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Sir Peter Blake's Legacy lives on

Wednesday 22 June 2011, 8:08AM

By Auckland Council

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Students from Kelston Girls College
Students from Kelston Girls College Credit: Auckland Council
Students from Kelston Girls College
Students from Kelston Girls College Credit: Auckland Council

AUCKLAND

2011 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Sir Peter Blake, one of New Zealand’s most respected and admired yachtsmen and leaders.

Sir Peter was the patron of the Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre (MERC) based at Long Bay and he was particularly impressed with MERC’s focus on providing marine experiences for children who had little or no experience of the sea.

He would be particularly proud of a new programme being launched this year at MERC. “THE BLAKE EXPERIENCE” is a new three day residential camp targeted at children and youth who have never experienced (or who have very little experience of) the sea and recreational activities associated with it.

“The programme will be a signature programme at MERC as it is directed at the heart of what we are about,” says Sir Peter Blake MERC General Manager Paul Grace. “It’s hard to believe, but we have children who arrive here at Long Bay who are 11 and 12 years old but have never been to the beach. These are young New Zealanders who express surprise “that the sea is salty”!

A comment from a girl walking on sand for the first time: “My feet are stuck they don’t want to move”

 “THE BLAKE EXPERIENCE”will provide funding support and a programme specifically targeting these less privileged children.”

The programme will be run by MERC’s professionally qualified marine education instructors over three days. Children will participate in three marine activities per day, and the programme will include all equipment, meals, accommodation, and return bus transport from the group’s school.

“THE BLAKE EXPERIENCE” programme includes all aspects of water safety (e.g. weather, hypothermia, drowning, depth, and currents), an introduction to the sea (salt, tides, waves, and marine-life), wetsuits and sea floating/swimming, sailing and kayaking.

The last day of the programme is a significant task designed as a “stretch challenge” but within the capabilities of the students and could include a student led kayak trip or a student led sailing expedition.

“THE BLAKE EXPERIENCE” programme is offered to 50 children from decile 1-3 schools (primary, intermediate or secondary).

The “Blake Experience” is funded by a special donation from the TEAM NEW ZEALAND 2000 TRUST. The Trust was set up following the successful defence of the America’s Cup by Team New Zealand under the leadership of Sir Peter Blake on the Hauraki Gulf in 2000.

The donation has been used to establish an endowment to provide funds to run the programme.  “The donation was the final charitable distribution made by the Trust and the Trustees are delighted that it has served to initiate a programme under Sir Peter’s name designed to provide new experiences for young people,” says Trust Chair Richard Green.

Auckland Councillor Michael Goudie is also on the Trust Board. 

Students from Kelston Girls College, the recent recipient of the first “BLAKE EXPERIENCE” had this to say. “Awesome time.“ “Are we really going sailing?” “I don’t want to go home.”