His father, Sir Peter Blake, was killed by pirates when he was 14 years old, but that hasn’t put James Blake off a life of adventure.
Last November, before Team Gallagher attempted to become the first team to row from Sydney to Auckland, they were asked what they’d miss most while they were on the water.
“My wife and son,” said team leader Nigel Cherrie. “Land and the freedom to move,” answered Andrew McCowan. “My girlfriend,” said Martin Berka. “A sail,” quipped James Blake, the fourth and final member of the team.
Six months later sitting outside a café on Auckland’s North Shore, Blake smiles when he’s reminded
of that quote.
“Ocean rowing is a ridiculous sport really,” he says. “The amount of times I thought about jury rigging a sail or putting up a piece of cloth; it would have helped a lot.” Team Gallagher’s goal was to break the Trans-Tasman record set in 2007 by four Australians who rowed from New Zealand to Australia in 31 days. The team hoped to reach Auckland in time for Christmas dinner and when they crossed the halfway point on day 16 they were right on target. Then the Tasman Sea shut up shop. High winds and unfavourable currents forced them to put down anchor a few days before Christmas. Nine days later they were finally able to pick up their oars again.
“Lying around was more tiring than rowing because you lose a lot of muscle and we didn’t get much sleep because we were being chucked around the ocean,” says Blake. “Some weather reports suggested we had no chance of reaching New Zealand. We considered rowing back to Australia, but thankfully we stuck to our goal.”
They arrived in Auckland on January 20, after rowing over 1,400 nautical miles and 55 days at sea. Pippa Blake embraced her son as he stumbled off the boat at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, the scene of so many triumphant moments in her husband’s sailing career. “I did think, ‘Here I am again waiting for someone coming home after an epic sea voyage,’” says Pippa.
Read the full story in July's issue of The Red Bulletin.