Powerboat racing, 7,000 years of history and Jagerbombs. They are three things so disparate, I never thought I’d ever get to write about them in an article together, not least partake in all three in one weekend.
But they all sort of featured on the agenda of the Rotary Watches Aquaspeed training course organised in Malta this weekend. Of course, learning all about the watches in a hot and sunny location was a bonus, but the choice of venue was a by-product of Rotary’s sponsorship of powerboat racer Shelley Jory-Leigh, one of Britain’s best powerboat racers and the world’s leading female racer. She was competing in the Powerboat UIM Grand Prix at Valletta in Malta this weekend. As her sponsor, Rotary had arranged for our party of 19, comprising retail jewellers from all over the UK, to meet her and tour the pits as well as watch the race onboard a Sunseeker.
The sport is described by Shelley as the “Formula 1 of water”, and it’s certainly as deafening, glamorous and dangerous.
In fact, during the race this weekend, on Sunday, her throttleman Patrick was catapulted over Shelley and into the water. They were thankfully fine, and released from hospital later that same day, but it does prove how dangerous the sport really is.
Despite the risks to competitors – and their wristwatches – it has a strong association with the brand’s Aquaspeed line. A couple of the invited jewellers told me it would really help lift sales to be able to share such tales of jeopardy on the high seas, and plenty were taking pictures of Shelley’s crew, the Spirit of Belgium, adorned by their Aquaspeeds and Rotary-branded kit.
She did them proud, speeding to second place in Saturday’s nine-lap race, following up her second place success on the podium in the Ukraine a few weeks earlier.
Of course, Rotary being Rotary, there was plenty of time to take advantage of the Maltese nightlife and its cultural diversions. A slick schedule organised by UK sales director Thomas Tope and senior PR and brand manager Abbi Holland found us time for wine tasting in the Meridiana Vineyard and a tour through the cultural highlights of the island as well as watching the England V USA football match in Hugo’s Bar.
We still got the same sinking feeling just before half time that we would have had had we been watching the match back home, but the weather and the great company took the edge off – well just a little bit.
Clearly, what goes on in Malta, stays in Malta. But I have to pay tribute to some outstanding feats on the trip, which may even overshadow Shelley’s skills, and definitely eclipse those of a certain English goalie. No names, but you know who you are in this roll call of honour. A commendation to the special blending skills of one jeweller who showed me a novel way of creating a summer rosé when Tesco runs out of its “blush brands” during Wimbledon week; the running commentary on the weekend’s events by one particularly sharp-tongued retailer, the anecdotes from whom have continued to have my staff in tears since I’ve been back; and, last but by no means least, one shop manager who introduced me to the aforementioned Jagerbombs. Don’t ask – but I won’t be suggesting we have them at our drinks reception at the UK Jewellery Awards in a month’s time.
Bye for now