Veuve Clicquot Australia


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Media Release: March 8, 2006


Sarina Bratton, 2006 Veuve Clicquot Award Winner Sarina Bratton, 2006 Veuve Clicquot Award Winner

Photo: Bill Hearne
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The world’s first female founder of a shipping line, Sarina Bratton, has been honoured on International Women’s Day, winning the coveted 2006 Australian Veuve Clicquot Award.

The Australian winner of the global Award, which is presented in 16 countries, was announced in Sydney at the Veuve Clicquot Award Lunch, attended by many of Australia’s most powerful and successful business women.

Janet Holmes à Court, a previous winner of the Award and member of the Australian judging panel, believes the Award is a fitting celebration of International Women’s Day in Australia.

“The Veuve Clicquot Award celebrates Australian businesswomen and the impact they have made both on the local and global economies – it focuses not only on their success, but also on the way that they achieved,” she said. “I think it is fitting that we showcase their extraordinary qualities on International Women’s Day because they are an inspiration to all Australians.”

The Award commemorates La Veuve (the widow) Clicquot. The winners in each country are the women who judges consider best exemplify her qualities.

“Madame Clicquot was a risk taker, a leader, an opportunist and an optimist,” said Janet Holmes à Court. “She was brave, daring, tenacious, resilient, unconventional and innovative. These are the qualities the Veuve Clicquot Award recognises and celebrates.”

Nominations were received from throughout Australia, with judges selecting the following five finalists:

“The calibre of all the nominations we received was extremely high and the five finalists in particular are extraordinary women who in their own ways embrace Madame Clicquot’s qualities and embody her spirit,” said Janet Holmes à Court. “The judging process was very difficult, but at the end of the day we felt Sarina Bratton’s entrepreneurship, audacity and vision singled her out. Through Sarina’s persistence and perseverance she is creating a company that is exciting and innovative.”

Sarina Bratton is the world’s first female founder of a shipping line. In fact, she has founded two lines, but her journey has not been without heartache. Her first start-up cruise line, Norwegian Capricorn, was a joint venture which sailed to immediate success, but was dissolved after the hostile take over of her major partner.

“What happened next is what makes Sarina so extraordinary,” said Holmes à Court. “She was devastated, but giving up was never an option. With the same entrepreneurial drive that took her to the top of Holland, America and Cunard cruise lines, she started again, seeking out new opportunities, new destinations, new venture capitalists and private equity partners – and a new ship. She remained true to her vision – and to herself.”

Two years ago Sarina Bratton’s dream of starting her own line, showcasing her own country as a destination, became a reality with the launch of the Orion. Like Madame Clicquot she developed her business in a hands-on manner nurturing every detail from the galley to the engine room. She hand-picked wilderness destinations and worked with local communities to create infrastructure that would allow her ship to travel where none had gone before. Sensitive to the importance of protecting the natural beauty of her destinations for future generations, she ensured the Orion is a world leader in environmental sustainability for the marine leisure industry. She created opportunities for Orion Expedition Cruises – and Australian tourism – with the Orion taking holidaymakers from around the world to pristine wilderness areas of Australia, the Antarctic, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.

“I believe that the economic gains that this country can derive through increasing and growing a small business like the one we have pioneered has tremendous long term benefit to this nation,” she said.

Sarina Bratton, who lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with her husband and daughter, has always been competitive. Aged 17, she held three national sporting titles – in gymnastics, diving and trampoline. Sport taught her discipline and focus as well as the importance of not being afraid to take a risk and move out of her comfort zone in order to succeed at the highest level. It also taught her to deal with disappointment when injury shattered her dream of becoming an elite athlete. In a move that foreshadowed her reaction to the dissolving of Norwegian Capricorn Line, she went in search of new opportunities, found a career in tourism and went on to win numerous accolades as an industry leader both in Australia and internationally.

“At home, I have a saying by Winston Churchill which is never, never, never give up,” she says. “It’s tough starting a new business, you work for very long hours and you have to put everything into it which is what we do and what I’m not afraid of. I’ve got the best ship for the job, I’ve got a fantastic team working with me shore side – a wonderful team of people onboard the ship as well. We’re a long way down the track but there’s still somewhere we can go and we can never be complacent about anything we do.”

Today the Veuve Clicquot Award honours Sarina Bratton as a respected leader, an astute and intuitive business woman, a resilient and audacious risk taker. She has her own style and her own way, but in every way she embraces the spirit of Madame Clicquot.

“I think about what that woman did in the years that she did it and that’s an inspiration,” she said. “I’m still on this journey and I haven’t got there yet, but to be recognized as somebody who possibly has similar characteristics and drive as Madame Clicquot to me is just absolutely fantastic.”

Sarina Bratton’s prize package includes return business class tickets to France to attend the Annual Veuve Clicquot Businesswomen’s Meeting in June, along with past and present winners from the other participating countries.

Her sister, who nominated her, is also a winner. The prize for the nominator of the successful candidate is 12 magnums of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut.

Madame Clicquot was widowed at 27. The year was 1805, a time when it was simply unheard of for a woman to inherit and run her husband’s business, but she fought for her right. It was the first of many occasions when she challenged adversity and won. During the Napoleonic Wars she defied the trade blockades against France, shipping her champagne to the world’s royal courts. She invented the clarifying process of ‘riddling’, now used by all champagne producers. She developed and patented the distinctive yellow label of Clicquot and dealt harshly with anyone who attempted to counterfeit her brand. She remained true to her vision and to her motto – “only one quality, the finest”. Madame Clicquot never left Reims, but she conquered the world and built the international champagne house, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

Today, her life and achievements were celebrated by the winner and finalists of the 2006 Australian Veuve Clicquot Award; last year’s winner, Wendy Erhart of Withcott Seedlings; and members of the Australian judging panel, including Federal Court judge The Hon. Justice Annabelle Bennett AO; PBL Director of Corporate Relations and Events Deeta Colvin; newly appointed Chairman of Future Fund David Murray; Executive Director of Paspaley Pearls, Marilynne Paspaley; Myer Managing Director Dawn Robertson; and on behalf of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Robert Remnant.

For media enquiries, or to arrange interviews, please contact
Mary-Anne Dibbs – 0419 288 102
Black Communications – 02 9211 1177

Broadcast quality TV vision of the Veuve Clicquot Award Lunch and Sarina Bratton aboard Orion is also available upon request.

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