Sails pitch gets global fol­low­ing

The Press - - 1 - CHRIS HUTCHING

The idea for set­ting up Ve­loc­ity Karts came to Ian Brown as he con­tem­plated the view from his Clifton Hill home over­look­ing the red-zoned va­cant Bex­ley area in east Christchurch.

Like many peo­ple af­ter the 2011 earth­quakes, Brown, who had spent 18 years in hospi­tal­ity, found him­self re­assess­ing his di­rec­tion.

He had been to Pa­pamoa near Tau­ranga for surf life­sav­ing events and met blokart in­ven­tor and op­er­a­tor Paul Beck­ett who was sup­port­ive and agreed to sup­ply him with blokarts and mo­torised drift karts.

It took three years to ob­tain the nec­es­sary con­sents from the city and re­gional coun­cils to use the Bex­ley Park land, and win a com­mer­cial ten­der to lease it.

‘‘A friend of mine asked me if peo­ple would travel to Bex­ley. But every fac­tor I con­sid­ered was in our favour. I looked at all the weather sta­tis­tics. And I looked at pop­u­la­tion fig­ures, dis­tance from schools, tourist numbers and those sorts of things.

‘‘I de­cided if they could make it work in Tau­ranga where it’s more sea­sonal, I could do it here.’’

In his first year Brown em­ployed a full­time staff mem­ber but be­cause of sea­son­al­ity and vari­a­tion in book­ings, he now re­lies on semi-re­tired peo­ple, some of them from the Mt Pleas­ant Yacht Club, others for­mer teach­ers, and oc­ca­sion­ally stu­dents.

‘‘They have the flex­i­bil­ity in their timeta­bles to come along at short no­tice and they’re en­gag­ing with peo­ple, which is im­por­tant in this kind of en­ter­prise. In sum­mer we can be go­ing seven days a week, while win­ter is qui­eter.’’

Ve­loc­ity has built a rep­u­ta­tion on in­ter­net travel web­site TripAd­vi­sor as a ma­jor Christchurch at­trac­tion.

‘‘You learn about things that will open doors with­out spend­ing a lot of money,’’ Brown says.

‘‘At Christ­mas we get queries from around the world from peo­ple want­ing to send vouch­ers to their fam­i­lies. Some­times I think we’re bet­ter-known in­ter­na­tion­ally than in Christchurch.’’

The blokarts and drift karts are pop­u­lar with busi­ness groups for team-build­ing or just fun.

‘‘It’s amaz­ing how quickly peo­ple get the hang of it. Of­ten the most un­der-con­fi­dent peo­ple find they’re as good at it or bet­ter than the sporty types. We had one dis­abled boy in a wheel­chair and within no time in the blokart he was whizzing about like every­one else.’’

Brown hosts Parafed groups and has shar­ing ar­range­ments with other busi­nesses to do­nate time to sim­i­lar or­gan­i­sa­tions.

With views of the Port Hills and the South­ern Alps and cat­tle in ad­ja­cent pad­docks, it’s hard to be­lieve the site is within the city bound­aries.

Ve­loc­ity is a boon to New Brighton which was badly af­fected by the earth­quakes. Some­times if there is a de­lay in the wind build­ing dur­ing the morn­ing Brown will rec­om­mend guests take an hour to visit the cafes or the pier. Oc­ca­sion­ally he’ll take them for a small tour and point out the ef­fects of the earth­quakes.

Safety is up­per­most with de­tailed at­ten­tion to main­tain­ing gear.

‘‘You’re in­side a pod with a seat belt. The world speed record is 104 kilo­me­tres an hour but we’d usu­ally be un­der 40kmh in a good wind.’’

Ve­loc­ity Karts are pop­u­lar with every­one from tourists to busi­ness groups on team-build­ing ex­er­cises.

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