Fifteen years ago we said goodbye to one of the greatest sailors in history, Sir Peter Blake
Fifteen years ago Sir Peter Blake died, shot and killed by pirates while monitoring environment change on the Amazon River on 5 December 2001. He was 53 years old.
Sir Peter James Blake was a New Zealand yachtsman who won the 1989–90 Whitbread Round the World Race, held the Jules Verne Trophy from 1994 to 1997 by setting the fastest time around the world as co-skipper of ENZA New Zealand, and led his country to successive victories in the America’s Cup.
On 5 December 2001, pirates shot and killed Blake while he was on an environmental exploration trip in South America, monitoring global warming and pollution for the United Nations. The two-month expedition was anchored off Macapá, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon delta, waiting to clear customs after a trip up the Amazon river. At around 9 p.m. a group of six to eight armed, masked robbers wearing balaclavas and crash helmets boarded the Seamaster. As one of the robbers held a gun to the head of a crewmember, Blake sprang from the cabin wielding a rifle. He shot one of the assailants in the hand before the rifle malfunctioned; he was then fatally shot in the back by assailant Ricardo Colares Tavares. The boarders injured two other crew members with knives, and the remaining seven were unhurt.
The only thing seized by the attackers was a 15 hp outboard motor and some watches from the crew. Authorities eventually captured the pirates and sentenced them to an average of 32 years in prison each; Tavares, the man who fired the fatal shots, received a sentence of 36 years. Prior to the attack, the yacht’s crew had been very careful when travelling up the river and back down again; they always had crew members on watch. Only upon return to Macapa did they relax their guard.
In honour of his services to yachting, Blake was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995, and received an honorary doctorate in 2000 from Auckland University of Technology.