1989-90: Southampton-Punta del Este-Fremantle-Auckland-Punta del Este-Fort Lauderdale-Southampton
Peter Blake’s Whitbread jinx finally ended in the fifth edition of this race – but only after yet another serious pre-race setback had threatened to deny the great New Zealander once more.
For his fifth crack at the Whitbread, Blake took a radical step and built the biggest, heaviest yacht in the race, carrying 20 per cent more sail area than her main rivals. True to Blake's luck in the race up to that point, the initial yacht built had to be scrapped at the fitting-out stage after large areas of the high-tech carbon fibre-moulded hull were found to have delaminated.
The delay cost two months of preparation but once the race started, there was no stopping Blake and his crew on Steinlager 2 as they swept all before them. Fans were treated to a great tussle with Grant Dalton's Fisher & Paykel but Blake's team had the edge throughout.
In fact, as the pair raced into their native Auckland, just a mile separated the boats. The battle that ensued was one of the most memorable in sailing history, as Blake got the better of his opponent to steal the honours in his hometown. Check out journalist Peter Montgomery remembering the duel below.
Still, disaster might so easily have struck on the Atlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale when a problem with a shroud plate threatened both masts. Only the quick thinking of helmsman Brad Butterworth in gybing the boat saved them from crashing down.
In the end, a triumphant Blake was able to end a Whitbread career spent fighting adversity, failure and ill-fortune on the highest of high notes, with six victories from six legs. The clean sweep was unprecedented and the 2.03 metres-tall Blake, instantly recognisable by his blond hair and moustache, could celebrate a life-long dream fulfilled.
"It was about time we won Everest, yeah, but there are a few more around that need to be looked at," said Blake, who would go on to achieve much more in sailing, but would never again take part in the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race.
Blake, revered by many as the greatest yachtsman of the modern era, was shot and killed by pirates in December 2001 while on a United Nations voyage in South America. He was just 53 and his death shocked a sport and a nation.
His widow Lady Pippa Blake was named an ambassador to the Volvo Ocean Race Legends in 2011, when former participants competed for the Sir Peter Blake Trophy.