White Hat Rally: security experts raise thousands

Harold Heys

James Bond edged gently into sunlit Venice with, as one would expect, some style. He slid his yacht into a berth close to the Cipriani Hotel on the tip of Giudecca Island, just across the Lido from St Mark’s basilica, and pondered exactly how he and the exquisite Vesper Lynd would get their fingers on the loot…

Martin Smith and Jo Wise had planned to arrive in Venice with perhaps rather less panache.

Not for them a queen of the high seas, bristling with every conceivable luxury, the epitome of elegance. Their arrival, with friend Geoff Harris, was planned to be rather more down to earth. More 50-year-old camper van than modern super-yacht.

But they also had their eyes on the loot. Charity loot.

Daniel Craig and Eva Green had a big hit with their 2006 escapist Bond thriller in which they travelled the world, planning to stop a banker to the world's terrorist organisations from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Venice, last visited by 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me, was on the itinerary.

And so it was for the intrepid trio of security experts who were taking part in the White Hat Rally late in September when they planned to drive from Paris to the Italian resort in three days to raise money for the NSPCC charity ChildLine.

The rally, which tips its hat to James Bond, is an annual organised event where some 25 teams of information security professionals and vendors cross Europe in vintage cars and bangers – and fancy dress.

Jo Wise and Martin Smith from The Security Company (International) Limited and SASIG, and Geoff Harris, from Alderbridge Consulting, who is the ISSA-UK President, joined in the fun and travelled to Paris in Jo's 1961 VW splitscreen campervan known to everyone as "Jenny".

Martin explained, as they arrived in Paris: “We have a tow rope in the back of course - but only to help out other rallyers!” His confidence turned out to be slightly misplaced, however.

As Jenny stood proudly on the starting line, purring gently, her team positively sparking with enthusiasm for the challenge ahead – disaster! The old girl decided that this was just the moment to throw a wheel drum. Unable to move an inch, Martin, Jo and Geoff had to resort to Plan B and quickly hire a car for the journey.

Everyone had been joking about the James Bond theme of the rally and how the notorious SMERSH organisation might try to cause a few problems along the way. No one expected them to strike at the starting gate!

Jenny, who spent the first 48 years of her life in Brisbane, Australia, working as a hotel airport bus, was imported to the UK in 2008 for complete renovation, and Jo has lovingly returned her to as-new condition.

Says Jo: “Jenny attracts crowds wherever she goes, but underneath she's just a shy and modest lass. With her strong heart and willing spirit we were all confident that she would get over the Alps to Venice and back.”

Sadly, the old girl was hauled off to a friendly local garage while the trio headed for the Alps. When they returned a few days later after an exciting and successful trip she had been patched up and was as good as new. She will be raring to go at next year’s rally which will take the charity chasers from Brighton to Blackpool.

Martin’s team came second overall and raised £2,000 for ChildLine. The only disappointment of the whole trip was that Jenny didn’t make it. “Everyone on the rally had fallen in love with her,” he said. “They were as disappointed as we were.” The White Hat Rally is expected to raise about £30,000 for the charity.

Our intrepid threesome were certainly shaken and stirred as they visited some of the sites and experienced the thrills that make up a true James Bond adventure. Based loosely - very loosely! - on some of the mad escapades of Bond, the rally was awash with dodgy accents, garish gear and, no doubt, a few Vodka Martinis. Oh, and plenty of style.

Perhaps it wasn’t a SMERSH plot after all. Perhaps Jenny was just a little overawed by the grandeur of the occasion. After all, a rather sluggish 1961 camper van doesn’t quite match the style of a powerful and sleek Aston Martin DBS.

She was perhaps feeling more Hylda Baker than Shirley Bassey and decided to sit it out and enjoy a few days of TLC in the French capital. Anything that can survive nearly 50 years in the dust and heat of Oz has to be made of very stern stuff. Paris to Venice wouldn’t have been much of a problem.

It would have been a stimulating drive which came complete with film-themed challenges. Entrants weren’t quite sure what to expect, although they didn’t have to worry about ejector seats, explosions or machine-gunning choppers as they headed eastwards.

As spokesman for the organisers explained: “We asked each team to raise at least £1,000 for ChildLine. We had some great fundraising ideas and the whole trip was a lot of fun. I’m sure everyone enjoyed it.”

• ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline dedicated to children and young people. Whenever and wherever they need help a trained volunteer is always there for them. Phone: 0800 1111 or visit the service online.

Useful link:
www.thesecurityco.com

 

 

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