A face for radio?

March 26th, 2010 by Guy
Topsail MD Mark

Topsail MD Mark

Topsail MD Mark and our sales & operations superstar Sarah took a trip to Hartlepool this week for planning meetings for our exciting corporate sailing event (and our public Tall Ship Sailing Day) opportunity that is Hartlepool Tall Ships 2010.

Mark cunningly managed to get on Radio Hartlepool to promote the festival. Poor Sarah, however, had to run back to the car to top up the parking meter, so had to listen to the radio interview from the car instead of the studio!

Our quote of the week: “I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her byp. In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will.”

John Masefield, English Poet Laureate 1930-1967

Spring into summer on the river

March 11th, 2010 by Guy
Lots of ideas for hospitality on the river

Lots of ideas for hospitality on the river

Officially, spring starts in 9 days, on 20th March…so what does that mean for us? It means that as soon as the sun comes out we will get an influx of enquiries for summer parties and hospitality. Thereby I do decree that it is officially “time to think about organising some corporate hospitality on the river thames season!

You can’t beat a thames dinner cruise, team building day out (clay shooting from a boat anyone?), or simply a boat party on the river thames, when the sun is shining. We promise.

Our quote of the week: “Never did sun more beautifully steep. In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will.”

William Wordsworth



Finding a quiet space in London

March 5th, 2010 by Guy
The river is a truly tranquil space in London

The river is a truly tranquil space in London

Mayor Boris Johnson calls for the creation of peaceful havens from the noise and chaos of modern London life, in this BBC London news video clip.

As all Londoners know, finding a quiet space in London can be nigh on impossible. Reducing noise (“the forgotten pollutant”) in a city of millions is a hard task; one that the Mayor would like to fix by creating quieter places with the use of screens and green spaces.

We at Topsail know that it can be relatively easy to find a quiet space in London – on the river. Far from the madding crowd, a Thames dinner cruise or other corporate sailing events on the water presents an ideal way to stay within London, but seemingly a million miles away from the noise and stress of the city streets.

Our quote of the week:

“How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on…”

Antoine De Saint-Exupery




A welcome addition to the Topsail team!

February 26th, 2010 by Guy

Anthony joins TopSail

After bidding adieu to the lovely Sofia last week, we have welcomed Anthony to the team – a very welcome addition for Mark especially as he now has a fellow male to side with!

Anthony “Jetsetter” Cowan has just returned to the UK from a year in Vancouver where he was working in a sales role and worked on a number of events in the city. Previous to that he lived in Sydney for a year so has seen a lot of the world. Anthony is also a sailing instructor so is looking forward to working on corporate sailing events at Topsail combining his two passions; boats and parties!

Watch out for Anthony on a Thames dinner cruise near you, in the very near future…




Sofia & bump say adieu to corporate sailing events, for now…

February 18th, 2010 by Guy

Sofia & bump say adieu to corporate sailing events, for now...

Sofia and bump in Brighton

This week, our Ops Manager Sofia says adieu to corporate sailing events for now, as her first baby is due in just two weeks!

In the office we have been chatting about Sofia’s favourite corporate events in London over the past few years, and she says she has never tired of seeing Tower Bridge lift for our Thames dinner cruises, especially when it’s dark and the bridge is lit up against London’s stunning skyline.

Sofia has particularly loved working on maritime festivals such as Tall Ships Belfast 2009 and the upcoming Hartlepool Tall Ships 2010 Race, which she is sad to be missing (although she says she may even work on some of Hartlepool’s events this August – if she can get a babysitter!)…

For corporate sailing events including Hartlepool you can now contact sarah@topsailevents.co.uk, and for London dinner cruises please email jessica@topsailevents.co.uk.

We wish Sofia, Marc and bump lots of luck and look forward to Sofia’s return at the end of the year!




Sir Terry, Tower Bridge, and our own SB Will.

January 11th, 2010 by Guy

Sir Terry Wogan let's SB Will through

Well, it’s almost a month ago and being ardent Radio 2 listeners (well, some of us), our eyes have just about dried following the departure of El Tel.  We thought we’d allow him some grace and waited until the young whippersnapper Chris Evans leapt with gusto into his breakfast show – as he did today – before shouting about our part in Sir Terry’s departure.

On the 15th of December, Wogan received the freedom of the City of London and this honour was sealed as he was allowed to open and close the bascules of the mighty Tower Bridge for passing traffic.

We were proud and privileged to have our own Sailing Barge Will as that ‘passing traffic’.  Tezza – what a man!  SB Will – what a ship!

Hartlepool Tall Ships 2010 – Topsail successful!

December 14th, 2009 by Guy
Hartlepool, not Constantinople.

Hartlepool, NOT Constantinople

We are very happy here at Topsail that we have recently been successful in our tender to win the contract to supply all the hospitality on the Tall Ships visiting Hartlepool in August 2010.

You can see our main page on this here. Or download the Corporate Hospitality PDF here

Hartlepool will be the fourth major Tall Ships event that Topsail have won the tender for in the last 2 years. In September 2008 we worked in Falmouth for the ‘Funchal 500’,  and in Liverpool in July on an event that was one of the centerpieces of their successful ‘European Capital of Culture’. It was an evocative sight to see such a hugely impressive fleet graced the famous Mersey and the city’s iconic docks.

This August our team hopped over to Belfast for the Belfast Maritime Festival – a celebration of Tall Ships that finished the last leg of the ‘Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge’. Tall Ships Races and Festivals are fast becoming the special highlights of every working year for the team here. Having worked on our first major maritime festival way back in 1996 in Bristol, things then really started taking off in 2003 at The International Festival of the Sea (IFOS) in Leith, Edinburgh. The next IFOS was huge, coinciding with the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar and took place in Portsmouth in 2005.

Tall Ships festivals – usually taking place as Tall Ships enter their destination port after a race which is usually organised by Sail Training International – are amazing celebrations of the seafaring and maritime tradition. We are proud to be associated with their continuing successes and anticipate Hartlepool next year to be the next big success.

It seemed fitting that we met our new colleagues from the North East to sign contracts for the event at this year’s Tall Ships conference held in Istanbul. Last month’s conference was packed full of Tall Ships owners and representatives from all over the world and there was a palpable buzz around the Hartlepool stand – the ships attendance list is getting quite impressive!

For the best corporate hospitality event you are likely to be able to have in the North East if not the whole country next year, drop us a line.

And for a great Christmas present idea for all boat and sailing lovers, buy a ticket for a tall ship day sail – £85 for a brilliant day out under billowing square sails next summer.

How to book a Tall Ship event – A guide

November 16th, 2009 by Guy
The Batavia at Sail

The Batavia at Sail

There’s not much that is more impressive than a genuine sailing, seaworthy Tall Ship replete with a crew of real sailors brought in just for your very special event. Whether it’s for a corporate party, PR Event, or maybe a wedding reception.

But, a Tall Ship!? Where do you start? Here’s where and here’s a few tips……..

1 – Give yourself as much notice as possible

It’s all about availability first of all. One of the biggest problems we often have when we get a new enquiry for a Tall Ship is a short notice period. Even 6 months is not necessarily a long time. Tall Ships roam and they are expensive to run, like businesses they need to have their next 12 month’s and more mapped out as far as possible.  They get booked up.

Saying that, don’t despair if your event is already looming. It doesn’t mean we cant find you a ship.  We may have even have one nearby and available, just don’t wait any longer assuming you can get one next week!

2 – Be prepared to discuss a budget

You are not expected to know how much a Tall Ship costs for an event and there is certainly no clear and firm ‘price-list’ for this. It is such a subjective issue highly dependent on variables such as 1) event date, 2)  lead-time, 3) the ship’s calendar, 4) other potential business for the ship, 5) your event-needs, and 6) what’s practically possible on a sailing ship.

Points 1-4 particularly may make 100% difference or more to the final price and inevitably involve negotiation, offers, trust, and pledges of hard work on the agents behalf. That’s why an insight into how Tall Ships work commercially and a track record with them is so important.

So, we can give you a ‘ball park’ idea when you first ask the question ‘how much will it cost’? (London: £10-15k+ potentially less.) but we will always qualify this with some of the points above and will need to do some work to determine your ship and availability more accurately. We are not always able to offer instant answers but will work hard to get what you want.

3 – Try not to have ‘too-fixed’ opinions. Accept suggestions

It’s easy to get excited about the vision you may already have of that magnificent Tall Ship gliding to the quay to collect your excited guests, full sails billowing gently in the breeze. Who couldn’t be? And we cant disillusion you, Tall Ships for events are indeed amazing! But, there are ways of making them work best for you and ways of using them the wrong way. There are captains and crew to listen to and keep happy. There are maritime laws to abide by, tides to consider, safety issues to be aware of, and just as importantly, there are things that work, and things that don’t. We’ve usually discovered this through experience.  These ships are not floating hotels or conference halls, and they may not be as flexible in every way.

But…they are better than that! Topsail has more experience than anyone in the UK when it comes to Tall Ship events whether it be one-off events or large maritime festivals.  This guide is just a starter to get you started if you are considering that great impact you get with a Tall Ship. Get in touch with us if you’d like to hear more.

Take me to the River – it’s back to the water in September with Captain Tower

October 7th, 2009 by Guy

September has brought its benefits during the downturn and good weather is always seriously welcome with a business like ours. Not only did the phones liven up a fair bit and enquiries started to crank up nicely through the websites (www.riversideevents.co.uk and www.topsailevents.co.uk ) but it got me out on the water quite a bit more. I took to being a skipper again on the River Thames on Sailing Barge Will, covering for those who needed a break.  This is where I started 20 plus years ago and through a long journey, by way of partnerships (mostly successful); maritime festivals (almost all successful) and new ventures (well, you can’t win ‘em all), I gradually got absorbed into the world of offices and admin: too many projects to manage to actually get back out onto the shop floor…..er.. or deck as we call it for anything more than the odd charter job and spot checks. Actually working on board and being in charge of the ship is really quite different and for the moment very enjoyable.

So that was good, a welcome change and useful too and while I wouldn’t exactly say that we are definitely experiencing a return to normality, there are green shoots starting to appear – unquestionably – back in the office and not just in medialand.  So after a fairly tough year reorganising stuff and launching our new catering service www.rfad.co.uk, I needed reminding what it was like to work on board with a Thames dinner cruise or a clay shoot cruise and actually look after the clients needs up close and personal. I am not sure why but I was pleasantly surprised to see how pleased our clients were with the service and operation on board Will. It’s still a buzz to see everybody off your ship and be thanked, often very warmly, by happy customers.  It also lets me make a note of things to improve,  phase out old ideas that really should have been ditched long ago and forces me to acknowledge that the Ops department had been right about certain things all along despite my thinly concealed disbelief. As much as anything else it gets me out and about in the Port of London which never bores me: the constantly changing riverscape, new buildings, old wharves and docks; shifting light, sunsets reflected on Canary Wharf, sunrises moored just below Tower Bridge; the river traffic and its essential bustle; the business and busy-ness of Thames cruises, working ships, boats and barges. It reminds me that the river is the reason why London exists and I love it.

August is Festival Time! – keeping an eye on things with Topsail’s MD – Mark Tower

September 7th, 2009 by Guy

Each year as the frenzy of the London hospitality season dies away at the end of July (perhaps not quite so frenzied this year) it always works out quite well for us at Topsail. As people dash off for holidays, near and far, the marine event and festival season gets well and truly into swing giving the weary City worker the perfect excuse for the marine ‘staycation’ (I can’t believe I used that word); if your family and/or partner are into it. In our case Cowes Week and the Belfast Tall Ships’ port visit came over the horizon to keep us going through the holiday month.

Cowes Week 2009

I won’t lie to you, Cowes was decidedly more subdued this year on the hospitality front, but we still had enough work to bring in the wonderful Tall Ship ‘Atlantis’ and the highlight of the week was when the beautiful, yes this is the only word to describe this piece of craftsmanship, Orient Express Pullman glided into the railway platforms behind the Cunard berths in Southampton Docks and we took a healthy compliment of ‘luxury train heads’ out into the maritime carnival that is Cowes Week. Incidentally, we pick Atlantis not just because she is a superb looker of a ship, but also because the crew and staff are fantastic. Charming, attentive and courteous they get on perfectly with the guests and the Topsail management team find them some of the easiest sailors to work with across the Tall Ship’s or indeed any other fleet.

Food was provided through our own Riverside Food & Drink operation and was very well received – menus specially formulated for the marine environment and I defy any corporate hospitality operation at Cowes to better it for quality, originality and practicality in the marine environment. A job well done, having become the centre of attention in the Solent, the happy train load of newly-created ‘luxury Tall Ship heads’ drifted in 1930’s art deco comfort back towards London after a grand day out. And they’ve booked again for 2010 already – can’t think of a better result!

Guests enjoying a beer in BelfastTall Ship 'Atlantis'

Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge and Belfast Maritime Festival

Hot on the heels of Cowes came the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge and Belfast Maritime Festival. As is the way with big events we had been campaigning and planning on this one for more than a year. From the success of Liverpool Tall Ships through the Tall Ships Conference in Halifax (Can.) to Belfast’s great day of opening in mid-August ’09. We had staked a lot on this one, as had the city and harbour organisers and the ships racing across the ocean towards us. And it all turned out very well indeed. It’s all about planning and marine event planning is complex – a lot of boxes have to be ticked. For us it was a green field site operation getting to know the people from the harbour, city events dept, caterers and coastguards to name but a few. Renewing old acquaintances amongst the ships and trying to do as much for our customers as the grand plan would allow and that included throwing into the mix unexpected crew changeovers, daily refrigerated van access in a very busy site, firework exclusion zones and commercial shipping movements – and that’s before we started on the hospitality detail – it’s a long story.

In short, the people we worked with over there were fantastic: warm, generous with their time and advice and allowed us to deliver, in my opinion, some of the best work we have ever done. I was proud of our team and pleased to be involved in such a professionally organised event. Full marks and thanks to the event organisers and the the business of Belfast, the people of Belfast and the many more visitors who turned out big time for what was – from the Tall Ships arrival to the grand finale of the Parade of Sail – a fantastic, intense (and sales-target-breaking) experience………

See http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Sarah testing the microphone!Musicians at Belfast