Peter Blake remembered: Raising a glass to fallen sailing hero

By Claire Trevett

Next Friday, a group of Sir Peter Blake's friends will meet to do what they have always done at this time of year: Mark the anniversary of the yachting legend's death by the simple raising of a glass.

His friend and old Seamaster companion, Don Robertson, said the gathering was an annual event since Sir Peter was killed on his expedition boat, Seamaster, in Brazil on December 6, 2001.

"It's not like the Prime Minister is there and we make speeches and do things like that. We just raise a glass. So it doesn't slip by unnoticed at all."

This year, for the first time, Lady Pippa Blake is joining in by hosting a northern hemisphere equivalent of the raise a glass ritual at the local pub in Emsworth, where Sir Peter is buried.

The wait by the rest of New Zealand for a more concrete memorial could soon be over: Te Papa hopes to begin building the much-debated memorial for Sir Peter at the National Maritime Museum in Auckland early next year.

Paul Brewer, Te Papa's communications director, said fundraising for the $3.5 million needed to make up the funding shortfall for the $8 million project was in its final stages and resource consent applications were under way.

The plan, revealed in May, is for an extension of the museum housing an exhibition on Sir Peter's yachting history titled Blue Water, Black Magic.

Mr Robertson said the delay in beginning the memorial was understandable, given the public consultation and fundraising required. The new wing would be an important addition to Auckland's history.

"It's not just about Peter. It's a big yachting story. Peter might be the focal point but it involves a lot of other New Zealanders and it's a story that's not really told anywhere, about major successes that aren't celebrated."

Blue Water, Black Magic will include Black Magic, the 1995 America's Cup yacht which was gifted to Te Papa by Team New Zealand in 2001.

Sir Peter's family will also provide items for the exhibition.

The Auckland City Council has pledged $2 million and the Government a further $2.5 million. A group called Blake's Mates are fundraising for the remaining $3.5 million and Mr Brewer said the drive was about two-thirds completed.

The anniversary will also be marked next weekend by the annual Sir Peter Blake Memorial Torbay Regatta, named in his honour in 2002.

And the Sir Peter Blake Trust will host an event for supporters on Lion, one of Blake's Whitbread Round the World yachts, on Wednesday.

Mr Robertson said the trust, begun in 2004, was one of the memorials to best serve the sailor's name.

IN MEMORY

* Blue Water, Black Magic: A Tribute to Sir Peter Blake: A planned $8 million memorial at the Maritime Museum.

* The Sir Peter Blake Trust focusing on leadership, the environment and education.

* Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre at Long Bay.

* The Sir Peter Blake Memorial Torbay Regatta, held in early December each year.

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