Kiwi birdman chases world title

By Michael Dickison

Wingsuit race in Brazil a breathtaking test for 64 top international competitors.

Dan Vicary during a flight using a wingsuit. He hopes to bring home the World Wingsuit Race title next month. Photo / Dan Vicary
Dan Vicary during a flight using a wingsuit. He hopes to bring home the World Wingsuit Race title next month. Photo / Dan Vicary

The world's first large-scale wingsuit race has selected a Kiwi to be one of its top competitors.

Dan Vicary will jump off a mountain in Brazil next month in the World Wingsuit Race competition, set to feature 64 flyers racing two at a time, as in a drag-car race.

Wingsuits have been growing in prominence, with improving technology and record speeds reaching over 300 km/h.

The competition in Brazil will be a timed race at a higher elevation to cross a finish line before parachuting down to marked landing spots.

Vicary says the suits give 100 per cent control in the air.

"It's exactly how you might imagine: you jump off the cliff, spread your arms and legs, and you're a bird. You can fly."

He has based himself in Switzerland, where cable cars and designated ramps carry base jumpers to the tops of cliffs. The facilities allow two or three jumps in wingsuits every day, he says.

For safety, he has limited himself to trying just 20 per cent of what he may be capable of - it is important, he says, to "not let the ego get in the way".

Vicary got into the sport through skydiving, which he first tried in Methven nine years ago.

The prerequisite for trying wingsuits is 200 skydives, he says.

At first, the experience is like driving a car for the first time.

"It'll seem really busy. But the better you get, you can reach over and change the radio station and enjoy the experience."

He still gets nerves when he reaches the jump-off points at the edges of cliffs.

"I still have the fear. That's what keeps you alive."

But once in the air, it all feels natural, he says.

Selection for the World Wingsuit Race was "by reputation", Vicary says - everyone who flies wingsuits knows one another.

The race in Brazil will be the biggest world competition yet, he says, and he hopes to bring home the title as the only New Zealander competing.

www.danvicary.com

- NZ Herald

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