EMSWORTH - Sarah-Jane Blake farewelled her father early today with a poem from The Lord of the Rings, linking Sir Peter Blake's New Zealand heritage and his love of the sea.

Reading Bilbo's Last Song, the 18-year-old spoke quietly but clearly in front of 300 mourners, including family, colleagues, and international dignitaries, all of whom were paying their last respects to the New Zealand yachting legend.

Sir Peter was gunned down by bandits on his boat, the Seamaster, on the Amazon River eight days ago.


Six men from the nearby town of Macapa have been arrested for his murder.

His funeral service was held in the 1000-year-old St Thomas a Becket Church at the end of a narrow rural lane in tiny Warblington, southern England.

Former crewmates of Sir Peter carried his coffin inside.

It was draped with the New Zealand flag.

Lady Pippa walked behind with her children.

Fourteen-year-old James read excerpts from one of his father's logs recorded on the website of blakexpeditions, his environmental venture that took him to Antarctica before the fatal journey down the Amazon.

"The hardest part of any big project is to begin," his father said.

"We have begun, we are under way. We have a passion. We want to make a difference."

Lady Pippa's sister, Louise Glanville-Burnett, was the organist for the service. She wrote and played a song called In Memoriam PJB.

Prime Minister Helen Clark spoke at the request of the Blake family, delivering a tribute to the man she called a living legend and "a very special member of the New Zealand family".

"As an outstanding sailor, he had brought great honour and fame to New Zealand. His death was unthinkable."

Before the funeral, Lady Pippa thanked the thousands of people around the world who sent messages of condolence and support.

She said the family intended to answer every one.

She said it was a considerable comfort to the Blake family that Sir Peter's life and death had touched so many people, and that his work to create greater awareness of the need to protect the environment had not gone unnoticed.

Her decision to bury Auckland-born Sir Peter in Britain was influenced by the fact that he would be close to his family there.

The emotion was obvious even before the service started.

Simon Gundry, a Whitbread crewmate of Sir Peter's, wept outside the church.

New Zealander Brad Johnstone, who coached the Italian rugby team, was also visibly upset.

Several members of Team New Zealand attended, sombre except for their red socks - the lucky talisman Sir Peter made famous during his America's Cup campaigns.

TVNZ yachting commentator Peter Montgomery also travelled from New Zealand for the service.

"I just couldn't not be here. He's been a great friend."

The stone Saxon church has been witness to centuries of weddings, christening and funerals, but Sir Peter's funeral spilled from its thick stone walls.

Three marquees were erected between ancient headstones in the churchyard to accommodate the overflow of hundreds of family and friends, local people, former crewmates, dignitaries and even expatriate New Zealanders who had never met Sir Peter but who came, mostly from London, to honour him.

The service was led by Canon Douglas Caiger, who at one point refered to Sir Peter as Saint Peter - a mistake some of the mourners acknowledged with a wry grin.

Tony Blake, Sir Peter's brother, told of his "larger than life" sibling and spoke on behalf of their mother, Joyce.

Mr Blake broke down as he addressed his brother's coffin, saying, "You were a shining example of all that was great."

After the service, Sir Peter's coffin was carried from the church through to the graveyard for a private burial service.

About 100 family, close friends - including Helen Clark - and yachting collegues stood in bitterly cold, but crisp winter's afternoon as Sir Peter was lowered into his grave.

Heads bowed, they said their final goodbyes as Sir Peter was buried in the graveyard overlooking his passion, the ocean.

At the end of her eulogy, Helen Clark delivered a verse from the hymn Abide With Me, saying that, as a courageous man, Sir Peter would have identified with the words.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless,

Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness,

Where is death's sting? Where grave thy victory?

I triumph still if thou abide with me.

Bilbo's Last Song
(At the Grey Havens)

Day is ended, dim my eyes,

but journey long before me lies.

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.

The ship's beside the stony wall.

Foam is white and waves are grey;

beyond the sunset leads my way.

Foam is salt, the wind is free;

I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,

the wind is east, the moorings fret.

Shadows long before me lie,

beneath the ever-bending sky,

but islands lie behind the Sun

that I shall raise ere all is done;

lands there are to west of West,

where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,

beyond the utmost harbour-bar,

I'll find the heavens fair and free,

and beaches of the Starlit Sea.

Ship, my ship! I seek the West,

and fields and mountains ever blest.

Farewell to Middle-earth at last.

I see the Star above my mast!

- by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

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