Sir Peter Blake

New Zealand's sailing icon

Courtesy Blakexpeditions

Blake's (1948-2001) sailing career reads like an heroic tale. He sailed in the first five Whitbreads, winning the last-1989/1990-on Steinlager II in stunning fashion with wins in every leg. Following that triumph, he sailed with Robin Knox-Johnston in 1994 on the 92-foot cat Enza in a successful bid to break the round the world record.

Perhaps Blake's most famous victories were his final two, the 1995 and 2000 America's Cup wins with Team New Zealand in the America's Cup. The first victory, in 1995 gave New Zealand the Cup for the first time in history. The second win was the first time that the Cup had ever been successfully defended by any other country but the United States. For his racing exploits Blake was rewarded by Queen Elizabeth with the OBE, the MBE, and the KBE.

The next chapter in Blake's life was the culmination of a long-cherished desire to make the world a better place for future generations. An association with the Cousteau foundation and a position as a special envoy for the United Nations Environment Program led to the founding of Blakexpeditions, a program designed to "help protect the waters of the world and, so, life in, on and around those waters." To help achieve this goal, Blakexpeditions planned to undertake voyages to areas of the world which are key to the planet's ecosystem, including the Antarctic, the Arctic and the great rivers.

Prior to exploring the Amazon, Blake sailed Seamaster along the Antarctic Peninsula farther south than anyone had been, examining the lack of sea ice and collapsing ice shelves caused by changing climate conditions. Blake was shot and killed by river bandits aboard Seamaster December 5, 2001, at the end of a two-month research expedition in the Amazon River Basin.