Indomitable adventurer has Spirit, From Queenstown to sailing around the world – at 76

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A new sport gripped one of the world’s most adventurous elderly citizens during his recent Queenstown holiday – bowls.

Dunedin-born 76-year-old Dr Stanley Paris made global headlines last summer when he tried to become the oldest person to sail non-stop and non-assisted around the world.

Leaving from his home city of St Augustine, Florida, in the United States, Paris spent 60 days at sea before he had to abort his circumnavigation, about a third of the way through, because of rigging system failure.

Undaunted, he intends having another shot at the record, starting again from St Augustine, in November.

But speaking to Mountain Scene last week before flying back to the US, Paris was raving about playing his first game of bowls in the Queenstown Gardens.

“I went to the bowling club and I seemed to make friends immediately.

“I’ll probably take that up.

“My father was the Otago singles champion many years ago, I think.”

Paris says bowls makes a change from his more rugged sporting interests.

The day before leaving town he also swam at the Alpine Aqualand pool in preparation for a cross-English Channel relay swim in August.
Paris, who’s twice swum the channel and also failed three times – “I’m the oldest to have tried and failed” – will be part of the oldest relay team to tackle the 21-nautical mile swim.

Team members are all in their 70s and Paris, who turns 77 in August, will be the oldest.

“When I wanted out of it because of this repeat of the sailing, they wouldn’t let me go, so yesterday I did an hour in the excellent pool here.

“I do an hour three times a week but on the day I’ll have to do at least three one-hour swims in very cold water.”

Paris is on the board of the Channel Swimming Association, and is its safety officer.

Though he’s lived in the US since 1966 and also has a holiday retreat in Maine, Paris expects to spend more time in Queenstown.

Two years ago he bought a flash pad on Queenstown Hill and is building on a section next door, which he bought to secure his views.

“Florida is our home at this point, Maine is our retreat and I said to Catherine, my wife, that this could be our spiritual home.

“She was very impressed by that – I think that’s what allowed me to buy it.”

Though he’s still got family in the US, Paris late last year sold 80 per cent of the university he founded, which has campuses in Florida, Texas and California.

A distinguished physical therapist, he founded the University of St Augustine for Health Sciences in 1996.

Paris says he’s been coming to Queenstown since he was a child and also enjoyed skiing trips here with the Otago University Ski Club.

“We intend to spend, I hope we spend, more than six months a year here – this could become effectively our main home.

“It is one of the most beautiful spots in the world and I’m a New Zealander, I always have been.”

Paris now has family in Queenstown – his son Alan moved here recently and is planning Remarkables Park’s conference centre and hotel development.

Stanley says he was inspired to sail solo around the world when Alan did the five-stop Around Alone 2002-2003 race.

“I met all his people in South Africa and in Tauranga – I had one of my boats in Tauranga because I was down for the America’s Cup, and I thought, ‘I could do this’.

“And it grew on me and I read and read about it and said, ‘this will be fun, I’ll do it’.

“I want to sail around the world solo, non-stop, because I think it’s a challenge.

“I’ve taken on challenges on in my life professionally, personally and financially, but this one happens to have a chance at three records [for oldest non-stop circumnavigation of the world, fastest Bermuda to Bermuda and the first to do it without using any fuel], so I’ll get them if I can.

“But I think it’s the challenge that drives me more than anything else.”

Stanley says he’s 80 per cent confident he’ll complete his circumnavigation on his second attempt.

His 19-metre boat Kiwi Spirit has been re-engineered and the problems he had last time shouldn’t recur.

“But if I hit a container or a log, it’s all over.

“A shark won’t worry me too much but a whale might.”

If he doesn’t succeed, there won’t be a third attempt.

“Google only gives me nine years to live, so I don’t want to spend too many of those years at sea.”