Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

Cardiff – where’s that?

Friday, September 5th, 2014

With President Obama in Wales this week for the Nato conference, I wonder how it’s being reported back in the USA. Specifically, will the American press actually know where Cardiff and Wales are?

In 2001, I was a member of the crew of the 33ft Rigid Inflatable powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. We’d had the boat shipped over to the USA in order to attempt a record powerboat Transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point. Prior to the trip, we spent three weeks touring up and down the eastern seaboard of the US, promoting the boat, and the attempt which we would make on the global circumnavigation record the following year.

With Cardiff our home port, we’d also been charged by the Welsh Development Agency to gauge whether the Americans knew much about Wales and its capital city. Sadly, all too often, the response was “Wales – is that in England?” We duly reported back that Wales definitely had an awareness problem on the other side of the Atlantic. It was rather reinforced when First Minister Rhodri Morgan made an official visit six months later, and came back with the same message.

But even if the Americans weren’t sure where Cardiff was, the plus side for Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski, Steve Lloyd and me was that we set a new official UIM world record for a powerboat Transatlantic, celebrated in grand style when we arrived back in Cardiff to be the first boat to pass through the newly opened Cardiff Bay Barrage. And 13 years on, our Transatlantic record has never been challenged!

10 years ago

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in Britain. Obviously the resulting impact on the farming industry was devastating, but even for me as a humble journalist writing about the outdoors, it didn’t come without its consequences. At the time I was doing massive tent tests for Camping magazine – pitching half a dozen lightweight tents at a time and photographing them individually and all together. There was a huge common just around the corner from where I lived, and I’d been happily using that, enjoying the odd chat with passing dog walkers, and occasionally fending off over-zealous locals who thought I was breaching local byelaws by camping there (I always pointed out I wasn’t camping as such).

I was compiling walks in the countryside for various walking magazines, too. All of that came to an end when Foot and Mouth took hold. The countryside become a no-go area – luckily I managed to move my tent photography to a very large garden, but the walks came to an end, as public rights of way were closed by order.

It was at the same time that Alan Priddy and I were about to take the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff over to the USA, partly as a promotional tour in the hope of eliciting some sponsorship, but also to bring the boat back across the Atlantic in our quest to break and set more world records. We’d been charged to help promote Cardiff and Wales, and whilst there, the Welsh Development Agency, which had a tiny office in New York, asked us if we’d do a little grass roots research for them as we toured the eastern seaboard. It quickly became apparent that Cardiff and Wales had a huge awareness problem. Typical reactions were “Wales, that’s in England, right?”

By the time we were back in the UK in the summer (with the powerboat transatlantic record, which 10 years on still stands), tourism to rural parts of Britain such as the Lake District and Wales had suffered an enormous hit. We conveyed our message about awareness across the pond, but it seemed to fall on stony ground. Only when First Minister Rhodri Morgan went six months later, also discovering that Americans didn’t really know an awful lot about Wales, did the message hit home. Since then they’ve improved their marketing.

Our US tour went extremely well, and we came back with lots of irons in the fire. Little were we to know that every one of them would go stone cold after 9/11.