Page 2: Sailing for New Zealand
Blake, Peter James
This biography, written by Stephanie Gibson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2010.
Ceramco in the Whitbread, 1981–82
By the late 1970s Blake was convinced that New Zealand had the sailing and boat-building talent to enter the Whitbread Round the World race. With the help of family friend Martin Foster, he initiated some of New Zealand's first attempts at raising money through corporate sponsorship for offshore sailing campaigns. Businessman Tom Clark committed his Ceramco group of companies to the project, beginning a fruitful partnership and friendship. Blake skippered the resulting entry, Ceramco New Zealand, for the third Whitbread Round the World race of 1981–82. The campaign started with high expectations, but quickly ran into disaster when Ceramco lost its mast on the first leg, about 4,000 kilometres from Cape Town. However, in a major feat of endurance and seamanship, Blake and his crew created a jury rig from parts of the broken spar and continued the race, finishing third in the fleet in terms of elapsed time.
Lion New Zealand and Steinlager 2
In his fourth attempt, Blake skippered Lion New Zealand in the Whitbread Round the World race of 1985–86 to a creditable second place. However, it was his fifth attempt, in the 1989–90 Whitbread as skipper on Steinlager 2, that saw him achieve his long-held dream. Steinlager 2 won the line and handicap honours in all six legs and overall. Throughout this period, the sponsorship of Lion Breweries under Douglas Myers was critical to the projects' success.
Other racing honours
Blake's other major sailing achievements during this period include line honours in the inaugural Round the North Island (of New Zealand) two-man race on Gerontius in 1977, and line honours and the course record in Britain's Fastnet race on Condor in 1979. He also gained line and handicap honours in Australia's Sydney-to-Hobart race on Ceramco New Zealand in 1980 and line honours in the Sydney-to-Hobart race on Lion New Zealand in 1984. Late in the 1980s he was awarded line honours in the first two-man Round Australia race on the trimaran Steinlager 1 with Mike Quilter, and line honours in the Fastnet race on Steinlager 2 in 1989.
Trophée Jules Verne
However, it was the Trophée Jules Verne that became Blake's most personally rewarding ocean sailing experience. The challenge was for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail. Blake's second attempt, in 1994 with co-skipper Robin Knox-Johnston on the catamaran ENZA, saw the record cut by over four days to 74 days, 22 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds.