took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
Their success underpins Alastair's.
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Largest bottle cap sculpture (shared): 19,205 caps
This is the story behind our Guinness World Record™ for the Largest bottle cap sculpture.
As I think of the recent happenings in my world
record-breaking life, only three words can describe what we’ve overcome: a
virtual impossibility. I’m mentally drained, physically exhausted and
emotionally frayed. But I’ve got to be ready for media enquiries at any time,
so I’ll keep going to the very end.
When devising this challenge, I wanted to create a world
record attempt which would provide a different mental and physical challenge.
After much pondering over various world records, I decided to aim for something
that could be unveiled to the world as part of Guinness World Records™ Day on
18th November 2010. A few more sips from my bottle gave me just the inspiration
I needed - why not create a sculpture of a rugby ball from bottle caps.
The rugby ball design was reproduced with the consent of Gilbert Rugby, who have
been chosen to produce the match balls for the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New
Zealand. This is the 5th consecutive world cup for which Gilbert have supplied
the official match ball and they have also been appointed for 2015, so it made
sense to work with them and their iconic design on this project. Replica match
balls are available from Lovell
When a bystander for this world record attempt suggested
I write a book about the extreme challenges faced from my viewpoint, I decided
to pen a list of notable events instead. There is much more. Bear in mind that
over a dozen of the negative influences listed below were in full effect
continuously, and sometimes up to twenty were bearing down on the project
suggest you open a bottle of liquid refreshment, sit back and contemplate what
we did – and cultivate a newfound respect for metal bottle caps, like the one
on your thirst quencher.
This may help get you in the mood for rugby, but if you
really want to get prepared for as much rugby as possible, then why not get a
TV sports package in time to watch the sport?
Bear in mind that when I began, I had no transport, no
budget, no team, no experience, no resources, no workshop and no venue.
Oh, one more thing… if you see me in the street, the
most insulting thing you could do is ask me to solder thousands of bottle caps
in celebration of something you’ve got planned. Rather than bite your head
right off and chew you to a pulp, I’ll try to smile and reply, “Please
contact me when it’s done”.
To any aspiring challengers, secrets the team learned are
The size of the project can be measured in actual
- Size of finished sculpture: 2.4m long x 1.6m diameter
- Cable ties used: approximately 700
- Solder joints made by me: approximately 37,000
- Ratio of bottle caps prepared to total available: approximately 0.7: 1
- Bottle caps prepared but unusable: over 8,000
- Bottle caps individually bent or cut before fitting: over 460
- Failed gas torches: 4
- Butane gas used: 3.3 litres
- Socks discarded due to adhering solder: 10
- Most appropriate project description: "a virtual impossibility"
- Under-estimation of project difficulty: severe
- Total project duration: 18 months
- Longest individual delay: 3 months
- Project duration delay: 350% of expected timeframe
- Tally of receipts/invoices: 168
- Industry professionals saying this cannot be done: 5
- Greatest potential mistake: warm wooden work surface placed inside
- Interesting disasters: a project witness drove over 400 soldered bottle
caps; these are hidden inside the base
- Greatest overall challenge: mathematics
- My prior soldering experience: nil
- Budget exceeded: yes
- Pages of legal contractual text binding project management: 54
- Risk of intellectual property lawsuit: moderate
- Doors jamming: a vehicle rammed into an industrial roller door, jamming it in the closed position, just before the cabinet arrived
- Greatest worry immediately before ball was placed in cabinet: receiving a telephone call to say the ball had been accidentally skewered onto forklift prongs where it was being stored
- Occurrences in last 2 hours before professional photo shoot: my ear
started bleeding, oily finger prints were left on the smart aluminium
frame, the cut false grass mat wrinkled, the faux fur base cover would not
fit and had to be part-emptied of beads, rugby balls were dropped which
left black marks, delivery trucks kept needing access through the doorway we were blocking, and it began to rain
The Health and Safety aspects of this project also deserve a mention.
- Minor burns to hands, wrists and legs: innumerable at 200⁰ C
- Molten solder burning into flesh: 3 times at 200⁰ C
- Molten solder striking face: twice at 200⁰ C
- Rubber gloves partially melted onto hand: 1
- Clothing caught alight while soldering: twice
- Risk of lead poisoning, asthma and infertility: very high
- Risk of repetitive strain injury: low to moderate
- Back pain incidents halting work: 4
- Most physical pain: 2 hours of industrial cleaning agent burning into
bare hand, covered in lesions, because it was too swollen to insert into a
glove and time was running out
- Cautions about a heart attack: 2
- Cases of dermatitis: 1
This also turned out to be somewhat of an international effort, reflecting the true international appeal of both rugby and attempting world records:
- International meetings attended: 1
- Most distant errand by voluntary messenger: San Francisco region, USA
- Legal firms with direct interest: 3
- Most pleasant long-distance legal introduction: due to the time
difference, I had to ask a British attorney if I could go to bed when
introducing myself; she laughed... from the opposite point of the earth.
- Most unlikely witness: ex-freedom fighter during Eritrea’s war for independence from Ethiopia
- Urgent international courier imports: 3
- Permission required from offshore business offices: 1
- Requests to appear in TV programmes abroad: 1
- Witnesses to vanish as suspected illegal immigrants: 1
Some more interesting facts and figures:
- Days engaged on project over 16 hours: 2
- Longest continuous maintenance soldering repairs: 25 hours
- Doctor’s consultations: 1
- Largest cap cleaning failure: 6,000
- Concrete mixers used: 2
- Best advice: consider door height when designing display cabinet; use a
small local trucking company; discard 3 months’ work and start soldering
- Worst advice: cap cleaning methods
- Incidents of bad advice each necessitating 2+ hours to rectify: over 35
- Most useful implement: screwdriver
- Least useful item: biscuit baking trays
- Dependence on energy stimulants: high towards end of project
- Project’s main impacts: social and financial
- Passenger train impacts: departed ahead of schedule, so I missed it and
the industrial painting operation was upset
- Incidences where I challenged drivers and conductors of noticeably late
busses/passenger trains who expected full fare: 2
- Closest encounter with law enforcement officers: a government search team
investigated as bottle caps were being prepared, using powerful spotlights
on an amphibious vehicle; the search was conducted from coastal waters and
along a beach
- Bizarre events seen by team during project: a skateboarder lost control and skated onto a railway track 60m ahead of an approaching passenger train; he jumped onto the platform unharmed. 13:20, 16 October 2010, Sunnyvale train station, Auckland, New Zealand
- Purpose-built trailer required: 1
- Vehicle breakdowns at critical times: 1
- Caps trapped inside by mistake: 1, named Tumbling Tom
- Near-fatal pre-completion disasters: when lifting the sculpture off the engineering trolley to place it on the base and cushion, I tripped over a metal bar and the ball nearly went tumbling into a wall (where was the waiting receiver when needed?)
- Photo editing: the professional photos taken for global media were
prepared during a flight over New Zealand; this required ground-to-air
mobile telephone communications and a range of emergency internet access
Our thanks go to the vast numbers of people involved:
- Number of helpers / contributors: over 130
- Age range of helpers: 11-86
- Estimated total man-hours: 3,600
- Primary consultants’ expertise: statistician, welder, patent attorney, painter, pharmacist, industrial chemist, colour consultant, health and safety, mechanic, upholsterer, aluminium joiner, graphic designer, public relations, major sports event management, innovation advisor
- Hours lost due to witnesses not arriving: 17
- Non-delivery by parties relied upon: innumerable
- Team member deportation notifications: 1
- Frequency of being disappointed by arrangements not kept: higher than for
any other world record attempt
- Fractured relationships: 3
- Friends to disappear during project: 1 in south Asia; the worst suspected
- Emotional support from team: excellent
- Number of last minute favours: innumerable
Now, how did we manage the publicity around the unveiling of this world record attempt and manage to keep it out of the press before the official launch date?
- Most repeat product requests from one sponsor: 6
- Businesses offering product to gain greater exposure: 1
- Businesses to decline this publicity opportunity: 15
- Conflict of interest incidences: 1
- Slow internet resulting in missed opportunities: 2
- Large publicity deadlines missed: 1
- Sponsors gone bankrupt during project: 1
- Licensing agreements: Gilbert Rugby offered a license to
use their trademarks just 82 hours before photos went worldwide.
Immediately prior to this, the media material had been rewritten -
following an emergency plan - to launch the sculpture as an Unidentified
It should also be noted that the work connected to a world record is never complete quite as you would expect. Alongside all of the paperwork which has to be completed in order to verify the record attempt and obtain ratification from Guinness World Records™, there is all of the surrounding international media interest to deal with.
Technology is a god-send, but it can also lead to further unforeseen issues. For example, having submitted a press release about the project to various agencies, I ended up receiving 7,138 duplicate replies from 2 emails addresses over 24 hours; calls to the USA and Europe were necessary to stop it because these emails bypassed electronic filters! Oh the joys of spam.
Finally, just a brief summary of how the project has been received:
- Interested parties angry that the bottle cap sculpture is not free to use: 34
- Critics with ‘expert’ advice in arrears: innumerable
- Largest and most extensive media attracted: coverage in the USA
This project was so stressful for many involved, that my
core team even began to distance themselves from commitment toward the final
stages. If a journalist or interviewer reads the above and asks me if I’ll do
this again, expect me to think their intellect is faulty – and to respond by
The New Zealand sports star, Sir John Walker, cut the ribbon at the sculpture's first display at the Botany Town Centre in Auckland. He was also kind enough to sign one of the Gilbert rugby balls. Sir John Walker is well known as a former middle distance runner, and is best known for setting his own Guinness World Record™ in August 1975 by being the first person to run the mile in under 3 minutes 50 seconds. During his sporting career, he also held other world records, breaking those for running 1500 metres (indoors) and 2000 metres.
Since then, it has been wonderful to see this reasonably
well-travelled massive bottle cap sculpture come to its final resting place. It
is on display at the correct angle for kick off, where it greets visitors to
the New Zealand Rugby
Museum. No display venue could be more appropriate for a world record
sculpture about a sport which has claimed so many sporting world records around
With great joy, I take pride in knowing my work has landed in a museum of great international stature in the name of rugby, alongside items from the renowned All Blacks. Of all that the ‘ABs’ are recognised for, the global sporting community – including All Black traditional rivals, the Springboks and Wallabies - knows this team’s haka from the Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations.
And now my work is amongst the very museum dedicated to these icons in New Zealand rugby, including contemporary favourites Sonny Bill Williams, Jonah Lomu, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, as well as the sensational Colin Meads.
Could these have become some of the most famous 19,205 metal bottle caps in the world of rugby? Quite possibly yes, with a huge thanks to the wonderful people at Juralco Aluminium Building Products Ltd and www.bkwsu.org.
In addition, excellent contributions came from Resene Automotive, Woods, Chemetall Tergo, Output Images, RJG Carriers Ltd, McDonald's Point Chevalier, Carlton Rhodes, RS Components Limited, Mackenzie Lacquering & Powder Coating 2004 Ltd, GF Appliances and Auram Engineering Ltd.