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Why I Love My Car:
David SK Lee


Leading Ferrari collector David SK Lee celebrates his passion for the enduring appeal of the renowned Italian marque, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Hing Wa Lee jewellery group, he also reveals how he shares his lifestyle and philosophy with his 720,000 Instagram followers

Why I Love My Car:
David SK Lee


Leading Ferrari collector David SK Lee celebrates his passion for the enduring appeal of the renowned Italian marque, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Hing Wa Lee jewellery group, he also reveals how he shares his lifestyle and philosophy with his 720,000 Instagram followers

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Why I Love My Car: David SK Lee

April 28, 2017 / by Michael Spence

Right: Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione(1964); Left: One-off Ferrari F12tdfDSKL

Right: Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione(1964); Left: One-off Ferrari F12tdfDSKL

Let’s start at the beginning. When did you learn to drive? 

I’ve driven ever since I was 16 – getting your driver’s licence was a sign of freedom for my generation in the US.

And your first car?

When I was 16, the cheapest new car was a Toyota pickup truck. I saved enough with some entrepreneurial things that I had done to pay for it. I was really proud that I used my own money and didn’t need to ask my parents for help.

How did your love of cars begin?

In third grade, one of my teachers said, “Go to the library, pick up any book you want and read it.” A lot of kids were picking up dinosaur books, but I came across an Italian sports car book. It was very alluring. I enjoyed reading it and copying it – I was good at drawing. Fast forward to 16 and I had a six-foot Lamborghini Countach poster in my bedroom – alongside the Farah Fawcett poster, of course. And I said to myself, “When I get older, my goal is to buy that car.”

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What was your first supercar?

I bought a Lamborghini Diablo at the age of 29. I got a good deal, but it wasn’t in the best condition and was always in the shop. So one day I’d had enough, and I drove into a Ferrari dealer in Orange County and traded it in for a F355 Spyder – that was my first Ferrari. At that point, it wasn’t a collector thing; it was just a cool car to have.

When did the collection start?

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I had supercars of different brands, but it still wasn’t a collecting mentality until I went to a friend’s house and he showed me a Jaguar E-Type convertible he had found; I thought it was cool. So I researched the Ferrari heritage, all the models and the appreciation values. And because I’m a business guy, I quickly came up with this idea: what better thing to invest in than something that you can enjoy looking at, that you can enjoy driving, that you can enjoy as a lifestyle and that is appreciating in value? I thought I had struck gold.

My first classic Ferrari was the 275 GTS. I developed two strategies. One was buying all the classic convertible Ferraris– like the 330 GTS, the 250, the 365 Daytona Spyder – and the other was the supercars, because I already had the Enzo.

You’re among the few people who get first option on limited edition Ferraris. How did you achieve that status?

You need to get the attention of Maranello. I decided I would be a client who only buys Ferraris, who only collects Ferraris, who only drives Ferraris and who drives them seven days a week – something really crazy to catch their attention. And it worked! I quickly moved up their client list.

You have a big following on Instagram.

The publisher of a magazine I advertise in said to me, “David, you need to get on social media – that’s the future.” I’m a marketing guy, so I could understand the concept very easily and I created the account @ferraricollector_davidlee. I was posting stuff about my interests: cars, wine, food and travel. My following ramped up very quickly and two years on, I’m at 330,000. Now that I’ve reached this state, I feel a responsibility to teach my followers about ethics and core values, and how to be a decent person – how you can enjoy the good things, but also be responsible. 

How many cars are in your collection? 

I have about 30 cars. There are other people who have a lot more cars than I do, but what’s special about my situation is that I have themes, a strategy – every car I have is blue-chip. Every one is a winner; every one is a multimillion-dollar car.

Ferrari 275 GTB4

Ferrari 275 GTB4

You own the “Big Five” – can you explain what they are?

The 1985 288 GTO is considered by Ferrari to be their first supercar. Then they produced the F40 – their first 200mph-plus car – for the 40th anniversary, the F50 for the 50th, the Enzo for the 60th and LaFerrari for the 70th. These cars were futuristic and looked cool; it’s a special category. I’m one of only a handful of people who have all five, so people appreciate that I take them to events and show them. 

What makes Ferrari so special?

Ferrari does have allure – the red, the racing history, the difficulty of getting a product that’s really sought after. Money can buy the other makes, but at some point with Ferrari it doesn’t matter how much money you have. They made only 499 of the LaFerrari, but 1,500 people could afford it and wanted to buy one. 

What are your favourites?

My favourite, due to sentimental value, is my 1985 288 GTO. My 1964 Lusso Competizione, with its race and rally history, is very special, as there are only four in existence. My 1967 330 GTS is just the coolest convertible ride. My 1987 288 GTO Evoluzione prototype, with only five made, is as rare as it gets. And my 1967 275 GTB/4 is considered by Ferrari collectors as the ultimate classic Ferrari.

Unlike some collectors, you drive all of your cars. What’s that like?

When you drive a classic car, you have to be in the mindset to be really relaxed – no appointments, no hurry, no rush. A 50-year-old car can be running great in your garage, but then the alternator breaks or the master cylinder for the brakes tightens up, or there’s a water leak and the radiator just blows – all that has happened to me. I was stuck in the middle of the road with a US$3.5 million 330 GTS – a bright red convertible – on a hot day, right on a busy street, because the alternator went out. I had to wait for all the others cars to move on, and then I pushed it to the side of the road and waited for the flatbed to come pick it up. It was embarrassing – you have this classic Ferrari, and everybody is driving by and you’re stuck. 

What’s your regular car?

My Ferrari FF is my daily driver. It’s easy – four seats, four-wheel drive.

What are you driving today?

I plan to drive the Lusso Competizione – it’s 40 minutes from my office to home, so it’s a nice drive for me.

Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione

Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione

How do you look after them?

I hire people to make sure they’re taken care of and to remind me which one needs driving. It’s a constant care-and-maintenance situation; it’s a lot of work. For maintenance and spare parts, I have good connections in LA and all over the world. There’s no one garage that fixes all the cars – different guys are good with different cars.

How are you marking Ferrari’s 70th anniversary?

Interior of Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione

Interior of Ferrari 250 Lusso Competizione

This is an important year. Ferrari has a lot of events programmed and I’m very involved. I’m going to their Cavalcade in Puglia in June, when their 100 top customers from all over the world get together for an organised run and activity week. In August, I’ll be going to the Monterey car week at Pebble Beach. I also have special cars coming – I was picked to have one of the 350 70th-anniversary specials, so my car is an F12 inspired by Steve McQueen’s chocolate-brown Lusso. I’m also receiving a tailor-made F12 Tour de France that has a plaque saying it was inspired by David Lee’s Lusso Competizione. That’s very cool – it’s to celebrate the anniversary and my relationship with them. I’ll take it to the Puglia and Monterey events.

How much is your collection worth?

A lot of people give a ballpark value of around US$50 million.

So your father started the Hing Wa Lee business in Hong Kong?

My father came from China, swam to Hong Kong, became an apprentice gemstone carver and then started his own factory at age 18, in 1965. He came to the US because the Smithsonian had a lot of broken antiques and needed somebody to fix them. I was born in Hong Kong. He brought me, my mom and my sister over. We lived in Washington DC for five years – but it was too cold, so we moved to California.

How did the business develop?

In the 1970s, he was doing gemstone carving wholesale for galleries throughout the US; in the 1980s he added fine jewellery that he was selling wholesale to jewellers. I joined the company in 1990 after graduating from USC, changed the model to retail and brought in watches. Today, our company is 52 years old and is best known for retail – although it also has a division doing real estate and investment.

What’s your philosophy for success in business?

Work hard, work with perseverance, work with integrity – these are what you can control. The external elements are timing and opportunity. When they’re all aligned – like the planets – that’s when success happens.

Images: David SK Lee/Ted7 Photography

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Fast Ferrari Facts


Fast Ferrari Facts


Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Fast Ferrari Facts

April 28, 2017

  • The marque was created by Enzo Ferrari, who began as a racing driver and worked for Alfa Romeo before building his own cars.

  • Enzo Ferrari, known as il Commendatore, was born in Modena in 1898 and ran the company until his death in 1988.

  • The first Ferrari – the 125 S – emerged from the factory gates in Maranello, Italy in March 1947. It was powered by a 1.5-litre V12 engine.

  • Ferrari’s “prancing horse” symbol was the emblem of First World War fighter pilot Count Francesco Baracca, who painted it on the side of his planes.

  • Enzo Ferrari sold a 50% stake in the company to Fiat in 1969. By 1988, Ferrari was 90% owned by Fiat and in 2015, it was floated on the New York Stock Exchange.

  • Ferraris are traditionally red because it was the colour assigned to Italian racing cars by the sport’s governing body.

  • Enzo Ferrari was quoted as saying that the Jaguar E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made upon its release in 1961.

  • Ferrari has competed every year since the Formula One World Championship began in 1950, making it the only team to do so.

  • Ferrari has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times, though its last win was in 1965.

  • Ferrari has won the most Formula One races of any team, scoring its 225th victory at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix and winning an unrivalled 16 Constructors’ Championships. 

  • Scuderia Ferrari’s most successful driver was Michael Schumacher, who won five of his seven World Championships and 72 of his 91 Grand Prix victories at the wheel of a Ferrari.

  • Ferrari has steadily increased production over the years; in 2016, it shipped more than 8,000 cars, marking a new record for the brand.

Images: David SK Lee/Ted7 Photography

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Stratospheric Luxury


Metrojet CEO Björn Näf gives an inside look at owning and operating your own private jet

Stratospheric Luxury


Metrojet CEO Björn Näf gives an inside look at owning and operating your own private jet

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Stratospheric Luxury

April 28, 2017 / by Simon Webster

It’s the frazzled air traveller’s ultimate dream – you pull up to a private VIP terminal in your limo, speed through passport control and customs, and within minutes sink into the comfort of your leather armchair, glass of champagne in hand, as your bespoke private jet prepares to take off. For the super-rich and top executives, it’s a reality; owning and flying on a luxurious private plane has become the method of choice for escaping the increasingly madding crowds of modern airports. 

Why buy a plane when it’s simpler and cheaper just to charter one? The first advantage is being able to choose a plane that’s the right fit for your travel needs. You can customise it to become an extension of your home – or office – in the sky. Next, you get to pick your own flight crew, so you’ll have familiar faces on board welcoming you each time you fly. And of course, your plane is there waiting for you anytime you want to use it.

The job of ensuring you can maximise your enjoyment and the use of your aircraft is one for the professionals. That’s where private plane management companies come in, with their expertise in maintaining aircraft, hiring flight crews and dealing with the pesky paperwork that needs to be filled out before you can take to the sky. Even then, you remain in the pilot’s seat, as it’s up to you to choose an operator with a proven management and safety record.

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One of these plane management companies is Hong Kong-based Metrojet, part of the Kadoorie Group, which employs 220 staff (including 60 full-time pilots) and manages a fleet of 26 aircraft. Metrojet CEO Björn Näf explains that the high-net-worth individuals who own their own jets have international networks. “They have property around the world, children at school overseas, businesses, friends, yachts, vineyards and luxury assets overseas.”

If private jets are a lifestyle choice for wealthy individuals, they’re a business tool for companies whose executives have to travel the world. “It has a luxurious touch because it costs a lot of money, but it’s used as a convenient, private vehicle for hassle-free travel that saves time and increases productivity,” says Näf. “You can do work, relax or sleep and, when you land, you don’t need to go to a hotel – you can just go straight to meetings.”

So how does it work? Buying a private plane is similar to choosing and fitting out your luxury yacht or customising your car, although a bit more complex. If your chequebook can run to the multimillion-dollar price tag, there’s no shortage of choice, with Gulfstream, Dassault, Bombardier, Cessna and several other manufacturers vying for customers seeking the ultimate high-flying experience. The key element (apart from budget) is deciding what distances you’ll be flying and how many people will be travelling, which will determine the plane’s size and range.

Once the purchase agreement is signed, you decide on the interior – the colour, woodwork, carpets, leather, in-flight entertainment features and more – and choose the external livery. “Often it’s a very passionate topic, because then the wife wants to say something, the kids want their say – it’s a combination of opinions,” says Näf. Some clients work with the designer for a year or even more. Delivery can take 24 months or longer, so you also have to be patient.

Once the plane is ready, a suitable management company such as Metrojet will step in and take over operation of the aircraft for you. And then comes the fun part – flying. The management company takes care of the crew and flight plans, but how quickly you can actually take off and land depends on the country, with the US and Europe much more private-jet friendly than some countries in Asia.

Apart from the convenience, private jets can reach their destinations faster than commercial aircraft. Light and powerful, they can fly high above passenger jets that are weighed down by people and cargo, soaring to more than 50,000 feet, where there is less drag. With fewer flight restrictions than scheduled aircraft, they can also take more direct routes, which can slice an hour off a flight from Hong Kong to New York. 

Owners looking for a good deal can take advantage of the very competitive private-plane management market, but Näf, who joined Metrojet in 2010, says that safety is a concern. Unlike commercial plane operators, there are few rules and regulations for private plane management. “People do what they want to do,” says Näf. “We have clear rules, clear regulations and high standards. We provide safety, security and reliability. We make sure your pilot flies safe, within the guidelines.” 

And do the owners put their planes to any unusual uses? “Sometimes people don’t fly, but the aircraft flies to load stuff they’ve ordered in Australia, for example,” says Näf. “All the handbags, the shoes, the jewellery comes from Australia into Hong Kong – and then the chauffeur picks it up. The pilot flies alone, six hours down, eight hours back, to pick up bags. Maybe it’s an exclusive painting. Maybe it’s a present from a friend. Maybe it’s diamonds, whatever – we do it. It’s your aircraft!”

Images: Metrojet

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Game Changer


Making golf simpler – and faster – with an overhaul of the rules

Game Changer


Making golf simpler – and faster – with an overhaul of the rules

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Game Changer

March 31, 2017 / by Bob Roberson

The rules of golf, first drawn up in 1744, have always seemed designed to make a difficult game even harder and more frustrating. Your ball bounces off a tree, flies back and hits you on the chest? A two-stroke penalty. You think your ball fractionally moved on the green, but you’re not sure? Yes, you should call a one-stroke penalty on yourself just in case. Confused about what to do in a given situation during a round? If you don’t find the answer in the actual rulebook, with its hundreds of rules and sub-rules, you can always try to find the solution in the accompanying 752-page Decisions on the Rules of Golf.

The bodies jointly responsible for all of this – The R&A and the US Golf Association (USGA) – finally decided that it’s time to bring the rules up to date and have announced a major overhaul. The reason, as if golfers didn’t already know: “The rules are complicated and their purpose isn’t always clear.”

It makes you wonder what they’ve been doing all these years. The good news is that the changes are designed to make the rules simpler and fairer, and should help speed up the pace of play. They include scrapping the penalty for being hit by your own ball, allowing you to keep the flag in the hole while putting, loosening rules about the order of play, limiting the number of strokes you can record on one hole, changing the way of dropping the ball and setting a time limit – 40 seconds – for you to hit your shot.

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Golfers have until the end of August to give their views via a survey posted on The R&A and USGA websites, which takes about ten minutes to fill out. Once the consultation period is over, the new rules will be finalised and come into effect on January 1, 2019. Hong Kong pro golfer and commentator Dominique Boulet, for one, welcomes the changes. “Simplifying the rules and speeding up the pace of the game is crucial,” he says. “The slow pace of play is a huge problem – I walked off the course after two or three holes recently because I’m not interested in taking four-and-a-half or five hours to play a game of golf.”

He says that slow play is a particular problem in Asia because often four beginners, with no real understanding of the rules or etiquette, play together. “In Australia, Britain or the US, you usually start off playing with established golfers, so you learn from them. But the culture is different here.” He adds that anything to simplify the rules will be good. “It’s amazing how ignorant 99% of players are of the rules. Even many pros don’t have a great knowledge of them.”

As the governing bodies move to speed up play, one of the proposed rule changes might make buying that high-tech golf ball tracker a great idea after all – the time you can spend looking for a lost ball is going to be cut from five to a scant three minutes. 

Image: The R&A and USGA

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License to Thrill


Sunseeker is the ultimate yacht for a fun-seeker

License to Thrill


Sunseeker is the ultimate yacht for a fun-seeker

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

License to Thrill

March 31, 2017 / by Simon Webster

Image above: The Sunseeker 40m yacht

A variety of Sunseekers at the 2016 Hong Kong International Boat Show

A variety of Sunseekers at the 2016 Hong Kong International Boat Show

Oozing sex appeal with its super-sleek design and cutting-edge British engineering, Sunseeker is the luxury yacht of choice for the rich and famous. And thanks to a drop in the pound post-Brexit, it’s become a little bit more affordable. 

With their aggressive good looks and superb handling at speed, Sunseekers have long been a favourite of Formula One drivers and movie stars – and the James Bond film franchise, which has featured them in The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Sunseeker’s Asian operations are run from Hong Kong by Gordon Hui, a native of the city who studied architecture in London before starting his own property investment company. He fell in love with the brand in 1992 when he bought his Sunseeker Tomahawk 37; when Hui returned to Hong Kong in 2003, he seized the opportunity to take over as chairman of its Asian operations.

 

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A variety of Sunseekers at the 2012 Hainan Boat Show in Sanya

A variety of Sunseekers at the 2012 Hainan Boat Show in Sanya

Luxury yachts have long been seen as the ultimate playthings for the super-rich, but in Asia they are put to practical use, says Hui, whose company distributes the boats in 11 countries around the region. Chatting over lunch on the deck of Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Boat Club, Hui says that Hongkongers in particular have a long tradition of weekend trips out to sea with family and friends, and is dismissive of the show-off culture of boating on the glitzy Côte d’Azur.

“A private yacht is a good way to get out to sea and spend some time with the family, learn water sports – it’s a good family pastime,” explains Hui, as he looks out on the sun-drenched Aberdeen marina, where several distinctive Sunseekers are berthed. “People here just use them. It’s like a floating villa – an extension of a holiday home that you can go to different places in and can spend the night on.”

Shaken Not Stirred, the Sunseeker Superhawk 34, featured in the opening sequence of The World is Not Enough

Shaken Not Stirred, the Sunseeker Superhawk 34, featured in the opening sequence of The World is Not Enough

Hui contrasts that with the way luxury yachts are used in resorts such as Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez, where people often charter boats “just to throw dinner parties” and to flaunt their wealth without ever leaving port. “It’s a waste of money,” he says. “I’d rather go somewhere quiet and enjoy a remote island or a white sandy beach. That’s why I love boating.”

A fun way to spend a weekend with friends and family, then – but with a hefty price tag. The entry-level Sunseeker Manhattan 52, which launched last September, costs £780,000 (prices are fixed in pounds sterling worldwide) while at the top end, a 40 meter floating palace sells for £16.68 million. 

The good news for those who can afford it is that buying a Sunseeker just became less expensive, thanks to the pound’s spectacular fall since Brexit. The depreciation of the British currency has boosted sales amongst wealthy customers looking for a relative bargain, Hui reveals. Combine the plunge in the pound with the absence of import duty in Hong Kong and the city has become “the cheapest boating area in the world.” 

Sunseeker Asia has sold more than 190 yachts since Hui took over – 120 of them in Hong Kong – and revenues last year were £30 million. Parent company Sunseeker International was taken over by Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group in 2013 for £320 million.

So what’s involved in fulfilling your dreams and buying one of these super-luxury yachts? “First, I need to ask about the usage – the size, your budget, and whether you’re buying for family, entertainment or corporate,” says Hui. That will help decide if you go for the Predator cruiser – he compares it to a two-door sports car like an Aston Martin – or a bigger yacht with a flybridge, which is an upper deck for navigation and relaxing that offers a panoramic view. The latter falls into the Rolls-Royce category, says Hui, also a self-professed car buff.

Halle Berry aboard the Sunseeker Superhawk 48 in Die Another Day

Halle Berry aboard the Sunseeker Superhawk 48 in Die Another Day

With Hong Kong being one of the most crowded places on the planet for boats as well as people, the second issue is a bit more mundane – can you find a parking space for your new toy? Berths are limited in the city’s marinas, both in numbers and size, and Hui says it’s essential to find a spot before ordering your yacht. There’s no point in shelling out several million pounds for your dream yacht if there’s nowhere to put it. 

After picking out your model comes the fun bit – selecting the luxury fixtures and fittings. Sunseekers are built at the factory in Poole, Dorset, England, which has a workforce of 2,300. Delivery for most models takes around a year. Once built, your new Sunseeker is transported to Hong Kong on a container ship, dropped into the sea on arrival and then towed to a berth in the marina. Once it’s licensed, you’re ready to go.

In his position at Sunseeker, Hui has rubbed shoulders with many rich and famous personalities over the years. For one, he hosted lunch for Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond at the Aberdeen Boat Club when they staged Top Gear Live in Hong Kong in 2009. The show opened with a spectacular video of two Sunseekers racing through Hong Kong waters and actor Michael Wong leaping into an Aston Martin as he continued the chase through the city’s streets. 

Hui has developed a close relationship with Aston Martin in Hong Kong; the quintessentially British sports cars have featured alongside Sunseeker yachts at various events around the city. Why are Sunseekers such a good fit for the James Bond movies? “First of all, it’s a cool, pioneering British brand – the Sunseeker is a sexy, sleek machine that’s the equivalent of the Aston Martin,” says Hui. “Its Deep V hull design lends itself to the kind of high-performance manoeuvring and sharp turns that the Bond people need – and that other boats can’t do.”

For most people, owning a luxury yacht or being James Bond for a day are the stuff of dreams. But if dreaming is not enough, there’s one way to get a slight taste of that glamorous world. Shaken Not Stirred, the Sunseeker Superhawk 34 that featured in the opening sequence of The World is Not Enough, didn’t actually explode in front of the O2 Arena as seen in the film. It’s available for hire on the river Thames for a relatively modest £3,800 a day – with champagne on the menu, if you desire that extra 007 touch.  

Images: Sunseeker International; Gordon Hui Sunseeker Asia

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The Sunseeker Predator 108 in Casino Royale

The Sunseeker Predator 108 in Casino Royale

Bloodhound SSC is set to shatter the land speed record.jpg

Speed Demon


The Bloodhound SSC is set to become the world’s first supersonic car – breaking 1,000 miles per hour in the process

Speed Demon


The Bloodhound SSC is set to become the world’s first supersonic car – breaking 1,000 miles per hour in the process

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Speed Demon

March 31, 2017 / by Ben Berg

Image above: Bloodhound SSC is set to shatter the land speed record

Okay, now ready to put it all back together?

Okay, now ready to put it all back together?

With its Uber-style app for booking flights, the aircraft charter company Victor is bringing digital disruption to the world of luxury private jet travel – and making it more accessible and affordable in the process. 

It all started on a very routine day at London’s Science Museum in October 2008, when Richard Noble, Andy Green and a team of carefully assembled specialists announced their latest plan to smash the world land speed record with an iconic project.

Bloodhound SSC, the most complex racing car ever designed, was born. Built in the United Kingdom by a team of Formula One and aerospace experts, it aims to inspire a generation about science and technology – and bring the world to a standstill later this year in reaching 1,000 miles per hour, blazing past the current land speed record, on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

Bloodhound is above all, a battle with physics, a journey into the unknown. It contains a jet from a typhoon fighter, a rocket hotter than a volcano, huge metal wheels spinning at 170 times per second and the equivalent of 135,000 horsepower. Blink and you’ll miss it. The Bloodhound will cover a mile in just 3.6 seconds – literally faster than a bullet. And at that speed, there’s no margin for error. Already, more than 300 people have moved more than 16,000 tonnes of rocks by hand to create the 12-mile racecourse on a dry riverbed. 

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Richard Noble, Bloodhound’s project director

Richard Noble, Bloodhound’s project director

The first target for driver and wing commander Green – who is also a British Royal Air Force fighter pilot, a mathematician, a former Oxford University scholar and the first person to break the sound barrier on land – will be a new record of 800 miles per hour in this stunning hybrid weighing eight tonnes. 

But he and Noble, Bloodhound’s project director, start with a distinct advantage. They are part of the team that raced ThrustSSC, a British jet-propelled car which became the first land vehicle to officially break the sound barrier in October 1997, travelling at 763mph across Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. (Noble himself has broken the world land speed record with his earlier car, Thrust2, which reached 633mph in 1983).

Bloodhound essentially has the same construction as a Formula One car, with carbon fibre, a honeycomb that’s twice as thick, and parts of the car reinforced with ballistic protection. It feels like an extraordinary mix of old-school engineering and high-tech sci-fi slick. 

Indeed, it’s all so new and groundbreaking that no matter how rigorous Bloodhound’s construction, there will always be an unknown quotient, according to chief designer Mark Chapman. “When the Bloodhound goes for the record, we don’t really know what it will be like,” he professes. “We’re not [even] sure what a safe observation distance from a vehicle travelling at Mach 1.4 will be – or how far the shock wave will spread out sideways from the car.”

By all accounts, Bloodhound can reach a top speed of 1,050mph. But to claim the record, the car must turn around and make a second run within an hour. Physical space is an issue, too. “You can just run out of desert,” says Chapman. All of which begs another engineering question: how do you stop a car moving at 1,000mph? 

The Bloodhound has three means of deceleration. At 800mph, perforated air brakes swing out from the fuselage; two parachutes can deploy at 600mph if extra slowing is needed; and at 200mph, driver Green will apply the steel friction brakes. 

Slowing down is just one concern. The idling jet engine will continue to produce heat at the end of the run, which Green must dissipate by steering in a huge arc while slowing to a stop. Whether that’s all possible, no one knows yet. “We can’t really test that until we get to South Africa,” says Chapman. “For a lot of things, the car is the test bed.”

As such, Bloodhound SSC has been the catalyst for a raft of cutting-edge research in fields such as aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, materials technology, composite manufacturing and sustainable high-tech engineering. In short, it’s a game-changer. 

The Bloodhound doesn’t have tyres; it runs on precisely fabricated aluminium discs. A forging process breaks down the crystalline structure of cast aluminium, making it denser and stronger. This requires heating the aluminium to more than 700°F, moulding the metal into discs with a 3,668-tonne press and then milling the blanks to the finished specs: 198 pounds, 36 inches in diameter. 

Thus, the wheels not only have to bear the car’s 17,000 pounds of weight, but also to hold together while experiencing 50,000 pounds of radial G-forces at 10,200rpm. That means their shape is as crucial as their strength. Recent testing at the Hakskeen Pan revealed that twin-keel-shaped rims like those on the Thrust SSC would break through the site’s soft surface, so the Bloodhound will use a rounded wheel profile.

To accomplish this project, investment has been key to its completion and a plethora of A-list sponsors have rallied behind the Bloodhound: Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Castrol, Rolex (which has made all the instrumentation and dials for Bloodhound’s cockpit) and – since last year – Chinese car manufacturer Geely, which also owns Volvo as well as British firm Manganese Bronze, the maker of London’s iconic black cabs. Through the partnership, Geely will offer automotive technology used in Bloodhound, will allow use of Geely Group vehicles in South Africa throughout the record campaigns, will provide design and engineering support, and will help promote Bloodhound across Asia.

“We could not have a better partner than Geely,” enthuses Noble. “Not only are they an international technology company with tremendous vision and capability, they also share our passion for innovation and education. Their support, both technical and financial, means we can plan our record-breaking challenge with confidence. It also means we can take our STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] inspiration message to a vast new audience, which is great for science and engineering, but also for promoting Great Britain.”

Noble’s enthusiasm is shared equally by Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. “We are proud and excited to be part of this extraordinary team,” says Li. “Geely shares the same challenging spirit and passion for pushing technological barriers as the Bloodhound project. Since day one, we have been committed to breaking technology barriers at Geely – and working with Project Bloodhound will help further our mutual technology breakthrough to an international audience. It also means we can tell millions of young people, in China and around the world about the opportunities presented by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That is what makes this ‘engineering adventure’ so special – and why we wanted to be part of it.”

Green, the heroic 54-year-old driver, says the goodwill and inspiration that Bloodhound represents is a major motivating factor. “I’ve met graduate engineers who are adamant that our previous record was what inspired their career choice as youngsters; that sort of thing makes all the effort worthwhile,” he says. “Bloodhound SSC will be so much faster and, we hope, will fire up every school kid about science and technology. We’re going to invite everyone to follow our adventure in this, the most exciting and extreme form of motorsport – the world land speed record. Both as a mathematician and as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot, I can’t think of anything better.” Can you? 

Images: Bloodhound SSC; Stefan Marjoram; Flock and Siemens (originators)

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Spoils to the Victor


An Uber-style service for high-fliers on private jets is really taking off

Spoils to the Victor


An Uber-style service for high-fliers on private jets is really taking off

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Spoils to the Victor

February 24, 2017 / by Simon Webster

Image above: Victor “lands” in New York

Clive Jackson in his office

Clive Jackson in his office

With its Uber-style app for booking flights, the aircraft charter company Victor is bringing digital disruption to the world of luxury private jet travel – and making it more accessible and affordable in the process. 

Victor is the brainchild of Hong Kong-born CEO Clive Jackson, a tech entrepreneur who got the idea of entering the private plane business after British airline BMI cancelled its scheduled flights from London to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where he has a second home. With his sunshine getaway suddenly only accessible by private plane, Jackson discovered “the very antiquated, archaic and opaque business vertical that is on-demand private jet charter”, where “cash-rich and time-poor” fliers were being charged commissions of up to 40% by middlemen. 

Jackson saw an opportunity to bring “digital and disruption together” – the way iTunes and Spotify have upended the music business – and set up Victor, investing US$2 million of his own money when it was launched in 2011. “There’s nothing quite like putting your money where your mouth is,” he says. “In the start-up phase, I built up a minimum viable product to prove that consumers would engage. Since then, I have raised more than US$25 million for the company with external funding.”

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Ready for that weekend getaway yet?

Ready for that weekend getaway yet?

The key to Victor’s success has been its app, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store and offers a simple Uber-style experience for booking a private plane. Fill out the “from” and “to” boxes, the date and the preferred time. Then hit “request quote” and your private jet can be ready in as little as 90 minutes. 

Some 60% of Victor’s bookings come through the app. Jackson says that its ease of use, its competitive pricing (commissions are pegged at 10%) and its transparency are attracting a new clientele to luxury private plane travel that goes beyond the rich and famous. “In the past 18 months, when I look at all the first-time fliers that have come to Victor, 15% have never flown private in their life, which is really interesting,” he says. “There’s no question we are broadening the market.”

Victor works with a global network of 200 aviation partners with an inventory of thousands of planes. “There’s an awful lot of capacity in the market,” he says. “The issue isn’t really around supply; the issue is about how the consumer accesses the supply.”

The company now employs 75 staff and is projected to have generated £30 million in revenue in 2016, growing 946% since its creation. Based in London, with offices in Munich and New York, Victor aims to establish footprints in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions this year. Jackson says Hong Kong is currently his preferred choice for an Asian hub. “We would want to go into a business-friendly environment where we can target a large grouping of ultra-high-net-worth travellers,” he says.

The Victor app in action

The Victor app in action

Jackson, who was born in Hong Kong but has lived in England since his schooldays, admits that Asia offers a fresh challenge to his business model. “In China, and Hong Kong specifically, there has always been a sense that if you can afford it, you own it – and if you can’t own it, you don’t use it. So take Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Nobody wants to buy a second-hand premium luxury car; they want to buy it brand new.” But he says he sees “a shift in attitude; you don’t have to own a hotel to stay in it – and you don’t have to own a private jet to fly in it.”

Jackson says that the established private plane brokers predicted Victor’s rapid demise because of its transparency in displaying the plane supplier’s details in the quote – something that had traditionally been kept hidden to avoid the risk of being cut out of the deal. But he says in just four years Victor has become the world’s number-one digital provider of private-hire jets; its ambition is to be the “single largest buyer of private jet charter in the world” within the next two years.

For the privileged few who can afford to fly private, what’s the big draw? “You’re never going to get a Cathay Pacific or an Emirates holding up an A380 for two hours while you finish a business meeting,” he says. “But if it’s your plane, or at least the plane you chartered, that happens. The ability to create your own schedule, the privacy, the personal security of travelling in your own plane and being able to avoid major commercial hubs is a massive, massive draw.”

And who flies on private jets? Jackson says clients range from entertainment stars to politicians, business leaders and people who simply have to get somewhere fast. “We were recently contacted via the app by a single flier whose scheduled flight to Antigua from Heathrow had been cancelled, and who needed to leave immediately.” Victor picked him up at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, drove him to Luton Airport’s private terminal where, after only a 45-minute wait, he was airborne. The price tag for the 6,500km flight was US$65,000.

Jackson is the first to admit that he had no background in the aviation industry, but explains: “I have had 20-plus years building e-commerce systems, platforms and technology that focus on how a brand would go to market and how a brand would engage the high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth customer. I’m a seasoned entrepreneur – Victor was my 14th company. I built and ran one of the most successful digital agencies in the world, Global Beach, before selling it.”

As a successful business executive who has exploited the power of cutting-edge technology, what advice would he give to budding entrepreneurs? “One thing I have learned as an entrepreneurial chief exec is how to keep focused on the core deliverables of your business. Be willing to adapt, learn at the drop of a hat, but fundamentally stay focused on your core value proposition, which for us is private jet charter for the consumer.” Based on Jackson’s experience, if you follow his rules, the sky’s the limit.

Images: www.flyvictor.com

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Tee off, Tech on


From apps that instantly analyse your swing to customised Segways that speed you around the fairways and gizmos that find your lost balls, high tech is transforming the way people play golf

Tee off, Tech on


From apps that instantly analyse your swing to customised Segways that speed you around the fairways and gizmos that find your lost balls, high tech is transforming the way people play golf

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


1. Korean American golfer Michelle Wie; 2-3. The Zepp Golf 2 device analyses all aspects of your game

1. Korean American golfer Michelle Wie; 2-3. The Zepp Golf 2 device analyses all aspects of your game

Tee off, Tech on

February 24, 2017 / by Bob Robertson

Huge advances in club design have already helped golfers hit the ball farther and straighter. Today, a whole range of new gear is changing every aspect of the game. For one, sophisticated swing-tracking technology that connects wirelessly to a smartphone app has made it possible to get instant tuition on the practice range.

One of the cutting-edge brands is US sports technology company Zepp, whose Smart Coach system works via a sensor attached to the back of your golf glove. When you swing, it tracks key factors like club speed, club plane, hip rotation and tempo, and sends the data via Bluetooth to the mobile app. The app instantly displays a 3D graphic of your swing, analyses it and gives coaching advice. Korean-American golf star Michelle Wie, who uses the device, says that “technology is definitely changing the game – it is definitely changing the way we practise” thanks to what she calls the “instantaneous feedback” it gives.

Once you’ve used this device to get your swing in good shape, another essential on the course is knowing how far you are from the pin so you can select the right club. That used to involve a lot of mental arithmetic, as you paced out the distance from your ball to yardage markers, and then calculated the distance to the flag. That all changed with the arrival of hand-held laser rangefinders, which give the distance with pinpoint accuracy. Today, GPS-based apps such as the free-download Hole19, loaded with maps of courses all around the world, can give the distances to key locations like greens and hazards.

 

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4-5. The Golf Ball Finder glasses by Thumbs Up help you find your ball

4-5. The Golf Ball Finder glasses by Thumbs Up help you find your ball

When it comes to getting around the course, forget carrying your own clubs, paying a caddy to do it for you or jumping in a golf cart with a friend – the Segway PT X2 Golf gives you the best of all worlds. With extra-wide tyres to avoid damaging the precious fairway turf, the Segway is fitted with a special attachment for holding your golf bag. Just lean in the desired direction and the electric-powered, self-balancing “Personal Transporter” will speed you to your ball, all the while giving you a feel of the terrain that a golf buggy cannot.

Of course, all the technology in the world won’t prevent you from hitting the inevitable bad shots, which send your ball flying off into deep rough or trees. However, all isn’t lost – the tech experts have worked out some clever ways to retrieve your ball. One of the highest-tech solutions is the Prazza Golf Ball Finder, a smartphone-sized handset developed in the Netherlands that tracks a microchip embedded in the brand’s specialist golf balls. To find your ball, just follow the direction of the arrow in the display; a graphic of a ball gets bigger as you get closer, accompanied by quickening beeps and vibrations.

If that’s a bit too high-tech, you can always try the wraparound Golf Ball Finder glasses produced by Thumbs Up, a manufacturer of quirky gadgets. The brand says that the blue lenses illuminate everything white, so there shouldn’t be many hiding places for your errant ball.

Armed with all this technology, you should be ready to maximise your potential on the golf course. But don’t forget that one golden rule – when you pull out your smartphone to check how your swing is looking or the distance to the hole, the only thing you aren’t allowed to do on the golf course is make a phone call.

Images: Segway Inc., ©2017 Segway Inc.; Thumbs Up UK; Zepp Labs

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6-7. The Segway PT X2 Golf redefines the traditional golf cart

6-7. The Segway PT X2 Golf redefines the traditional golf cart

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Switching Gears


The Peninsula is well-known for its fleet of Rolls-Royces – but it’s steered towards some other unique vehicles in recent years thanks to one man: Martin Oxley

Switching Gears


The Peninsula is well-known for its fleet of Rolls-Royces – but it’s steered towards some other unique vehicles in recent years thanks to one man: Martin Oxley

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Switching Gears

December 9, 2016 / by Michael Spence

“Although we are one of the oldest hotel companies in the world, we don’t feel old. We wanted to do something fun and show the heritage of the countries where we’re based”

Indelibly associated with its fleet of trademark green Rolls-Royces, Hong Kong’s highly venerated The Peninsula Hotels group has been breaking with tradition of late – by offering guests rides in everything from a bespoke tuk-tuk to its very first Tesla. The man responsible for the change of gear is a genial Londoner, Martin Oxley, who has been in charge of The Peninsula’s car fleet for more than 20 years.

In the fast-moving and competitive hotel business, The Peninsula, with its 15 Rolls-Royces, still stands alone as the “grand old lady” of Hong Kong hotels. But the group has steadily expanded into new markets and its car fleet is reflecting the changing times – all while injecting an element of fun.

Oxley’s office in the quiet elegance of The Peninsula is a world (and a lifetime) away from his humble beginnings as an apprentice mechanic with Rolls-Royce in the 1970s, when he quickly decided that spending his life “covered in oil” underneath cars was not for him. 

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In his subsequent 22-year career with the world’s most prestigious carmaker, Oxley created a unit that specialised in finding the slightest pre-delivery defects, developing an eye for detail that made him the ideal choice to manage The Peninsula’s car fleet when he joined the company in 1995.

He works closely with group chairman Michael Kadoorie, who Oxley says has shown an uncanny knack over the years for identifying the small details that can make a big difference. Oxley likes to tell the story of a visit they made to the Rolls-Royce factory, when Kadoorie asked if they could sit in a car in the pitch dark. “He said he wanted to read a newspaper and had spotted that the map light switch wasn’t illuminated. I thought, ‘He doesn’t miss a trick!’”

Car manufacturers have learned that Oxley will not take no for an answer when he makes a special request – whether that’s Rolls-Royce moving its A/C controls in the Phantom limousine from between the front seats to the rear armrests where guests can reach them, or BMW relocating the fridge system in its luxury 7-Series to double the boot space.

The Peninsula’s worldwide fleet now comprises 29 Rolls-Royces – including four 1934 Phantoms – and almost 40 BMW 7-Series. But it also includes Mini Coopers, a Citroën 2CV in Paris, a custom-made tuk-tuk with leather seats in Bangkok and a super-luxury jeepney in Manila. “Although we are one of the oldest hotel companies in the world, we don’t feel old,” says Oxley. “We wanted to do something fun and show the heritage of the countries where we’re based.” 

Oxley’s pet project was the bespoke jeepney, which is based on the original 1955 six-seater version but is wider, taller and air-conditioned. It also features leatherette seats and seatbelts, Perspex windows, a rear door with a child lock to prevent guests from falling out, an intercom, a cool box and a Euro 5 diesel engine – the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly you can buy. “And for the outside, we blinged it up,” says Oxley.

Looking to the future, Oxley reckons the days of running a full electricity-powered fleet at The Peninsula are still far off. “We have a Tesla and a hybrid BMW 1A, but until we have an electric car with a 480km range and sufficient boot space, I won’t consider them for a hotel limousine fleet.”

And what does he tell new drivers joining The Peninsula’s team? “Imagine there is a young lady in a long white dress sitting in the rear seat, holding a glass of red wine. Don’t spill it!”

Images: The Peninsula Hotels

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Getting into the Swing


Fancy taking up golf, but don’t know where to begin? Avail yourself of our advice on taking those first tentative steps on the fairway

Getting into the Swing


Fancy taking up golf, but don’t know where to begin? Avail yourself of our advice on taking those first tentative steps on the fairway

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Getting into the Swing

December 9, 2016 / by Bob Morris

Before you start, there’s one thing to always remember about golf: it’s not fair. If you keep that in your head, then you might just avoid throwing your brand-new titanium driver into the lake after you whack your first tee shot into the club carpark, or refusing to shake your opponent’s hand when he or she has just fluked a winning shot, or (heaven forbid) letting out a stream of expletives and kicking your golf bag in full view of the clubhouse when you duff a chip shot.

Golf is the most maddening and the most difficult game. It’s also rewarding, sociable, challenging, physical (without being too physical), great for networking and played in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. The handicapping system also means that even a mediocre player can have an enjoyable, competitive game against an accomplished professional. 

The game of golf is a constant battle against yourself, your opponent, the terrain, the elements and plain luck. One day it all comes together and you’re Tiger Woods at his peak – and the next you feel you’ve been struck by some primeval curse from the angry gods of golf and just want to give it all up. And the terrible thing is that not even the best players know when or why that will strike.

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The idea, of course, is simple – hit a ball into a hole with a stick, in as few shots as possible. Do it 18 times and the person who takes the fewest shots goes home the winner. But how to get started? There are three fundamentals: arranging lessons, buying clubs and finding a good place to play. Oh, and let’s not forget the clothes. 

The good news is that most club pros are available to teach non-members. The bad news is that you are about to be confronted with the weird language and contradictions of golf. In the first lesson, you’ll learn that the most important thing is your grip – how to hold the golf club. Once the pro finishes showing you, you’ll feel like your hands have become an amorphous mass of 20 competing fingers. Then there’s your posture:
“Imagine you are sitting on a high stool.” “Keep your back straight.” “Bend your knees – but not too much.” “Align your feet with the line of the shot.” “Lift your chin.” “Look down your nose at the ball.” Every professional has their pet phrases and gimmicks to get you started. 

A lot of it feels counter-intuitive, because it is. When you take your first clumsy swing and the club bounces off the rubber mat a foot behind the ball, your teacher will utter the words that have dogged golfing beginners since time immemorial: “You lifted your head.” 

When it comes to equipment, the technology has advanced to the stage that it’s much easier to quickly reach an acceptable level of play than in the old days, although the beginner faces a bewildering selection of clubs – and terminology. The basic rule, though, is that you can’t buy a golf game. So forget splashing out on the most expensive, high-tech gear at the start and ask your pro to recommend some user-friendly, medium-priced, beginner-level equipment. Once you discover the strengths and weaknesses of your game, you can trade up. (And yes, you have to buy your clubs – renting them is like wearing someone else’s cast-offs.)

Finding a place to play is relatively simple, although most courses demand a handicap card, which is a classification based on your average scores that shows your ability as a golfer. And despite its exclusive, clubby image, golf is relatively egalitarian; many countries have reasonably priced public courses and most private clubs allow non-members to play at restricted times. 

And then there’s the final hurdle to becoming a golfer – getting through the front door of the clubhouse. If you think you can rock up with your cool T-shirt hanging out over a pair of designer jeans and trainers, forget it. Most private clubs have strict dress codes, although, golf being golf, none of them are usually the same – so what is accepted in one club won’t necessarily work in another. Likewise on the course, most clubs
expect you to tuck your golf shirt into your “tailored” shorts, keep your socks pulled up and wear proper golf shoes. It can seem irritating and outdated, but as you’ll learn with all things in golf, rules are rules.

Finally, etiquette is fundamental to the golf ethic. Bad behaviour on the course will get even the best player shunned by his or her fellow golfers. So here are ten dos and don’ts for that first full day on the course. Happy golfing!

  • Do say “good shot” to your opponent, even if it hurts.
  • Do help your opponent look for their ball, even if you secretly hope they lose it.
  • Do replace divots and rake bunkers after playing, even if you can’t be bothered.
  • Do shout “fore” if your ball is heading towards someone – it just might save their life.
  • Do resist the temptation to tee off before the slow coaches in front are out of range.
  • Don’t ever throw your club – you might not get invited back.
  • Don’t moan – nobody wants to hear it.
  • Don’t ever cheat – not even a little bit.
  • Don’t fidget and move around, even if your partner takes forever to putt.
  • And don’t lick your ball clean – you never know what they put on the grass.
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Top Dogs


More than just a friendly companion, the loyal dog has saved more human lives than we will ever know

Top Dogs


More than just a friendly companion, the loyal dog has saved more human lives than we will ever know

Patchwork > Miscellaneous


 

Top Dogs

October 28, 2016 / by Peter Brown

From the family terrier frantically barking when a fire breaks out in the middle of the night to the rescue dogs who uncover earthquake survivors, our canine friends have saved countless lives over the centuries.

Search dogs play a vital role in rescue operations at disaster sites as they scamper through the rubble, their noses twitching as they try to pick up the scents of trapped victims. Historically, perhaps the most famous breed of heroic dog is the Saint Bernard, which for more than 150 years was used by Augustine monks to locate travellers buried in avalanches as they crossed the treacherous Alpine passes between Switzerland and Italy.

Not only trained rescue dogs save lives. Stories abound of pets who have saved family members from fires, drowning, snakes, aggressive animals, intruders and other kinds of threats. Of course, medical detection dogs are trained to be lifesavers – one British poodle named Nora is trained to alert her severely allergic owner if there is even the slightest trace of nuts in the air.

One of the most remarkable feats of canine heroism was carried out by a guide dog in the wake of the New York City attacks on September 11, 2001. Roselle, a Labrador, led her blind owner Michael Hingson and his coworkers through the smoke and chaos of a stairwell, down 78 floors of the World Trade Center North Tower; they reached the street just as the building collapsed.

So why do dogs want to save our lives? As members of rescue team Texas Task Force 1, K9 search specialist Bob Deeds and his Labrador Retriever, Kinsey, were part of the search operations at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. “Search dogs are trained to treat it as a game – once they locate the victim, they get play time with their handler as a reward, which is a great motivation for them,” he explains.

And what about pets? “Self-preservation is a big part of how they react in dangerous situations, but many dogs also overcome their instinct to flee and stay to protect their owners. So there are clearly strong feelings of attachment – even love – that make them do it.”

Next time your adorable pup is curled up next to you on the sofa, remember that they’re much more than a loving companion – they just might save your life one day.

Putting the bling and all the other luxuries aside, what would really make a dog happy if you wanted to spoil him? “Dogs appreciate interaction with humans, whether it is retrieving or finding something that is hidden, or learning behaviour like giving paw,” he says. “Anything that you can teach the dog that lets them interact with you in a positive way is definitely the best treat.”

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