the same yacht to take third place, improving by a place in his next attempt on Lion New Zealand.
In 1982 he was named New Zealand's Yachtsman of the Year, and a year later, he was awarded the M.B.E..
He took line honours in the inaugural two-man round Australia race aboard Steinlager 1, and finally won the Whitbread round-the-world race in 1989/90 aboard Steinlager 2, with an unprecedented clean sweep of line honours on each of the race's six legs. This achievement led to his being named New Zealand's Sports Personality of the Year for 1989, and receiving an O.B.E. in 1991.
In 1992, he was part of the New Zealand team that challenged unsuccessfully for the America's Cup, and after this, he moved to racing multi-hulled boats, challenging for the Jules Verne trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on ENZA. This attempt ended when the boat suffered a cracked hull in the Indian Ocean, but a year later Blake took the trophy, and was honoured as World Sailor of the Year and British Yachtsman of the Year.
It was in 1995, however that Blake really came to world prominence, when he headed New Zealand's successful challenge for the America's Cup. The whole nation was focused on the race and, to raise funds to keep the challenge afloat, pairs of "Lucky red socks" were sold everywhere, because Blake had a habit of wearing red socks when racing. The final race of the series, when the New Zealand boat Black Magic took the victory, recorded the highest viewing figures for any TV event in New Zealand history, outstripping even the national sport of rugby. He was knighted for services to yachting. Together with Robin Knox Johnston, Blake was awarded the Royal Yacht Squadron's Sir Francis Chichester Trophy.
Much of the victory was put down to Blake's inspirational leadership, and this earned him New Zealand's Outstanding Management and Marketing Achievement Award. The Team New Zealand approach was enthusiastically taken up by business throughout the nation, and Sir Peter and other members of the team toured widely, lecturing on leadership and teamwork.
In 1997, Jaques Cousteau's widow approached him, and he was appointed captain of Cousteau Society, combining his duties in this role with planning for New Zealand's defence of the America's Cup in 2000.
The defence was successful, making New Zealand the first nation outside America to retain the Cup, but at the end of the event Team New Zealand broke up amid bitterness, and even accusations of "treason" from the press, when a number of key members, including skipper Russell Coutts were wooed away from New Zealand with huge payments. Blake was saddened by this, but he had always stated his intention to leave after the Cup, and he did so.
A passionate environmentalist, committed to highlighting the problem with disappearing ecosystems, Sir Peter established blakexpeditions with the objective: "to help protect life in, on and around the waters of the world" .
On the vessel, Seamaster, blakexpeditions had a highly successful inaugural exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula, then travelled to the Amazon and the Rio Negro to monitor the effects of global warming and pollution in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the world.
On December 5, 2001 Seamaster was anchored off Macapa in Brazil before departing to the Orinoco river, in Venezuela, to meet and pick-up a jungle team which had continued exploration into the interior of the area.
A group of seven or eight armed and hooded intruders boarded Seamaster at around 10.15pm local time, when several of the crew were asleep, and as Sir Peter made his way to the deck to investigate, he was shot and killed by the pirates. Two other crew members were injured, one with a gunshot wound, another with a blow to the face.
The intruders left after stealing the crew's watches and an outboard motor. Release of news of the death was delayed, until Sir Peter's wife Pippa was able to reach and tell their two children, Sarah-Jane and James. Brazilian police are investigating.