Kiwi adventurer Alan Paris believes in the importance of lessons learned through failure. He should do.
In 1996 he set off to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Bermuda to the UK, to marry his English fiancé Becky, and failed in the sailing attempt.
He married Becky anyway, and when, in September 2002, the chance to enter the Around Alone 2002-2003 solo circumnavigation race came along, he seized the opportunity to enter. The race was promoted as ‘the longest race in any sport for any individual’.
“The adventure came out of a previous failure,” he says, “Lessons learned.”
Born in Dunedin, Alan has travelled and worked in many countries, but spent most of his life in Bermuda, growing up there and working in the hospitality business. He believes that hotel ownership has given him the ability to focus – a handy strength for the 196 days at sea alone.
From planning to finishing, the race occupied Alan for the best part of two years.
Firstly, he needed a yacht. This was designed and built in Australia, but the builder was a Kiwi.
He also needed money, and that meant finding sponsorship. Alan had enough funds to give up working for two years, but the costs were huge. The Bermuda Telephone Company ‘Velocity’ became the biggest sponsor and earned the naming rights to the boat.
Alan gained post-race employment with the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, a marine-based museum and science centre, and they decided to tie their curriculum to his event. Sixteen Primary Schools picked this up, as well as some secondary schools on a more informal basis. Alan visited the school, and, while sailing, he scheduled time once a week to answer the students’ questions.
Thirteen sailors started the solo race, with 10 finishing, Grant Dalton’s brother Graham being one of them.
Alan was happy to tell students, “I came last; that was a really good lesson.” He was one of the smallest boats competing.
Was it all smooth sailing? Well, there were three collisions mid-ocean – one unknown, and two with whales, the impact of one whale collision broke Alan’s ribs. Oh, and there was a rather nasty ‘weather bomb’ at Cape Horn. Pirates? Yes, but to another contestant, not Alan.
He was the 125th person to ever complete a solo round-the-world sail and was awarded an MBE from Queen Elizabeth.
Lessons learned he would summarise as weaknesses exposed and strengths known. It gave him the ability to deal with anything, but the importance of asking for help when needed.
Would he do it again? He would like a chance to complete a non-stop round the world solo sail.
However, Alan is currently quite busy.
Now settled in Bannockburn with Becky, he is a director of Monte Christo Winery Company. Monte Christo was the first vineyard and winery in Central Otago, starting wine production in Clyde in the 1860’s. The same property has been in the Paris family, and they have added vines in Bannockburn, Alexandra and Pisa. They plan on further development and wine production, with tasting rooms and hospitality in the future. Sailing adventures may have to wait.