"New technology is common, new thinking is rare."
Individuals don’t win the America’s Cup. Teams do. Nevertheless, there have been many individuals who have cast more than just a passing shadow across the Auld Mug. Some are known for winning. Some are known for losing. Others are known for what they bring, be it passion, rivalry, infamy, or controversy. They all add to the lore of the America’s Cup and have made it what it is today.
Sir Peter Blake is one such individual.
Sir Peter Blake was one of the world’s most celebrated yachtsman. In a 30-year career, he won every significant bluewater race on the planet and was the only sailor to have taken part in the first five Whitbread Round the World races.
Blake led Team New Zealand to their first win and then first non-American defence of sailing's biggest prize, the America’s Cup. He then slashed the record for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world under sail, before turning his sights on the environment where he wanted to embark on a mission of education and awareness through adventure.
Years spent racing across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, sometimes as the smallest boat in a racing fleet, coupled with a competitive streak and desire to win, earned Blake a reputation as a gifted sailor which led to several invites to crew in major sailing events from an early age
Even though professional yachting was still unheard of, Blake's interest in racing at a higher and higher level eventually led him to Europe and the European racing circuit. In 1971, he secured a position as watch leader on the yacht Ocean Spirit, which won the inaugural Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro Race.
All this experience stood Blake in good stead when he joined Leslie Williams' crew on Burton Cutter in the inaugural Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-1974. Some form of racing around the world occupied Blake for the next 20 years before being brought in at the last minute to manage New Zealand's 1992 America's Cup challenge, Blake led the Kiwi team to the Challenger finals with NZL - 20. However, it was Italy that finally emerged from the controversial Louis Vuitton Cup series to face the US for the America's Cup.
In 1995 Blake came back as the syndicate head of Team New Zealand. Sailing NZL - 32 (Black Magic), the Kiwi team made a clean sweep, beating Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes 5 - 0 and providing one of the most dominating performances in America's Cup history. In 2000 Blake led Team New Zealand in the first successful non-American defence of the Americas Cup - beating Italians Prada 5 - 0.
After the 2000 success, Sir Peter Blake stood down from Team New Zealand and set his sights on the environment. With a love of the ridiculous, Sir Peter Blake would find it fitting that most New Zealanders remember him for his lucky red socks which were the secret weapon that "won" the 1995 America's Cup for New Zealand.