‘Bandit,’ the first boat built by Sir Peter Blake more than 50 years ago, has been restored to its former glory and is now on display at the New Zealand Maritime Museum.
Sir Peter, then 17, and his brother Tony started building the keel yacht in 1966 in the backyard of their family home in Bayswater, with help from good friend Crawford Duncan.
At 7m LOA the boat may be small but she is a big part of the country’s maritime history – building and sailing the boat was how Blake gleaned his craft. His 30-year career as the world’s most celebrated yachtsman saw him circumnavigate the globe six times, win the America’s Cup in 1995 and head ecological expeditions from the Antarctic to the Amazon.
Bruce Tantrum of the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust, who discovered Bandit in a shed in Warkworth in 2013, says the Maritime Museum’s Blue Water Black Magic gallery is the ideal place for Bandit to be on display alongside other iconic Blake memorabilia.
“Having Blake’s first keel boat next to Black Magic, which represents one of the greatest achievements of his career, is like a little duckling alongside its mother,” says Tantrum.
Blake’s wife, Pippa, is delighted with the restoration and excited for boating enthusiasts seeing the vessel for the first time. “Although Bandit was before my time, she always seemed to be there. Peter often talked about her and looked back very fondly on those days. That boat meant a lot to him.”
Building Bandit was a true DIY project and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one stage during the two-year project molten lead leaked all over the family lawn, after the iron bath tub being used to form the keel cracked.
Upon completion the three young men spent the summer of 1968 racing her on the Hauraki Gulf. Bandit went on to compete in the 1968-69 racing season where she won the Akarana Junior Offshore Group Championship.
Despite often being the smallest boat in the offshore racing fleets, she was able to attain a speed of 15 knots. Following her racing years Bandit was retired from the water.
Tantrum started Bandit’s restoration process after meeting with Viv Wyatt who had acquired the boat in the late 90s and kept her in Warkworth. Wyatt gifted Bandit to the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust which paid a token sum
of 20 cents to complete the transfer.
After 14 years in storage the yacht has been completely restored by Hobsonville’s Yachting Developments over a two-year period, using as much
of the original rigging, fittings, and sails as possible. Yachting Developments owner Ian Cook says it was remarkable Bandit was built at the Blake family home, given the craftsmanship and finishing.
“Some of the apprentices involved in the restoration were amazed what Peter, Tony and Crawford were able to achieve in a backyard. Bandit was the start of a legacy that inspired many young New Zealanders to get into boating. She represents the beginning of a journey which shows that if you dream you can achieve great things,” says Cook.
Bandit has been donated to the New Zealand Maritime Museum where she is on permanent display next to NZL 32 (Black Magic) which Sir Peter sailed to victory at the 1995 America’s Cup.
Along with donations from Sir Peter’s friends, family, and associates, the $42,000 restoration was made possible thanks to an arrangement between Tantrum and Cook. In exchange for the restoration work, Tantrum, a model boat builder, gifted Cook three model boats.