Omega mourns murder of environmentalist, yachtsman Peter Blake

Omega-sponsored environmentalist Sir Peter Blake, 53, twice-winner of the prestigious America’s Cup yachting race, was murdered Dec. 5 in Brazil on the Amazon River.

Omega, one of the world’s leading Swiss luxury watches, is chief sponsor of “blakexpeditions,” which Blake founded to raise awareness of environmental issues affecting “life in, on and around the waters of the world,” and of his vessel “Seamaster,” named for Omega’s diving watch.

Blake’s death was reported “with deepest regret” by Omega, one of the world’s leading Swiss luxury watches, in a statement issued Thursday.

According to Omega and other published reports, Blake was shot and killed by several armed and hooded intruders who boarded the Seamaster while anchored at Macapa, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon. Two other members of the 10-person crew were also wounded.

Seven men have been arrested over the killing of New Zealand yachting legend Sir Peter Blake, CNN reported on Friday. Police are still searching for an eighth suspect, who local media said had piloted the bandits to Blake’s ship.

Brazil’s President had earlier given “express orders” that everything possible would be done to find the criminals-including police scouring the waterways and rain forests of the remote Amazon hunting for the pirates, CNN reported. Police in Macapa had earlier quizzed Blake’s fellow crewmembers aboard Seamaster.

The gunmen got away with watches, cameras, an inflatable dinghy and one of the boat’s engines, said Brazilian police.

Blake and his crew had just completed a two-month expedition on the Amazon and the Rio Negro to monitoring the environmentally sensitive region. The Seamaster had been set to leave after getting clearance from Brazilian customs.

Nicolas G. Hayek, chairman and chief executive officer of the Swatch Group, Omega’s parent company, said “Sir Peter has been a personal friend for a number of years, and we were honored to support his worthwhile cause. No words can express our sorrow at this sad loss, and at this time our thoughts are with his family in England and his close friends within the blakexpeditions organization.”

Blake, a New Zealander, and his crew, had already completed a trip this year to Antarctica. They set out on their Amazon expedition in September. Last month, on the upper reaches of the Rio Negro they were joined for a day by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who interrupted a five-nation tour of Latin America, to visit the crew.

Blake kept a daily log on Omega’s Web site (

Blake was one of the most successful sailors in yachting history. He won the prestigious Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 and the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 with a record-breaking non-stop voyage. He was also chosen to succeed the late Jacques Cousteau as captain of the marine research vessel Calypso 2. He won the prestigious America’s Cup yachting race twice (in 1995 and 2000) with Team New Zealand, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

After returning from competitive yachting in 2000, Blake-an Omega brand ambassador since 1995-set up blakexpeditions, with Omega as chief sponsor. This year, he was appointed Special Envoy of the United Nations Environment Program.

In his Amazon log, Blake also wrote: “Why are we here? What has been the point of leaving Antarctica in March, refitting in Buenos Aires over the southern winter, then undertaking the long haul north to spend some time in the Amazon.” The answer, he wrote, is “We want to make a difference.”

Blake is survived by his wife, Lady Pippa, children Sarah-Jane and James, and his mother Joyce.