Racing on a wing and a prayer
An Invercargill skydiver and base jumper will fly the flag for New Zealand at the World Wingsuit Race in Brazil next month.
Dan Vicary was chosen to take part in the event on February 8 after proving to organisers he was among the best in the world at the extreme sport.
Wingsuit racers jump from cliffs as high as 2000 metres, gliding as fast as they can before parachuting, at a planned altitude, covering one kilometre in about 30 seconds.
They wear specially designed batlike jumpsuits, which add surface area to the human body to create a significant increase in lift.
Mr Vicary said base jumping had evolved into flying the human body far and fast while opening a parachute very high, which was a sign of a good wingsuit flyer.
"By shaping your body like a ski jumper, we are able to ‘fly' through the sky and, with the latest wingsuit technology, the human body can now cover amazing distance before we have to open our parachutes," he said.
Mr Vicary will compete against 64 of the most skilled, experienced wingsuit pilots in the world.
"It's almost like drag racing for cars; we will jump off side by side."
The competition would test his speed, accuracy and distance when flying off a cliff, he said.
He was proud to be the only Kiwi pilot competing in the race, and he would be thrilled to bring the title home.
Often the places where he jumped were as intimidating as the jump itself, he said.
"You have to break the fear barrier each time you do it, it never goes away. That's what keeps it real and keeps you alive," he said.
Mr Vicary, who works as a tandem skydiver in Switzerland, has been jumping for seven years, travelling the world, training for bigger and better jumps.
"I am passionate about human flight. I do it every day".
The sport encouraged pioneering personalities to push the boundaries of human flight to impossible lengths, he said.
Living in Europe had enabled him to step up his skill level because he was surrounded by some of the world's best wingsuit pilots.
He looked forward to returning to Southland in November, when he would try to jump from some spots that had never been flown from before.
Time magazine named the batlike suit one of the best inventions of 2012.
The first ever Wingsuit Flying World Championship was held in China in October. Mr Vicary did not compete.
- © Fairfax NZ News