The man who led New Zealand to two America's Cup yachting titles, Peter Blake, has been murdered by pirates while on an exploratory trip in Brazil.

Peter Blake, one of the most successful yachtsmen in the sport, was shot and killed when masked men boarded his boat "Seamaster" Wednesday night near the Amazonian town of Macapa. Two other members of his team were injured in the attack.

The 53-year-old Blake led New Zealand to America's Cup titles in both 1995 and 2000. The first win came off the coast of San Diego, California, and made New Zealand only the second country in 145 years to take the prestigious trophy from the American defenders. In 2000, in his hometown of Auckland, Blake and Team New Zealand became the first non-American team to retain the America's Cup.

During his sailing career, Blake also won the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 and the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 for fastest sailing trip around the world. He spent three months last year studying wildlife at the South Pole, and had gone to the Amazon to sail.

American sailor Gary Jobson, winner of the America's Cup in 1977 as tactician for Ted Turner, told VOA Sports that the sailing world has lost one of its giants. "This is a man who thrived on being out in the water," he said. "I liked Peter Blake a lot. He was a man that was regal, but was detail-oriented. He became Sir Peter Blake when he got knighted because of winning the America's Cup in 1995. And he really understood the world and wanted to experience everything that the seas and ocean had to offer, and he did it."

Gary Jobson explains what Blake did that was unique in sailing. "He was the first one to go get major-league sponsors to support his around the world efforts, and later, his America's Cup efforts - to use commercial money to make these things happen," he said. That had never really been done before. Most of it was amateur and Corinthian. He was the first pro to do all this."

Fellow-sailor Jobson stresses that Blake's untimely death at the hands of pirates in Brazil shows that everyone must be on guard. "It just reminds us that the waters around the world are still not safe," he said. "We have this terrorist problem. And piracy is still an issue around the world. And it's really sad."

New Zealander Peter Blake had been appointed in July as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program. Blake is survived by his wife Pippa and two children.