Was a Two-Time America’s Cup Winner Really Killed by Pirates?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about yachting and whether they are true or false.

YACHTING URBAN LEGEND: Two-time America’s Cup winner Peter Blake was killed by pirates

The America’s Cup is a challenge that first began when the New York Yachting Club entered a yacht that defeated fourteen other yachts in a race sponsored by the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851.

Now that they were the “defenders” they began sponsoring a challenge in 1871 that varied in time between races, but usually around 3-4 years (with large gaps for World War I and World War II).

The Americans defended the cup for a stunning 23 times over 109 years!! And this was not one of those things where only the Americans really cared about winning – other countries (particularly Britain) really wanted to win this thing, but the Americans keep winning, which is basically how it became known as America’s Cup.

In 1983, an Australian yacht called Australia II (funny that) broke the streak. America promptly re-took the Cup in 1988 and kept it until 1995.

In 1992, with little time before the race was to begin, New Zealand enlisted Yachtsman Peter Blake to sail for New Zealand. He led the New Zealand team to a surprising close loss to Italy, who ultimately challenged (and lost) the Americans. Blake was already notable for winning the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race.

In 1994, Blake set the record for the fastest time around the world, with a time of 74 days 22 hours 17 minutes 22 seconds on the catamaran Enza.

In 1995, Blake was back representing New Zealand in the America’s Cup, and he helped shock the world by winning the 1995 Cup.

The victory was so important to the world that Blake was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995!! (Blake was also inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1996)

Blake then shocked the world once more by becoming the first non-American team to DEFEND the America’s Cup by leading New Zealand to a victory in 2000.


Now one of the most famous yachtsman in the world, Blake retired from Cup racing and devoted himself to the environmental studies that he began in 1997 when he was named the Cousteau Society’s head of expeditions.

Tragically, in December of 2001, while on a trip to South America to monitor global warming and pollution for the United Nations, the 53-year-old Blake’s ship was besieged by pirates nearby Macapá, Brazil.

As one of the pirates (there were between six and eight of them) held one of his crew members at gunpoint, Blake sprang from his cabin with his rifle and shot the pirate. But then Blake’s rifle malfunctioned and he was gunned down by Ricardo Colares Tavares.

The pirates only ended up stealing a motor and some wristwatches from the crew.

The pirates were all arrested and sentenced to roughly 30 or so years in jail each.

Over 30,000 people attended a memorial service for Blake.

So, tragically, the legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

One Response to “Was a Two-Time America’s Cup Winner Really Killed by Pirates?”

  1. I should point out that the yacht was called Australia II, not Australia.

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