Hackett Sponsorship Weekender July 2011

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I used to shop at Hackett when I worked on Jermyn Street, in the west end of central London, and a Hackett pale blue polo shirt was my first 'designer' buy many years ago from an outlet centre in York. Having a place in my shopping history and fashion heart, I was delighted to be invited to join International members of the press - as well as being one of the only people from the UK, GQ being the other - and Hackett PR agents from around the globe on a 'sponsorship weekend'. This was giving us a taster of the Hackett world courtesy of the sporting teams/events they sponsor; Aston Martin, The Rundle Cup Polo and the Oxford University Boat Club. 

It was, honestly, not a great start to the weekend despite leaving work with more than enough time to settle into our hotel, Danesfield House, between Henley and Marlow on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire boarder. Yet it seemed that day two months of rain decided to unleash itself from the sky, half of the M5 wanted to breakdown and the M4 was hosting a number of accidents. Taking nearly four and a half hours to do a two hour drive, I was more than ready to down enjoy a glass of white wine at a delightful pub in Marlow. I enjoyed a confit of foie gras followed by an excellent baked salmon with a seafood ragout, finishing with a chocolate sponge - and a good few glasses of an decent white. After, we arrived at the hotel to find some goodies presented on our beds, including the polo shirt and hooded sweatshirt that we were to wear on the river for a rowing lesson with famous Oxford University Boat Club. 

I learned that the Hackett group every year is one of two ever allowed a private lesson with the club that is part of the world famous Oxford vs Cambridge University Boat Race on the River Thames every year.  We were taught how to handle the oar and row 'properly' and were helped by the boat club members to get the incredibly delicate boats through the water. We took it in turns of four and I was snapped observing one of the groups on Bosporos which is the original boat that followed the team long the Thames during the race.

It was an excellent morning that I will probably not forget, and often slip into conversation with relatives at tedious family events. At the boat house, we changed into something more appropriate for an afternoon at the polo. Here, with Hackett Sponsorship Director, we drove at quite a speed from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire in an Aston Martin V12 Virage. Ironically, having had the trauma of driving to Oxfordshire, the polo was a measly 30 minutes from my house, but I was defiantly not dropping in to check on the dogs. 

We arrived at the Wiltshire ground at Tidworth to a small band of the Kings Royal Hussars and a tray of champagne, along with some fantastic nibbles. Quails eggs, king prawns and duck spring rolls were served before a sit down lunch in the tent, below, where we ate a salmon en croute and seasonal vegetables followed by a sumptuous chocolate and strawberry pudding, served with another delicious bottle or three of white wine. The day was unpredictably with a little smattering of rain but it laid off for the most of the afternoon as we watched some of the starter games before the Rundle Cup as well as take a look around the stalls, that included the Hackett polo emporium. 

The star of the day was undoubtedly Captain Harry Wales on the side of the Army against the Navy, or better known as His Royal Highness, Prince Harry, son of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and His Royal Highness, Charles, The Prince of Wales and grandson to HM Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

His team played an exceptional game, effortlessly completing 6 chukkas with vigor and a great attitude. Here he is below with Jeremy Hackett, owner of the company, after presenting the team prize.   

The next day we went up to Bedfordshire, in the middle of England, to a top-secret testing ground for cars, and where Aston Martin has a base to entertain press, sponsors and new buyers of their cars. We all alternated between four cars on varying different tracks to get the best out of each machine. I say machine because these are a feat of technology and pillars of excellence in the auto world, and rightly so at over £130,000 each and handmade in Derbyshire, northern England. 

I pumped one of the models up to 220kmh (160mph) on a mile straight, circled an open air bowl or velodrome with no hands at 100mph and drove at a decent rate on the Alpine course - which was used as a backdrop for Montenegro when James Bond flips his Aston to avoid running over Vespa Lynd. It was an exhilarating day filled with the car maker who I have adored and admired since I was about 8 years old and it was a pleasure, privilege and a dream to drive not just one but five of, what I think, are the best cars in the world.  

A big thank you to Ellie at Hackett who invited me specifically (who is sadly leaving as she is on placement but think she should stay) and the rest of the PR and sponsorship team for such an incredible and fun weekend (where I only stopped laughing when i slept) that I will not soon forget. 
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