In 1966 at the age of 17 Sir Peter Blake, with some help from his brother Tony and good friend Crawford Duncan, built his first keel yacht called Bandit in the back yard of their family home in Bayswater. Much experiential learning occured along the way including having the bath tub, in which the lead for the keel was heated, splitting and pouring the molten lead all over the lawn. Bandit was launched at Devonport on the 21st of January 1968. They did try to launch her on the 20th but all the "getting things right" meant the tide had dropped and the cable on the Devonport Yacht Club slip way wasn't long enough for Bandit to float free of the cradle, so up she came with a wet bottom but not yet free. That summer was spent sailing Bandit around the Hauraki Gulf. The guard rails went on in the winter for the 1968-69 racing season. Peter, Tony and Crawford won the New Zealand Junior Offshore Group Championship in the 1968-69 season.
Bandit was often the smallest boat in the offshore racing fleets and Tony recalls one race in winds of 30-35 knots. The first leg was on the wind and Bandit was feeling its lack of waterline, slogging away at the back of the fleet. But at last they reached the turning mark and headed off downwind. Lessons learned from those wild rides across the harbour on their Z-class dinghies were put to good use as they popped the orange and black spinnaker and surfed through the fleet. Tony: "By the time we reached the next mark, we were two miles ahead of the nearest boat. It was pretty wild in big seas, but we must have averaged something like 15 knots on that leg."
Bandit was acquired by Viv Wyatt of Warkworth from his accountant who received the vessel as part payment for an account. Viv: "from memory I paid the haul out fees, several months hard stand fees and a case of wine".
Viv gifted Bandit to the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust in May 2013 with a nominal transaction cost of 20cents to complete the transfer. She is in good condition having been stored in Viv's shed for 14 years where Viv and his son carried out repairs to her. The vessel was moved on 1st May 2013 to Horizon Boats Ltd in Stillwater, and is kindly currently stored at Yachting Developments Ltd in Hobsonville.
Progress in restoring Bandit stopped until it was clear where she will be displayed. The Voyager NZ Maritime Museum considers Bandit to be a "brilliant addition" to Blue Water Black Magic display in the museum and is making provision to display her under the Americas cup winning yacht NZL32 as part of the Sir Peter Blake story. Fund raising and restoration work can now be progressed.
Past friends and associates of Peter have already made some donations toward the restoration of this vessel which once fully funded will be restored to original specs with as much of the original fittings, rigging and sails as possible.
Bruce Tantrum and Shirley-Ann McCrystal have been working hard on having this project completed and with donations to date and a generous arrangement with super yacht builder Ian Cook of Yachting Developments Ltd bandit is nearing completion of a full restoration. She will be donated to the New Zealand Maritime Museum in December 2016 where she will be on display beside the Americas cup winning boat NZL32.
Tony Blake is a world reknowned historical and modern marine artist (http://www.adblake.com/). He has recently completed a historically accurate oil painting of Bandit which he describes as follows:
"racing towards Channel Island in one of the JOG races- late afternoon. I can remember "hanging ten " up at the bow as Crawford ( crew with myself and Peter) and I took down the kite next to Channel Island in breaking seas. We were planing flat out at around 15 knots at times on the run out from Canoe Rock off Kawau- and leading the fleet- all larger boats than "Bandit". Peter is on the helm, I have the kite sheet next to Peter and Crawford reaching to winch kite sheet in a bit. We finished at 3am in the morning at Matiatia Bay Waiheke- some of the larger yachts overtook us on the beat back but we won on handicap"
Bandit photo gallery http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/gallery.htm?gallery_id=53