Discovered in a farmer's storage shed, Bandit - the first keel boat built by legendary New Zealand yachtsman, Sir Peter Blake - has been lovingly restored

It was while chatting to a friend that Bruce Tantrum found out about Bandit – the first keel boat built by a young Peter Blake.

For 14 years the boat had lain “just discernible under heaps of of accumulated surplus farm items” in a rural farmer’s storage shed in New Zealand.

After an “interview” with the farmer, Viv Wyatt, Tantrum acquired this piece of yacht racing history in May 2013 – for just 20 New Zealand cents.

boat undergoing restoration work

Bandit ahead of the restoration work. Credit: Shirley-Ann McCrystal

“The owner of the farm who had stored Bandit for 14 years had intended himself to restore her,” explained Tantrum, who is a trustee of the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust, which preserves historic boats.

“However, he realised that now it was unlikely to happen. I was invited to the farm to see Bandit and was “interviewed” by Viv; he wanted to be assured that he was passing Bandit into good hands,” he continued.

“I passed muster, the deal was done, we shook hands and formally paid Viv NZ20 cents,” said Tantrum.

Bandit was built in 1966 by a 17-year-old Peter Blake in the backyard of the family home in Bayswater. He was helped by his brother Tony and good friend Crawford Duncan.

Sir Peter Blake sailing

Sir Peter Blake

The Van Der Stadt-designed boat was launched on 21 January 1968 at the Devonport Yacht Club.

Peter, Tony and Crawford went on to win the New Zealand Junior Offshore Group Championship in the 1968-69 season.

Tantrum said discovering a piece of yachting heritage was exciting.

“Bandit was especially a significant discovery as she was the first keel boat, built by the young Peter Blake which led ultimately to the team New Zealand America’s Cup victory in San Diego,” he stated.

“I was very aware previously of the existence of Bandit but had no idea of her whereabouts or condition,” added Tantrum, who also built a Van Der Stadt keel boat at home.

“Bandit was barely discernible at first, but as we burrowed our way and gained access we found her. While untidy, she was substantially sound and in good shape, complete with spars, rudder, rigging etc. So clearly it was a matter of her requiring restoration and not a rebuild,” he said.

A boat after a paint job

Bruce Tantrum and Ian Cook, Master Boat Builder of Yacht Developments Limited admiring Bandit’s paint work. Credit: Shirley-Ann McCrystal

It has taken years to return Bandit to its former glory.

“Bandit was delivered to a boatyard and put under cover then I set about the task of fundraising to pay for the professional restoration,” explained Tantrum.

“This was a slow and time consuming task. Finally, I decided to fund the balance myself. This was achieved by my building highly detailed ‘to scale’ models for the master boat builder carrying out the restoration of Bandit,” he added.

The work was done by the New Zealand company Yachting Developments Ltd, which has previously completed the restoration of the J Class,  Endeavour.

Unwrapping a boat after a paint job

The unveiling after the paint job. Credit: Shirley-Ann McCrystal

Tantrum said it is vital that maritime heritage is protected.

“It is very important that we preserve and value our achievements, our culture and our history,” he said.

“Bandit expresses through the sport of sailing an excellent example for New Zealand’s future generations. To show how, from small beginnings as a teenager through effort and determination, inspiring others, to rise to the pinnacle of achievement,” added Tantrum.

Bandit will eventually be gifted to the Auckland Maritime Museum.

There it will be placed on permanent display alongside Sir Peter’s 1995 America’s Cup winning yacht, NZL 32, Black Magic.