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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 07:44 GMT
Brazil hunts yachtsman's killers
Seamaster and Brazilian police boats
Police boats approach Sir Peter Blake's yacht
The Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has ordered an all-out effort to find the killers of Sir Peter Blake, one of the world's leading yachtsmen.

Sir Peter was murdered on Wednesday by a gang of pirates who boarded his ship as it was moored at the mouth of the Amazon.

Sir Peter was best known for leading the yacht Team New Zealand to victory in 1995 and 2000 in the America's Cup, yachting's most prestigious team competition.

Map of Brazilian Amazon
Sir Peter's ship, Seamaster, was awaiting customs clearance off the small town of Macara when a gang of pirates came on board to steal whatever they could.

New Zealander Sir Peter tried to fight them off, but was killed by two shots in the back.

Two other crew members were injured, before the pirates escaped, reportedly with an outboard motor and several watches.

Yachting triumphs

Apart from the America's Cup victories, Sir Peter twice won the arduous Sydney-to-Hobart race, and the Whitbread round-the-world race in 1990.

In July of this year he was named as special envoy for the United Nations Environment Programme.


I want to get people in love with the environment. I'm sure most people don't really understand what the problem is and nor do they care about it. I want them to start to care for the right reasons

Sir Peter Blake
He was travelling in the Amazon as part of a five-year round-the-world expedition to study the effects of global warming and pollution.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand on 1 October 1948, Sir Peter was knighted in 1995 by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to yachting.

After a record-breaking individual career, in 1995 he successfully led a New Zealand team to challenge for the America's Cup.

This success was repeated in 2000, when Team New Zealand's Black Magic crushed Italy's Prada by five races to nil, the first successful defence of the cup by a non-US team.

Sir Peter Blake's Seamaster
Seamaster moored at the mouth of the Amazon
Sir Peter announced earlier this year that he was giving up competitive yachting to devote himself to environmental work, at the head of his "blakexpeditions" organisation.

"I want to get people in love with the environment," Sir Peter said recently.

"I'm sure most people don't really understand what the problem is and nor do they care about it. I want them to start to care for the right reasons."

The BBC correspondent in Brazil says his death comes as a great embarrassment to the government, as New Zealand has just opened its first embassy in South America in Brazil.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Frankel
"He was one of the world's most accomplished sailors"
Yachtsman Sir Peter Blake on sailing
"Once you are on your own, it is a nice feeling"
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