The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Contents - STORY ALICE CA­VANAGH

It isn’t a race, but a fundrais­ing drive, lit­er­ally, from Lon­don to Cannes via Paris, Lyon and Mi­lan, to raise money for African char­i­ties sup­port­ing women’s health and ed­u­ca­tion

The brand new As­ton Martin Rapide zips through Paris on a fine Sun­day morn­ing, its Amer­i­can-ac­cented nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem mess­ing up the French street names. Thir­ty­five lux­ury cars fol­low in an en­tourage that would be hard to miss: all painted a shiny lip­stick red, their horns honk­ing in suc­ces­sion at ev­ery turn, and manned by a team of more than 70 glam­orous women from all over the globe. The lo­cals must love us.

Leader of the pack is Julie Brangstrup, the Lon­don­based founder of Cash & Rocket, an an­nual char­ity fundrais­ing tour. I am her co-pi­lot in the As­ton Martin, un­ex­pect­edly del­e­gated with get­ting this band of ladies from Paris to Lyon. Brangstrup, a glam­orous brunette and mother of five, looks right at home in her pow­er­ful road­ster. “I love the sound of the en­gine, and the way it drives” she purrs. “So many lux­ury cars are mass-pro­duced now so if you want some­thing unique then this is the one.”

This is not a joy ride. There’s plenty of fun to be had on the var­i­ous pit stops around Europe: a Valentino party in Paris (Valentino has spon­sored the event for some years), a night in a Chateau, the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val; but they mean busi­ness. Over the course of the next five days the group will raise around £1.5 mil­lion ($3m) for Cash & Rocket’s nom­i­nated char­i­ties, three foun­da­tions that fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion and women’s health in Africa.

This is also not a race — in fact, speed­ing is strictly for­bid­den — but a dash for cash to see which team can raise the most money be­fore they cross the fin­ish line in Cannes. Chloe Green, the 24-year-old daugh­ter of bil­lion­aire re­tailer Sir Philip Green, won last year and will win again this year, with the Valentino team (usu­ally headed by artis­tic di­rec­tor Maria Grazia Chi­uri, who had to pull out at the last minute) clock­ing in sec­ond. Riders also in­clude mod­els Ari­zona Muse, Anna Cleve­land and Ash­ley Graham, as well as ac­tress Michelle Ro­driguez, and Jo Wood, the ex-wife of the Rolling Stone Ron­nie Wood. Wood is a Cash & Rocket vet­eran, hav­ing driven in ev­ery race. The Lon­doner is also a pro­fessed lead foot. “Nor­mally I like to be at the front but I took a wrong turn when we left Lon­don,” she says with a cackle.

These women are no strangers to so­cial fundrais­ers, but this is an en­tirely orig­i­nal ex­pe­ri­ence. “Most of these women are in very high-paid, se­nior po­si­tions and for them to take a week off to do this I knew I need to cre­ate a real ad­ven­ture; some­thing they would want to talk about and share,” Brangstrup says. On top of their fundrais­ing ef­forts, the women also pay to take part (£14,000 for a team of two), mean­ing all money raised goes to char­ity.

“That’s one of the best things about this or­gan­i­sa­tion: ev­ery­thing we raise, ev­ery­thing we do­nate, goes di­rectly to the char­i­ties,” says Leila Yavari, fash­ion di­rec­tor of Style­bop, the ex­clu­sive online re­tailer of the Valentino and Cash & Rocket capsule col­lec­tion: race-ready gear such as util­ity-inspired jump­suits and jack­ets in cam­ou­flage print and clas­sic black. Yavari signed up as both a driver and a spon­sor of the tour.

Brangstrup has had a long love af­fair with cars. She started the no­to­ri­ous Gum­ball 3000 rally with ex-hus­band Max­i­m­il­ian Cooper, and af­ter the cou­ple split she de­cided to strike out on her own — only this time she wanted to raise some money for a good cause. Four years on and the Cash & Rocket tour has al­ready made a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence to the three char­ity part­ners: Shine on Sierra Leone, OAfrica, and Sum­bandila, small-scale oper­a­tions through which Brangstrup can fol­low ev­ery do­na­tion all the way to the in­di­vid­ual ben­e­fi­ciary.

“There’s also a flex­i­bil­ity with the funds mean­ing that we have the abil­ity to act quickly,” she says. “Last year the money we’d raised was meant to go to build­ing a sec­ondary school, but when Ebola struck we were able to quickly re­di­rect the money to fight­ing the virus.”

“Our area of Kono in Sierra Leone was a hot­bed for the Ebola virus, but thanks to Cash & Rocket we were able to re­spond im­me­di­ately and ef­fec­tively,” ex­plains Tif­fany Per­sons from Shine on Sierra Leone. “We al­ready had a di­a­logue with the com­mu­nity so we were able to ed­u­cate them on the virus, to pro­vide them with san­i­ta­tion kits and take care of more than 40 quar­an­tined homes. In the end we had zero cases of Ebola — we re­ally saved lives. It was a mir­a­cle.”

Later that night, af­ter the car­loads of Louis Vuit­ton lug­gage have been un­packed, the tour dines un­der the stars at the Chateau de Pizay, just out­side of Lyon. Af­ter main course, three doc­u­men­taries are screened de­tail­ing the progress the char­i­ties have made al­ready. There’s not a dry eye in the house and some of the women stand up to make im­promptu speeches but have dif­fi­culty find­ing their words. The heart of what they are do­ing to­gether has al­ready eclipsed the fun they had ear­lier that day.

“I’m so struck by the ca­ma­raderie of all these women who are in­volved,” Yavari says, be­fore rais­ing her glass along with her fel­low trav­ellers. “One of Julie’s mes­sages is ‘women help­ing women’ and you can re­ally feel that tonight. I’m not sure there’s any­thing more em­pow­er­ing.”

Although the tour has fin­ished for 2015, you can still sup­port the cause: the Cash & Rocket Valentino col­lec­tion can be pur­chased from Style­bop now, with 20per cent of the pro­ceeds go­ing to the char­i­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.