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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Blake casts long shadow
Sir Peter Blake pictured before his successful defence of the America's Cup in 2000
Blake was a United Nations special envoy

The 2003 America's Cup will not be the same without legendary yachtsman Sir Peter Blake.

The New Zealander was murdered by pirates in 2001 during an expedition to the Amazon.

And all those competing in or watching the sailing over the next five months will not soon forget what he gave to the sport.

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest sailors of all time, Blake became a national hero in New Zealand when he secured the country's first-ever America's Cup success in 1995.

Sir Peter Blake holds the America's Cup in 1995
Blake celebrates his 1995 America's Cup success

He went on to successfully defend the cup in 2000, making Team NZ the first non-American syndicate to achieve the feat.

Blake then turned from competition to oceanic environmentalism, forming Blakexpeditions to carry out his work.

And in 2001, he was appointed a special envoy of the United Nations Environment Programme.

It was during a trip to South America to measure the effects of global warming on one of the most environmentally sensitive regions of the world that Blake was killed.

Blake's love of the sea was nurtured during a highly successful racing career.

He won classics like the Jules Verne, the Fastnet Race, the Sydney-Hobart, and the Whitbread Round the World Race.


Such a shock and such a waste of an important life
Blake's successor
Tom Schnackenberg

But it was his America's Cup successes that brought him global fame.

In 1995, Blake was the mainsail trimmer, as well as the head of the Team New Zealand syndicate, and his lucky red socks became a national symbol.

The Kiwis won every race bar one - the only one Blake did not take part in - on their way to beating the USA 5-0 in the final.

And sales of red socks went through the roof - before that final, the team's sponsors sold 100,000 pairs.

When Team NZ returned from the US with the Cup, hundreds of thousands of people turned out in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to welcome them home.

Missing giant

Five years later, Blake cemented his place in yachting history as New Zealand became the only country apart from the USA to successfully defend the Auld Mug.

Following that success, Blake handed over the reins to Tom Schnackenberg, and his successor's words illustrate the esteem in which he was held.

"Such a shock and such a waste of an important life," said Schnackenberg after Blake's murder.

The sentiment was echoed all around the world.

And when racing begins in the Hauraki Gulf in October, the sailors and spectators will feel the absence of a true giant of the seas.

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25 Sep 02 | Photo Galleries
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