Amateur sailor prepares for Atlantic adventure after two-year delay due to pandemic

Amateur sailor prepares for Atlantic adventure after two-year delay due to pandemic

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington

A Leamington woman is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime as a crew member on the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race – two years after she was originally due to set sail.

Marie O’Riley will join a 20-strong crew for the final ‘Atlantic Homecoming’ leg from Bermuda on June 19th, via New York back to the UK, arriving in London for race finish Saturday July 30th.

Marie, 56, was due to sail across the Atlantic in the summer of 2020 until plans were suddenly halted by the Coronavirus. But this week, after two years being moored up in the Philippines, the 11 modern racing yachts were able to restart the race.

The Clipper Race was first established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Described as the “toughest endurance challenge on the planet, it is the only event of its type that enables non-professionals from every walk of life, regardless of previous sailing experience, to see Mother Nature in her raw and powerful glory as they compete through some of the most hostile conditions on the planet.”

Marie said: “I was visiting family in Liverpool in August 2017 and saw the start of the 2017-18 race. I started following it daily online and after a couple of months I decided I’d love to give it a go. I applied and was offered a place so have spent the money for our new kitchen on a sailing adventure instead”.

Like almost half the people who sign up for the race, Marie had never sailed before. She spent two years completing comprehensive training in all aspects of racing a 70-foot racing yacht including overcoming her fear of heights to ascent the 90-foot mast. All participants must be able to undertake any of the tasks on board, with crews split into two watches, racing around the clock, day and night.

Each team has a professional Skipper and First Mate. The rest of the crew are amateurs with a third of the crew on each team sailing 40,000 nautical miles around the world while the rest join for one or two legs.

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington
The race start in London September 2019

Covid-19 put all Marie’s work as a freelance Business Development Consultant on hold. As a result, she worked part-time for Stratford-based care agency Welcombe Care as a Community Care Assistant for 18 months.

Marie said: “When I was younger, I used to do cycle touring and the experience of lightweight camping has stood me in good stead for living onboard a racing yacht. Conditions are very basic with only two toilets, no showers and hot bunking – where you buddy up with a crew member from the other watch and you sleep while they are on watch and vice versa.”

She added: “I’m really looking forward to joining my team Dare To Lead, however the world is a very different place from when I signed up for the race in January 2018.

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington

“I’ve barely left Warwickshire for the last two years and I wonder how I’ll cope being away from my family for seven weeks. Spurring me on when times get tough is knowing that I’m doing it to raise money for UNICEF UK, the Charity partner for the race. Now more than ever they need help to support the world’s most vulnerable children especially with the current situation in Ukraine.”

For further Clipper Race details visit here

Donations to UNICEF UK can be made via here

Marie O'Riley, Round the World Yacht Race, Leamington

The sky’s the limit for Leamington chef following Alexander McQueen scoop

The sky’s the limit for Leamington chef following Alexander McQueen scoop

Bramble Dining, Richard Bramble, fine dining, Leamington

A Leamington chef who walked away from commercial kitchens to launch his private dining business in lockdown, is celebrating his latest collaboration – with an international luxury clothing brand.

Bramble Dining was approached by Alexander McQueen fashion house to create a bespoke range of canapes and cocktails for the official launch of their much-anticipated ‘London Skies’-inspired SS22 collection last month.

Richard Bramble was tasked with creating the culinary artworks to complement McQueens’s ethereal Spring/Summer range, launched in their flagship store in Old Bond Street.

Bramble Dining enlisted the help of Liquid Spirit Events from The Cotswolds to provide bespoke cocktails and mocktails for the event to accompany the canapes.

Liquid Spirit Events in The Cotswolds worked with Bramble Dining to provide the drinks at the launch event

And Richard’s sweet and savoury recipes, which were perfected over several weeks, will now also be replicated at Alexander McQueen launch events and fashion shows by chefs across the globe, including Europe, China and the US.

Richard said: “You can imagine our excitement when we were contacted by Alexander McQueen. They asked us to create canapes and cocktails to match the colours of the sky and the London skyline.

“Obviously we are extremely proud to be working with a company of this calibre. It is a huge boost to our independent business to have such world-renowned companies that want to collaborate with us.”

He added: “As a chef it is a huge privilege that my canape creations are being replicated around the world by other chefs for each launch event this Spring and Summer. It has been a fabulous opportunity for us to showcase Bramble Dining, where we are already breaking through as a new catering company in London.”

Bramble Dining, Richard Bramble, fine dining, Leamington
Richard Bramble at work

The new SS22 Collection, overseen by Creative Director Sarah Burton, is being unveiled on runways across the world and is inspired by storm chasing, romanticising the often grey and unpredictable London weather.

Summoning the changing skies, the British designer has showcased a range of gowns as well as dramatic coats and blazers, which seemingly dance in the wind. More information can be found here

Visit Bramble Dining here

Local solicitors’ firm goes extra mile(s) for domestic abuse charity

Local solicitors’ firm goes extra mile(s) for domestic abuse charity

A local solicitors’ firm has gone that extra mile to help a domestic abuse charity in Coventry rise to the challenges of the pandemic.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk
Some of the walkers before setting off from the Alsters Kelley Coventry office.

Staff and friends of Coventry & Warwickshire law firm, Alsters Kelley Solicitors Ltd raised £775 by walking a 10-mile route between two of their offices in Coventry and Leamington.

The challenge is a welcome boost for Coventry Haven Women’s Aid. The charity, which marks its 50th anniversary next year, has seen a sharp rise in the number of calls post-pandemic as more women experiencing any form of domestic violence and abuse seek their services and support.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk, Jaime Richards

Jaime Richards, Development & Funding Officer from Coventry Haven, pictured right, said: “We were extremely concerned about lockdown and knew it would significantly reduce the safe space for victims to be able to reach support; victims became invisible literally overnight.

“We worked hard to ensure women knew that they could still leave throughout lockdown, including TV and radio campaigns, and we delivered our posters to supermarkets, local shops and chemists.

“We saw an increase in third party contacts discussing concerns with friend, family and neighbours, and we delivered various online training sessions to employers and managers around how to recognise signs and deal with any disclosures.

“As expected, as lockdown started to ease, we saw a huge increase of helpline calls and referrals into service and this has remained consistently high throughout the last 18 months. All our services remained open throughout including our three refuges, and the refuge team were there to support our residents through such unprecedented and uncertain times.”

She added: “The last 18 months have been so difficult for everyone and in particular the charity sector, so we are very grateful for Vicky and the team at Alsters Kelley for their ongoing support this year and for all the funds raised by the charity walk.

Coventry Haven is just one of the nominated charities being supported by Alsters Kelley, which was established in the 1980s and now has offices in Coventry, Leamington, Southam, Stratford and Nuneaton.

Alsters Kelley, Coventry Haven, charity walk

Vicky Smith, Conveyancing Assistant and one of the firm’s charity champions who organised the walk, said: “We had a great day – there were about a dozen of us who took part plus children and a dog! The weather was perfect for walking that distance and as well as raising a great amount of money for Coventry Haven it was also an opportunity for us to see colleagues that we haven’t seen for such a long time.”


Donations can still be made at:

Jaime Richards added: “We support women and children through all types of abuse; we listen, we believe and do not judge, and we aim to empower victims to live a life free from fear.”

Further information about Coventry Haven can be found here

Further information about Alsters Kelley’s services can be found here

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

THE OWNER of a new Warwickshire restaurant which suffered huge delays to its opening, has vowed it’s here to stay despite hanging up the closed sign for the start of a second national lockdown this week.

We Love Pizza finally launched in September despite taking over the lease of the Leamington unit in February – and although, due to the pandemic, the restaurant is closed again to diners from today, entrepreneur Jose Ribeiro says he’ll fight hard to protect his business in the weeks ahead.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro at his restaurant in Regent Street, Leamington

But it’s a battle he claims the industry should not be having to face again.

Jose, 50, said: “When this latest lockdown was announced on Saturday my first thought was ‘here we go again.’ Eight months down the line and we still have the same sorry state of affairs. How can we still be going through the same stages and using the same measures? Nothing has changed and this is something that I struggle to accept.

“We have followed all the scientific evidence but where are the lessons learned? There has not been enough evolution or changes put into place to allow us to effectively tackle this situation. The Government is just resorting to closing the industry again. The businesses that suffer the most from the first lockdown are going to be the ones who suffer the most again.”

He added: “I feel it is frustrating to say the least that we’re not further down the line with the process. We can’t control how the virus spreads but what we could have done is to put procedures in place that would have allowed us to this time take less prohibitive actions, being more targeted and more focused, rather than just shutting down the whole sector again.

“I can’t accept the argument that hospitality businesses are COVID super spreaders because the stats show different. Public Health figures state just 2% of the cases have come from the hospitality sector.

“A lot of businesses have gone to a great deal of effort to minimise their risk, while there are some businesses out there who are disregarding the measures because the owners are irresponsible – only these should be the ones we’re targeting for closure. There are lots of businesses operating very safely and are very conscious of the welfare of their customers and staff but we’re all being penalised.”

Jose is certainly no stranger to the hospitality and entertainment industries, having worked as a consultant for the last 26 years, his projects atking him around the world, including New Zealand, Australia and the USA. But it while working as general manager at Leamington’s Bedford Street live music venue for the last three years, that he aspired to open his first restaurant.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

He said: “My partner Geanina and I always wanted to open our own concept, something that we could establish as a brand and could scale. We believe that pizza is a simple product but when it’s done with care and love and the right ingredients and with the right processes in place, it can be delicious, but healthy as well.

“Geanina and I are big pizza fans and so the name of the restaurant was an obvious choice, We Love Pizza.”

The ambitious entrepreneur prides himself on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to his customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough. Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.

But as Jose contemplates the uncertainty of the weeks ahead, he pledges to work even harder to get his product to people’s tables with a new army of delivery drivers, click and collect system and two brand new offers for lockdown – Rule of Six Package (six pizzas delivered for £36) and Pizza and Prosecco (starter, two pizzas, Nutella and Strawberry Pizza dessert and bottle of Prosecco delivered for £35).

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro, Geanina Lacraru and team

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

And neither has the ongoing pandemic diminished his long-term vision for the We Love Pizza brand, with ambitious plans to open five more restaurants in the Midlands over the next three years.

Jose said: “We want to grow organically and eventually also hope to take our concept and brand to other towns such as Rugby, Stratford, Coventry, Solihull and Oxford.”

In the meantime, it’s business – almost – as usual for team, who are keen to establish a valuable role for their restaurant in the local community.


He said: “I want to create a social enterprise so there will be a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so are looking to work with charities which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“As well as hospitality operators we are human beings and my partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”