Peter Blake and the America’s Cup

Sir Peter Blake

A listener to this podcast asked me about Sir Peter Blake because his name comes up in talk of the America’s Cup. Who was he and why is he still a hero to many New Zealanders?

I used the past tense – was – because he was killed in 2001 by pirates when his boat was tied up beside the Amazon River in Brazil. But he is not forgotten in his home country, New Zealand. We now have Blake Leader Awards and the Blake medal for an outstanding New Zealander with leadership skills.

He was born in 1948 and grew up in Auckland where he learnt to sail. In 1990, he won the Whitbread Round the World yacht race and later raced around the world again, in a yacht, in the fastest time ever. In 1992, he led the New Zealand team in the America’s Cup race in Perth, Australia. Although they did not win that time, he led Team New Zealand again in San Diego, California when they won the America’s Cup for the first time ever. There was great excitement in New Zealand. At the time of the race, Peter Blake’s wife gave him a pair of red socks to wear in the race and red socks became the symbol for the New Zealand team. They were also used for fund raising to support the team. This year too, the Prime Minister, Bill English, put on a pair of red socks on the final day of the race.

Sir Peter Blake also led Team New Zealand in the year 2000 when the America’s Cup race was held in Auckland. After that, he wanted to work on environment issues and in 2001, he was exploring the Amazon River by boat for the United Nations.

At a memorial service after his death, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark said, “Our small nation went into shock. Peter Blake was a living legend. As an outstanding sailor, he had brought great honour and fame to New Zealand.”

Vocabulary

• memorial service – to remember someone who has died; usually it is held some time after the funeral or instead of a funeral (He is buried in England where he lived with his English wife and children.)
• a legend – a story which is told for many, many years






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