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Restoring a Kiwi icon

Published: 1 March 2019

Sir Peter Blake was a key player in New Zealand’s maritime history. And now a key part of his own history – the first boat he built, Bandit – has been restored and is on permanent display at the Maritime Museum in Auckland.

In 1966, a 17-year-old Peter Blake, his brother Tony and their good friend Crawford Duncan started building a 7m keelboat called Bandit in the backyard of the Blake family home in Bayswater.

Thirty years later, Blake had become one of the world’s most celebrated yachtsmen, having circumnavigated the globe six times, defended the America’s Cup and headed ecological expeditions in the Antarctic and the Amazon.

All these achievements can be linked back to that backyard DIY project. It was on Bandit that he learned his craft, with the three young men spending the summer of 1968 sailing and racing it on the Hauraki Gulf. They went on to compete in the 1968-69 racing season and won the Akarana Junior Offshore Group Championship.

Bandit on display at New Zealand Maritime Museum

Now, fittingly, Bandit sits next to one of Blake’s more famous boats, Black Magic, in the New Zealand Maritime Museum. Bruce Tantrum of the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust started the restoration process after a meeting with Viv Wyatt, who had acquired Bandit in the late 1990s and kept the boat in a shed in Warkworth. Wyatt gifted it to the trust, which paid a token sum of 20 cents to complete the transfer.

After 14 years in storage, the yacht was restored by Yachting Developments in Hobsonville, using as much of the original gear – rigging, fittings and sails – as possible. Ian Cook, superyacht builder and owner of Yachting Developments, says some of the apprentices involved in the two-year restoration project were amazed by the craftsmanship and finishing of the boat and what the three youths were able to achieve.

The start of a legacy

“What Peter, Tony and Crawford created with Bandit was the start of a legacy that inspired many young New Zealanders to get into boating. It represents the beginning of a journey which shows that if you dream, you can achieve great things.”

Along with donations from Blake’s family, friends and associates, the $42,000 restoration was completed by Cook in exchange for three of Tantrum’s model boats.

Tantrum says having this key item of memorabilia housed in the museum’s Blue Water Black Magic gallery next to NZL 32, the boat Blake led to victory at the America’s Cup in 1995, is like “a little duckling alongside its mother duck”.

Entry to the Maritime Museum is free for Auckland residents with proof of address.

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