By SUZANNE McFADDEN
Sir Peter Blake has handed back the red cap, relinquishing his job as the new Jacques Cousteau to save the world's water on his own.
The New Zealand yachting legend has parted ways with the Cousteau Society after a difference in philosophy.
Now Sir Peter is going it alone in a new venture, blakexpeditions.
He has taken over the old Cousteau boat Antarctic Explorer, renaming her Seamaster, and is preparing for a shakedown sail next month around New Zealand before heading off on his first adventure to Cape Horn and Antarctica.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau's empire was almost sunk by troubles and criticism in recent years. It has been on the brink of bankruptcy and rocked by very public family feuds.
Sir Peter was given the role as captain of the Cousteau Society in 1997 - a dying wish of the famous French oceanographer.
The Kiwi adventurer had been on a couple of expeditions in his new job, but until March this year had to devote most of his time to Team New Zealand's America's Cup defence.
But now Sir Peter is taking a different tack to the Cousteau theories on saving the planet.
Sir Peter, on holiday in Spain with his family, wants to concentrate on the waters of the world, while Madame Francine Cousteau, the Frenchman's second wife, has broader ambitions - pouring her efforts into a coastal project.
Blakexpeditions spokesman Alan Sefton said yesterday that the pair had agreed they were better off pursuing their own plans.
"Sir Peter and Madame Cousteau talked at length and decided it was probably more efficient and productive for him to do his own thing," he said. "There may be projects that they work together on later."
The objective of blakexpeditions is "to help protect life in, on and around the waters of the world."
Sir Peter has joined forces with the United Nations Environment Programme, and will carry its logo on his boat.
Financially, the project will rely on sponsorship and patrons, with added income from merchandise and the sale of television documentaries filmed on Sir Peter's travels.