News reports and rumors slowly surfaced today that Peter Blake, 53, one of sailings most admired skippers, died as a result of a gunshot wound. The incident, according to a number of sources, occurred onboard the 115-foot exploration vessel Seamaster while it was anchored in the port of Macapa, Brazil. Blake and 10 others were in the Amazonian region of Brazil as part of an environmental research and exploration mission. The vessel, according to a statement issued by Omega, the expeditions sponsor, was waiting to clear Brazilian waters. Several members of his crew were ashore exploring when armed robbers boarded from the stern of the boat at approximately 10:15 p.m. local time. They demanded “sellable” items.
“Sir Peter was fatally shot and two other members of Seamasters crew were injured,” said the statement issued by Omega. “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 was a giant in the world of sailing. His career highlights include wins in the Fastnet Race and Sydney-Hobart, and an unmatched run in the Whitbread Race. He contested every Whitbread from its inauguration in 1973/74 until his last in 1989/90 onboard Steinlager II, with which he won all six legs and overall honors. On the heels of his Whitbread career came the stunning 74-day circumnavigation record onboard the catamaran ENZA New Zealand in 1994. Blake also led New Zealands 1992 and 1995 Americas Cup challenges wresting the Cup from Dennis Conner in 95. For the victory, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. In 2000, he led New Zealand to its first-ever Cup defense.
After turning over the reins of Team New Zealand, he formed Blake Expeditions and led a series of adventure expeditions to Antarctica, New Zealand, and most recently the Amazon. The mission statement for Blake Expeditions says, ironically, “To protect life in, on and around the waters of the world.” [His daily logs from onboard Seamaster can be read at http://www.blakexpeditions.com]
Blake is survived by his wife Pippa and two children, Sarah-Jane and James.
–By Dave Reed with reporting from Gary Jobson