David de Rothschild On The Need For Environmental Change

And why it’s alright to call him ‘Dave’.

By Richard Clune 16/10/2019

To sit with David de Rothschild is to sit with preconceptions.

It’s the last name that does it – a gilded announcement that speaks of impossible wealth, a family of finance, of billions and banks and dark layers of alleged conspiracy and claimed global gloom. Or worse.

“Drink?”

It’s said gently, in tones that point to an elevated schoolyard experience, one of those with year-round blazers and regulated sock lengths, a hair policy and shirts tucked and shorts in summer.

De Rothschild has certainly moved along from such today – bearded, hair stretched well below the collar, arguably a little bedraggled and dressed in clothing that’s flowing and free of too much structure.

He sips an offered lemon-coloured cocktail stood tall in a martini glass and smiles. His eyes crinkle. Any assumptions are immediately crushed.   

“I know some people are like, ‘Look at that posh London twat with his stupid long hair’, and if you look online, I’m some Jesus Christ Devil Fcker worth ten billion dollars – I’m not. And [my family] fcked the planet and controlled the federal reserve and there are so many conspiracies about what we’ve done. But you know what, at the end of the day, people are always looking to pigeonhole you – and a surname, it only comes after a first name. And I’ve always just been David – people here call me Dave – but, yeah, I’ve been David my whole life.”

It’s not to say the 41 year old shuns the family name, nor the privilege it’s allowed.

“I’m not distancing myself from it, because everything I have today, in terms of the opportunities I’ve had, the capacity I’ve had to think freely, was due to where I came from and that is an amazing gift.

“To be able to not worry about where my next meal comes from, to be able to feel the security and the safety of being in that environment, to be able to say, ‘I’m going to be an environmentalist, I want to be an adventurer, yeah, that’s what I’m going to do’ …Man, I genuinely wake up every day and feel super privileged for the opportunities I have – to have a voice and to talk about the things that I do.”

It’s why de Rothschild is back in Australia – to talk. To talk and to listen.

The week before we meet he spent time on the Great Barrier Reef – talking, listening, observing. “It’s not dead,” he offers. “And we can’t go around thinking this, we can’t write it off.”

He’s also in Australia to fulfil various media commitments for Breitling – as part of the Swiss watch brand’s so-called ‘Explorer Squad’.

“I like what these guys do and they’re super-supportive … And, again, you know, it’s another way for me to have a platform to tell stories, for Breitling to be a message piece and to get to an audience I never get to, and that makes me happy.”

So too does being in Australia – a place de Rothschild spent time in his early 20s, collecting a coterie of Bondi friends who remain close to this day.

“It was fun man, too much f*cking fun at times. But it was also the time of the Olympics and everyone in the city was super-pumped. I was actually between Sydney and Melbourne and was out here to finish my degree [he studied natural medicine and trained as a naturopath] with Nature Care, part of the University of New South Wales.”

It was on a break from that study, back in London, that his life came to a crossroad and which led, ultimately, to here. After working with Sculpture by the Sea (and forming a foundation, Sculpt the Future), de Rothschild was eager to embrace adventures new – and jokingly put it to an ex-girlfriend that he wanted to ski across Antarctica. She knew of an expedition. He signed on.

Detail_026.jpg

“I hadn’t read Scott [of the Antarctic] and couldn’t do a one-arm push-up, and I totally bullshitted about my experience and what I’d done in the past and they said I could be part of the support team. F*ck that – I want to be on the mission and someone then got injured and so I did, and in 2004 I skied across Antarctica.”

He returned eager to talk about the experience.

“It could have been about, ‘Wow, how amazing is what I’ve just done’, but I wanted to start talking about these incredible ecosystems that are bigger than us – and my life changed at that point, that was the start of all of ‘this’, and that was on the back of living in Australia.”

‘This’ has seen de Rothschild also venture to the North Pole to highlight global warming and also sail a boat made of repurposed bottles, the Plastiki, between San Francisco and Sydney, to highlight the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Then there’s his eco-conscious fashion line, The Lost Explorer.

The general description that drapes de Rothschild is that of adventurer, ecologist and environmentalist. He prefers “jack of all trades, absolute master of none” and he’s quick to state that he doesn’t hold
the answers.

“I’m not an expert. But I have been given a great position from which to tell stories and to be honest about what’s happening around us – and to try and connect with people.”

His stories are delivered with a tremendous sense of passion, by a man who clearly cares and is desperate to see change.

“We have this incredible spaceship Earth, right, we have one planet and we don’t have another chance, we’re running out of time, and we don’t get another opportunity to make this planet sustainable, or another opportunity to do the right thing. And it’s not my fight, it’s not your fight, it’s everybody’s fight.”

Central to that battle is the very simple notion of tangible engagement – that for environmental messaging to truly take hold and drive heightened levels of action, we need to interact beyond the heavily populated urban clusters most label ‘home’.

“That’s exactly it, we’re detached … Number one, right, is that we live with an outdated brain model, so from an evolutionary standpoint we’re now more afraid of camping in the woods than losing the woods; we’re more afraid of being eaten by a shark than losing a species – our brains haven’t caught up to modernity.

“Number two, we’re all shuffled into the urban environment – 70 per cent of us [predicted to be living in cities] by mid-century and our touchpoint to nature is generally through advertising and media. So if you think about that in terms of a news story – that’s fire, flood, famine; horrible things, it’s negative. So we have this fear reaction to nature and just say, ‘f*ck it’.”

Then there’s the issue of ‘nature porn’.

“That’s what I call it – we’re all glued to [David] Attenborough and National Geographic or whatever and there’s this amazing whale breaching and an eagle comes and eats a fox. But then when we get out in nature,  we’re like – ‘where are all the whales? And the dolphins, where the f*ck are they?’ Well, we killed them all.”

There’s an easy accessibility to de Rothschild and his messaging. He presents as the everyman, his speech prepared
with a level of f*cks that would leave a porn star spent.

“I swear too much, I know,” he offers. “But then we’re all f*cking idiots. Nature is simply saying, ‘Hey, I need a break – maybe don’t eat tuna for five years and the ocean will be teeming with tuna and we can eat it again’. But as humans, I also understand that we get distracted by the huge human element – we feel empathetic towards things and then we also quickly become apathetic; we read that the Amazon is crumbling, but then, you know, ‘I’ve got to work and this and that and feed my kids.’ We get distracted, we don’t make the connection that no Amazon means no breath; no ocean means no breath.

“Look, I’ve never met someone who said, ‘That tree deserves to get cut down, that dolphin deserves to die the little f*cker’…. No. We love nature, it’s in our DNA, we look at it and it makes us feel complete. But what happens is that we remove ourselves and see these things happening and then find it very hard to orientate ourselves to get involved.”

He admits that sometimes those of his ilk don’t help.

“As environmentalists, we’re like the undertakers of the environment – we tell you what’s wrong, we don’t tell you what’s right. We come in and go, ‘This is wrong, you’re to blame, oh and give me some money.’ And people are like, ‘f*ck off’.”

So what encourages him to keep going – to keep pushing against the short-term agendas of global governments and a top-down approach that continues to value profit over a sustainable natural future? Ultimately, what gives him hope?

“Cocktails and dreams and good pingers,” he says, laughing. “No, I look at the awesome things we’ve done – we’ve built telescopes that have figured out how a star is created, we’ve understood virology and how to solve incredibly complex mathematical situations and diseases and we’ve improved our quality of life.

“And so what gives me hope is that when we actually work together we can achieve incredible things. And so in some way, if there was a date or a deadline for the planet, say in 2022 a meteorite was going to smack into the planet we’d come together and this conversation would be totally different; it would be about the fact we have to work together to solve this crisis. And we have to remain optimistic and more than that, we have to start listening and start acting. Even though we may be talking more and more people are now doing things – winning slowly is still losing.

“We’ve had the same conversation for 20 years and who’s to blame – are you to blame for not listening? Or am I to blame for not telling a compelling enough story? I think we have to come together and at least meet in the middle. This is our watch and we need to get in there and change the system.”

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Will Smith, Tom Brady And More Celebs Are Team Owners in a New Electric-Boat League

Will all that star power deliver?

By J. George Forant 16/05/2024

At one point during the debut broadcast of the world’s first electric-boat racing circuit, an on-air host stands on a platform overlooking the water and pummels the camera with enthusiasm: “I hope you’re ready for a landmark moment that can change the future of water transportation. The nerves, the excitement, the energy, it’s electric!” Behind her, a few dozen people mill about, leaning on a rail, drinking coffee, staring at their phones. One turns to look at her as if he’d like to ask her to keep it down.

That singular image might best encapsulate the cognitive dissonance that permeates the new UIM E1 Series Championship.

Take the boats. They look like remnants from a Star Wars movie, with long tapered noses leading to a glass-enclosed cockpit flanked on each side by a curving wing that acts as a hydrofoil, allowing the hulls fly over the surface while sending off huge sprays of white foam—but they’re nearly silent and, while they have explosive acceleration, they reach a top speed that wouldn’t even merit a ticket on an interstate.

The Racebird could be out of a Star Wars movie, which is not far off, given its futuristic foils and hyper-drive.
E1 RACING

Then there are the team owners, a mélange of famous people who don’t necessarily bring to mind boats or racing. For that matter, they don’t really have anything to do with one another. Sorry, but it’s going to take more than a few brief hype videos and a recorded Zoom call in which the eight celebrities playfully talk trash before anyone believes the relationship between, say, NFL legend Tom Brady and pop singer Marc Anthony contains any real competitive juice.

There’s also the meeting of mission and money. The series defines itself as “committed to healing our coastal waters and ecosystems . . . through innovative clean technologies and aquatic regeneration.” But Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which controls more than $USD700 billion in cash largely derived from oil production, holds a chunk of equity and occupies the top sponsorship space. (Disclosure: Saudi Arabia’s Research and Media Group has invested in Penske Media Corporation, Robb Report‘s parent company).

The series had its first race in Jeddah, with the next scheduled for Venice on May 12. Expansion plans include 15 races globally.
E1 RACING

None of it quite seems to go together, and yet, by many measures that first race, held on an inlet of the Red Sea in Jeddah on Feb. 3, was a success. Expect a ninth team headed by a famous Hollywood actor. The series will host seven more races this year, starting on the waterways of Venice on May 12.

All of which raises the question: Can this actually work?

“Boat racing has never really caught on,” admits Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala, who’s been in offshore racing for more than 20 years and is also a principal on E1’s Team Aoki. “We got involved with E1 because we see an opportunity to finally make that breakthrough happen.”

In 2020, Rodi Basso spent a fair part of the year trying to visualise life after the pandemic. Unlike many others, Basso wasn’t so much longing for the way things had been, as attempting to conjure what new world would emerge.

An aerospace engineer who’d transitioned into motorsports, he’d held jobs at Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren Applied Technologies, but he’d recently stepped aside and moved to England in pursuit of some then-undetermined new challenge.

When the world shut down, he started running to stay fit and get out of the house, excursions on which he was often joined by Alejandro Agag, who lived nearby. Agag had founded Formula E and Extreme E, each a successful racing series featuring electric vehicles. The pair had met when Basso, through McLaren, developed an improved battery pack that allowed Formula E drivers to complete a race on a single charge.

E1 founder Alejandro Agag, Racebird designer Sophi Horne and CEO Rodi Basso established the electric raceboat circuit following Agag’s success with Formula E.
E1 RACING

Basso, an Italian, and Agag, from Spain, debated the next big thing as they traversed the streets of London. Agag had invested in a start-up, Seabird, that was working on a foiling electric boat, and he asked Basso to help with the engineering. That simple request quickly morphed into a new idea—an electric boat racing series.

Perhaps no two individuals were better positioned to make it happen, and that night Basso created a deck summarizing the concept. The next day, he sent it to Agag who immediately signed on. The E1 World Championship Racing series was born amid expectations that it would become the next trending motorsports entity.

Within months they’d secured exclusive rights to stage electric boat races for 25 years through UIM, the international racing organization, and landed the PIF deal. Asked about the irony of Saudi oil money underwriting a series with a mission of “promoting sustainable energy use in marine sports,” and about assertions of greenwashing and sportswashing, Basso looked away from his computer screen.

CEO Basso, an aerospace engineer with a background in F1 racing, designed the electric drivetrain while Horne designed the foiler.

Turning back, he offered a joke and then framed his answer in terms of investing strategies: “I focus on the day-to-day job of the people working at PIF who study markets and industries and place bets on what will bring the highest return. In that sense, it’s a privilege to be noticed and have that initial funding.”

Asked a similar question via email, Brady chooses not to respond, but otherwise replies: “This is a new competition and it has great growth potential, so it was a no-brainer for me to be involved with E1.”

Basso later adds another point: “PIF’s money allowed us to get going. It paid for the development of the boat and the series. Now we have to stand on our own as a functioning business.”

What will that look like?

Location, location, location. Part of the difficulty for boat racing has been the “where.” Contests usually took place offshore or on small—often remote—lakes that offered flat calm, neither of which are particularly spectator friendly.

In recent years, the Sail GP series has solved that problem with a global race circuit featuring smaller, more maneuverable versions of full America’s Cup boats slugging it out on metropolitan waterways, such as San Francisco Bay and Sydney Harbor. In contrast to traditional America’s Cup racing yachts, the smaller SailGP boats also reduce the costs of building, maintaining, outfitting, and shipping them to races around the world.

“When I decided to get into electric, I researched how to compete with combustion engines, which led to foils,” says Sophi Horne, the CEO of Seabird, who designed the boat for E1. “I started with a cruiser for seven people, but then Alejandro and Rodi asked me to switch focus to a race boat and that led to the Racebird. At seven meters (23 feet), it can run at top speed for roughly 40 minutes.”
E1 has followed the same approach as SailGP, with one-class, techy raceboats, a global tour and extensive social media exposure.
SAILGP

Besides that, the boat looks sleek, part spaceship, part waterbug, as it skitters above the surface. And while 50 knots (92.5 kmph) on a boat is fast—especially an open boat low to the water—it’s not an attention-getting number to the general public. Still, the Racebirds distinguish themselves with a burst of acceleration that’s visible when they compete.

The power comes from a Mercury outboard built specifically for the purpose, with input from Seabird. It has a booster that jacks the output from 100 kilowatts to 150 for 20 seconds per minute, adding to the notable jumps in speed and putting a focus on driver skill and strategy. Each team has two pilots—as they’re called—one male and one female, who alternate turns behind the wheel through a qualifying round, the semi-finals and finals.

“We’re now packaging the propulsion system to sell to other builders,” says Horne. “What drives me is the mission to electrify boats, so we want to partner with other companies out there and help build the infrastructure with fast charging that we’ll need.”

ach team has one female and one male driver who both race. Team Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen and Sam Coleman won race 1 in Jeddah.
E1 RACING

The series’s green agenda goes beyond pushing the development of electric engines, high-output batteries and hydrofoils, which reduce drag in increase efficiency by lifting the boat’s hull out of the water. E1 intends to employ sustainable practices on-site at events—including the use of local vendors—and install and leave in place high-speed electric charging stations at each locale.

According to its website, organizers will collaborate on coastal restoration projects and education initiatives directed by chief scientist Carlos Duarte, an ocean ecology professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

“One of the barriers to ownership and sponsorship in powerboat racing has been the sustainability question,” says Rangoonwala of Powerboat P1. “E1 answers that question up front by building it into the mission.”

Whatever seeming contradictions arise from the use of PIF funds, the series has already had a real-world impact. Mercury Marine has incorporated much of the technology it developed for the Racebird engines into its Avator electric outboards. More than 12,000 Avators have been built in the last year. “Racebird was a good place for us to start,” David Foulkes, CEO of Brunswick Corp., Mercury’s parent, tells Robb Report. “It was a way to gain experience in a controlled environment, where the boats are centrally maintained.”

F1’s Sergio Perez was the first A-lister to sign up, followed by tennis great Rafael Nadal. The others soon followed.
GETTY IMAGES

Basso calls Agag a “marketing genius” for the way he tapped into existing audiences for Formula E and Extreme E by luring well-known names from Formula 1 and extreme racing—and their social media followings—into the fold. It’s a proven approach, but one that would not work for E1. “Unfortunately, in powerboat racing, there are no star drivers or famous owners,” Basso says.

The alternative involved finding celebrities from other walks of life to invest in teams. “First, we approached Sergio Perez and evidently our presentation was done right because he joined, then Rafa Nadal signed up,” Basso says. “The rest came as a consequence of a sort of missing-out syndrome, which worked out nicely for us.”

The sell might have been easy, but the selections reflect the sort of calculated demographic cross-section that would make a pollster drool. Besides Brady, the white American hero of seven Super Bowls, Smith, the Black Hollywood superstar, Nadal, the internationally known Spanish tennis star, Anthony, the Grammy-winning musician with Latino roots, and Perez, a Formula 1 driver from Mexico, there’s Didier Drogba, a Black European soccer icon from Ivory Coast; Steve Aoki, a world-renown DJ of Japanese descent; Virat Kohli, a cricket star from India; and Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian tech entrepreneur.

All appear engaged at the outset, sitting for video interviews and promoting the series on social media. Four showed up for the opening race and Brady plans to be in Venice. “I’ve been involved in a few things since retiring but this racing series has been incredible,” Brady tells Robb Report. “I love competition and racing. Seeing the vision of the sport come to life has been very fun and fulfilling.”

Basso says he and Agag intentionally created a “business mechanism that would give owners skin in the game and keep them engaged.” The owners put up €2 million (about $2.15 million) to license a team. E1 owns the series and the boats and handles all the logistics, including transportation, for which they charge teams another €1 million. The buy-in, Basso says, will go up for Year 2, since three of the original eight license holders have already resold them at five times the initial investment.

To ensure those values keep rising, E1 plans to cap the series at 12 or 15 teams competing in 15 races, hopefully by Year 3, with five events in Asia, five in the Mid-East/Europe and five in the West, where potential venues include Miami, Mexico and Brazil.

To help control costs, the boats must run as they come out of the box, and though teams can hire as many engineers as they want back at headquarters, they can’t have more than seven crew members, including drivers, on the dock during races.

The concept, launched in Venice in 2022, will return there this weekend.
MERCURY MARINE

“They made some really smart decisions to limit costs at the outset,” says Ben King, one of of Team Brady’s co-principals. “The plan is to start modifying the boats in Year 3, which would mean greater outlays for teams, but by then, hopefully, the circuit will be well established.”

Teams can bring on sponsors outside those attached to the wider series, including everything from patches on pilot uniforms to on-the-boat decals to partnerships that showcase technology. Visibility shouldn’t be a problem. E1 has both linear and streaming deals with 120 broadcasters that range from Asia through India, MENA, Europe, and the Americas, where CBS owns the US television rights.

In all, E1 says its global reach extends to 1.7 billion people, and media coverage of the Jeddah race in February had a total reach of 2.1 billion, with 125 million digital impressions. “For the first race, we are pleased,” Basso says. “We have a long way in front of us, but we are pleased.”

On the course at Jeddah, the four finalists line up for the rolling start of the final race, among them Team Brady. As the boats pass the marker buoy signaling the beginning of the first-ever E1 championship, three surge ahead while the Brady boat founders and wobbles forward, dropping to last.

In the previous heat, Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen finished third, meaning teammate Sam Coleman has to not just win the heat but make up the time deficit to claim the title. As the boats approach the first turn, Coleman mashes the booster and jolts forward, closing the gap and creating a three-boat bottleneck around the first buoy.

The scene turns chaotic as the boats speed through the curve within yards of each other and geysers of whitewater and churning wakes fill the space around them. Emerging into the straight, they jockey for the lead. “Racing these boats is super intense—insane,” says Coleman. “The trick is constantly managing the foil height. Too much power and the boat will drop and you’ll lose speed. The working window is so small, and while you don’t have engine noise, there’s feedback through cavitation and vibration that you have to learn to feel.”

Staying on the foils is tricky, but key to winning.
E1 RACING

Most of the drivers have come from other disciplines, motorcycles, cars, even Jet Skis and WaveRunners. Coleman started in motocross, then teamed with his sister to become a world champion and two-time U.K. champ in P1 Powerboat. Whether it’s that experience or his feel for his craft, Coleman’s boat levels and rises high on its foils as it shoots to the front.

Through the next turns, Coleman’s lead builds, creating another bit of intrigue. The course layout consists of a small oval inside a larger one, something like a paperclip. Over a five-lap race, each driver must circumnavigate the inner oval four times and the outer once. As Coleman continues to pull away, the question of when to take the long lap rises.

The Racebird and electric engines will be redesigned for season 2 if the series is successful.
E1 RACING

And while that gives the announcers something to talk about, it also highlights a shortcoming. The moments of close-quarters racing, the nuance of working the trim and booster and the strategic quirk of the long lap all make for good, engaging viewing. At the same time, the difficulty of keeping the boats running clean on the foils and the long lap spread the field, sapping most of the drama from the action. Those instances of intense, close-quarters racing are few and far between.

Ultimately, that’s what success will come down to: Will people understand the level of skill and strategy on display and will the competition hold up? A sustainability mission and a few 30-second hype videos from Tom Brady (whose team pulled through in Jeddah as the winner) provide a sense of purpose and attract eyeballs, but for people to continually show up and tune in—to pay up—the races themselves have to deliver.

Formula E and Extreme have made it work. Will E1? Ladies and gentlemen, start your very-quiet engines.

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

10 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Porsche

The automaker is a sports car standard-bearer with a long, impressive history in racing.

By Bob Sorokanich 16/05/2024

Porsche has long stood at the pinnacle of automotive achievement. The automaker has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 19 times—more than any other competitor—and has successfully competed in everything from rally racing to Formula 1. The history of Porsche vehicle production is equally impressive, as the company rose from the rubble of World War II to become one of the most widely recognised luxury and performance brands in the world today. Let’s dive into the history of Porsche with 10 facts you might not have known about the German brand.

Photo: Keystone

Ferdinand Porsche was born in 1875 in what is now the Czech Republic. Despite the fact that he had little formal education, from an early age Porsche was recognised as a brilliant engineer. In 1901, Porsche built the world’s first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, a motorised carriage that used a Daimler internal-combustion engine to generate power for electric motors in the wheels. Soon, Porsche was hired as technical director of Stuttgart-based Daimler, where he worked on Mercedes race cars including the hugely successful Mercedes-Benz SSK.

Photo: Fox Photos

In 1931, Ferdinand Porsche launched the company that still bears his name today. It wasn’t a car-building operation: Dr. Ing h.c. F. Porsche GmbH was a consulting agency, supplying design and engineering expertise to various automakers. Soon after launching his company, Ferdinand Porsche received an assignment directly from German Chancellor Adolf Hitler: A project to build a simple, durable, affordable vehicle that could be purchased by everyday Germans, codenamed Volkswagen, or “people’s car.”

Photo: Topical Press Agency

Ferdinand Porsche unveiled the first Volkswagen prototype in 1935; in 1939, the Volkswagen factory began production, with Ferdinand Porsche appointed as an executive. As part of his work with the government of Nazi Germany, Porsche renounced his Czechoslovak citizenship, joined the Nazi Party, and became a member of the SS paramilitary group. Ferdinand Porsche contributed to the design and engineering of Nazi tanks and troop transport vehicles, and after World War II ended, he was arrested for war crimes including the use of forced labor, serving 20 months in prison in France.

Photo: DOMINIK HILDEBRANDT

Following the end of World War II, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry, sought to build a sports car according to his father’s vision. In 1947, the first examples of the Porsche 356 were assembled in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria, where the Porsche family had moved operations to avoid Allied bombing. The 356 bore some resemblance to the Volkswagen, and like that vehicle, it used a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine along with some other VW components.

Photo: Porsche

Porsche built several versions of the 356 until 1965, but by the end, the vehicle was badly out-of-date. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, grandson of the company’s founder, designed a new rear-engine sports car, this time with an air-cooled six-cylinder engine. The company intended to call this model 901, which was the internal code-name for the project, but Peugeot owned the trademark on all three-digit model numbers with a zero in the middle, so the name was swiftly changed to 911.

Photo: Wesley

Porsche found racing success with the 356, 911, and various competition-only prototypes, but the automaker’s rise to motorsport dominance began with the 917. First shown publicly in 1969, the 917 was the brainchild of Ferdinand Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche who would later go on to lead the entire Volkswagen Group. The race car used an air-cooled mid-mounted flat-12 engine, and it was so compact, the driver’s feet sat ahead of the front axle. After some early developmental troubles, the 917 became a dominant endurance racer, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Monza 1,000km, the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans back-to-back in 1970 and 1971. The 917 was a monster, reliably cresting 230 mph at Le Mans in an era when the typical racing prototype couldn’t break 200, and it launched Porsche on a path to becoming the winningest manufacturer in Le Mans history.

Photo: Porsche

The late 1970s were difficult for sports car companies, and in 1980 Porsche had its first year of financial losses. The 911 had gone without significant updates and was slated for cancellation, with the front-engine, V8-powered 928 intended to replace it. Newly-appointed CEO Peter Schutz, who was born in Germany but was raised in the U.S., realised that the impending death of the 911—considered the quintessential Porsche sports car—was contributing to low morale at Porsche. Schutz walked into the office of chief Porsche engineer Helmuth Bott, where a chart showed continued production of the 928 and 944, and the end of 911 production in 1981. In a scene that has become legend, Schultz took a marker from Bott’s desk, extending the 911’s line off the chart, onto the office wall, and out the door—signifying that the 911 would never be canceled. “Do we understand each other?” Schultz asked, and Bott nodded in the affirmative.

Photo: Porsche

In 1986, Porsche unveiled a supercar that shared the general shape of the 911, but was shockingly advanced in nearly every way: The 959. Developed to compete in Group B rally racing, the street-legal 959 had a twin-turbo engine making 326 kilowatts, Kevlar composite bodywork, wide-body fenders, and all-wheel drive. It soon became the fastest production car in the world, sprinting from zero to 96 in 3.7 seconds and reaching a 317 kmph top speed.

Photo: Porsche

Amazingly, from 1963 to 1997, Porsche never undertook a full redesign of the 911. In 1998, a brand-new sports car emerged. Internally known as Type 996, the all-new 911 had a completely redesigned body shell and an all-new flat-six engine that, for the first time, was cooled by water rather than air. Early 996s shared their front bodywork and some interior panels with the more affordable mid-engine Boxster, causing some controversy among Porsche fans, but today the 996 is considered the model that saved the Porsche 911.

Photo : Porsche

In 2002, Porsche introduced the Cayenne, the automaker’s first sport-utility vehicle. A few years later, in 2009, the four-door Panamera luxury sedan was launched. Today, Porsche’s best-selling model is the Macan, a small SUV, with the Cayenne not far behind. The automaker also sells an all-electric sport sedan, the Taycan, and is moving toward the future with plans for hybrid and all-electric sports cars.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Sitting on the Dock of Balmain

Is The Dry Dock Sydney’s Hottest New Pub Renovation?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 15/05/2024

At its peak, in the late 1890s, Balmain had 55 pubs. They were noisy watering holes that serviced thirsty hordes after a day’s labour at the suburb’s harbourside coal mine and shipyards. Today, Balmain is dotted with charming workers’ cottages set behind picket fences and stolid corner pubs, which have been converted into restaurants and homes.

One such establishment, the Dry Dock on Cameron Street, has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. As an original public house built in 1857, it remains fixed in a local backstreet and offers a porthole to the suburb’s blue-collar roots.

Locals can still bring their dogs into the front bar, or retreat to the lounge to sit next to a crackling log fire. 

The renovation carried out by Studio Isgro and H&E Architects combines rustic touches—like the acid-etched sandstone exterior, exposed brickwork and beams  —with elegant light fittings, an incredible sound system and tasteful art. “It has a transportive, escapist quality, where you could be anywhere, or right at home,” says interior designer Bianca Isgro of Studio Isgro, who spent two years on the overhaul. Her team designed a modern gastropub on the site after gutting and stripping the building, which had been neglected for years. 

Founder and managing director James Ingram (ex-Solotel and Merivale) has assembled a warm, friendly service team that matches the pub’s character. He says his team has fought hard to preserve the pub’s long-standing connection to residents and to get the mix of old and new right.

“Balmain is home to so many devoted residents who are rightly proud of the suburb’s working-class roots,” says Ingram over a frothy beer in the warm-toned front bar.

“The Dry Dock has been designed to have that timeless feel that stands the test of time.” 

The large open kitchen features an oyster bar and serves French-style fare, delicious sides, and hot desserts. The wine list is on point, with something in every price range and a friendly sommelier doing the rounds. 

The kitchen is led by seasoned chef Ben Sitton, who previously rattled the pans at institutions including Felix, Uccello and Rockpool Bar & Grill. His kitchen faces a large dining room with unclothed tables, bentwood chairs, tumbled marble floors and exposed trusses that give it a contemporary feel.

The back of the room overlooks a walled garden, with a giant ghost gum at its centre and views of neighbouring residential fences. 

 

Chef Sitton says his team relishes the opportunity to cook from an expansive modern European repertoire with quality produce. The robust flavours and textures are centred around the smoky quality that comes from Josper charcoal grills, wood-fired ovens, and the rotisserie.  

You can order steak frites with charred baby carrots, or baked market fish with a cheesy, potato gratin.

The Peninsula Hospitality Group, the team behind Dry Dock, is now looking to expand its foothold in Balmain by opening at least one other venue.

Visit for the food, stay for the vibe.

The Dry Dock, Public House & Dining Room, 22 Cameron Street, Balmain, NSW 2041. P: 02 9555 1306; drydock.com.au

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Animal Kingdom

A veritable menagerie of high-jewellery sparklers awaits this season.

By Robb Report Team 16/05/2024

Crocodiles, lions, snakes and flamingos have all found their way into magnificent high jewellery. 

At Chaumet master craftsmen draw inspiration from the balletic flight of swallows. At Cartier a mischievous crocodile makes a cunning circle around the throat and at Paspaley 137 sapphires and gem bejewels fascinators attached to a pair of Keshi pearl studs. 

Read on for ideas of how to spoil yourself or someone you love with something from the animal kingdom.

CARTIER
Crocodile necklace
White gold set with emeralds and brilliant-cut diamonds. POA; cartier.com.au

CHANEL 
Lion solaire earrings 18k white gold and diamonds. $140,200; chanel.com


A LA VIEILLE RUSSIE
Victorian diamond fish brooch Pavé diamond trout set in silver and gold. $14,300; alvr.com

DAVID WEBB
Bird of paradise brooch Cabochon star sapphire, carved emerald and ruby leaves, brilliant-cut diamonds, 18k gold and platinum. POA; davidwebb.com

CHAUMET
Capturing the aerial movements of swallows, in white and rose gold with marquise-cut diamonds. POA; chaumet.com

A LA VIEILLE RUSSIE
Mississippi River pearl flamingo brooch set Baguette diamond legs and brilliant-cut diamond head, tail and neck, and ruby eye. Circa 1930. $24,000; alvr.com

JEAN SCHLUMBERGER by Tiffany & Co.
Bird on a rock pendant
Platinum and 18k yellow gold, pink sapphires and diamonds (one of which is more than 15 carats). POA; tiffany.com

A LA VIEILLE RUSSIE
Antique green garnet frog brooch Demantoid garnet with old mine diamond eyes, set in gold
and platinum. $71,000; alvr.com

PASPALEY
Wild feather earring enhancer Featuring 43 white diamonds, 137 sapphires and 26 tsavorites set in 18k yellow gold. Keshi pearl studs sold separately. $11,800; paspaley.com

BULGARI

Mediterranean Sapphire Serpenti necklace, nine sapphires from Sri Lanka for a total of 40,81carats evoking snake’s scales are set in a precise and sinuous platinum and pavé diamond body construction culminating in a dramatic pendant tassel including 80 oval-shaped sapphire beads totaling 116 carats. POA’ Bulgari.com

 

 

 

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

How To Drink Salon, Guilt-Free with Nick Hildebrandt

Once-in-a-Lifetime Wines By The Glass Come to Melbourne’s Atria and Sydney’s Bentley Restaurant + Bar

By Belinda Aucott-christie 15/05/2024

Want to eat a succulent starter of pearl meat and smoked lime butter with a glass of 2013 Champagne Salon? Or sink your teeth into chef’s cut Tallow-age beef while sipping a silky glass of 2021 Bass Phillip Pinot Noir?

This month you can. 

All through May, wine-loving patrons can order such rare drops by the glass at Michael Greenlaw’s Atria at The Ritz-Carlton in Melbourne, and Brent Savage’s The Bentley Restaurant + Bar in Sydney. Think glasses of Margaux  for around $70 and Crozes-Hermitage for under $50.

These precious wines that never grace wine lists, let alone by-the-glass menus, are being offered at 50% below the expected by-the-glass price, courtesy of Coravin’s World Wine Tour. 

Coravin is the life-preserving wine tech that allows oenophiles to pour vintage wines without removing the cork. The patented needle and gas system allows for the extraction of fine wine, without exposing the precious vintages to ruinous oxygen.

“This is a great initiative,” says owner and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt from his dimly-lit ground floor venue The Bentley Restaurant + Bar.. 

“This May we have the opportunity to pour by the glass some of the world’s most sought after wines. Especially Champagne Salon, which is extremely rare, and my favourite Champagne of all time,” he says beaming at the thought of serving the scarce blanc de blancs.

“We have a large following of loyal wine lovers who come to our restaurants and they are super excited to taste these wines at a reasonable price.”

The smiling sommelier continues, “Our guests will have the opportunity to taste a selection of famous and rare wines in pristine condition without spending hundreds or, in some instances, thousands on a bottle.” 

Until the end of May, patrons can sample wines from a limited list expertly curated by Coravin, featuring local and international gems. Learn more about Coravin’s World Wine Tour here.

To book visit Atria or Bentley Restaurant + Bar

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected