Having sailed competitively for than more than 60 years Bob Blakey can reflect on a treasure trove of memories in the sport which has taken him to legion of countries spanning all four corners of the world.
However, few events will match the excitement the recently retired real estate manager believes he will experience when sailing on home waters at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland - when he will be aged 72.
“It will definitely be one of the highlights (of my sailing career)” explains Blakey, a laser-racing specialist. “The event is not just about sailing but all the other sports as well. It will be a huge carnival.
“I'm excited about competing. It will be a huge thrill and providing the body holds up, I'll be there.”
Introduced to the sport by his father, Blakey first experienced sailing as a child back in the 1950s at Maraetai Beach (on the Pohutukawa Coast in the Auckland region) where his parents owned a bach. Quickly hooked on a sport he describes as “the only one (sport) in which I was less than hopeless at” he started out racing P Class, Moths and the Paper Tiger before moving on to racing keel boats.
He began laser-racing 20 years ago – initially sailing the standard 4.23m-long boat as a means of occupying his time when his four sons were out on the water at his local yacht club.
The Aucklander has since carved out a reputation as a distinguished masters competitor, snaring a raft of national titles and also excelling on the international stage - finishing fourth at the 2001 Laser Masters' World Championships in Ireland as a Grand Master (55-64) and second at the 2013 edition in Oman in the Great Grand Master age grade (65+).
His next target is the 2014 Laser Masters' World Championships which take place in Hyeres in Southern France next month (Oct 3-11), where the family sailing tradition will be upheld as two of his sons – Richard, 46, and Matthew, 35 - will also be competing.
Blakey describes racing at the same event as his sons as a “huge thrill” but the club captain at the Tamaki Yacht Club adds: “A few years ago I said when Matt turns 35 (and is first eligible to compete as a masters' sailor) I would take the whole family to the event (Laser Masters’ World Championships). It has backfired on me because when I made that promise I didn't realise the championships would be so far away, so it has cost me more money than anticipated.”
Based in Mission Bay, the 69-year-old power walks every morning, but says his race fitness is chiefly maintained on the water during his one to two sessions per week in the boat.
But why has the veteran sailor remained so enamoured by the sport over the past six decades?
“I just love everything about the sport, the people, the company,” he adds. “For some reason I have never got sick of sailing into the wind. I have never tired of that concept.”
By Steve Landells