Well, if anyone were to be labelled as crazy, it would have to be the Irish. Crazy enough to build a paper maché� monstrosity, attach wheels, strap on a human and push it off the end of a pier? You bet. This is the Red Bull Flugtag, and it was held this year in Limerick.
The idea, in case it isn't obvious, is to fly. In this case, the runway was on one side of the Shannon, and the target was the opposite bank. This being the middle of the Irish summer, it was almost as warm as Brisbane's winter. That means, apart from anything else, that the River Shannon was still sodding cold, and nobody really wanted to end up in it. (Incidentally, it was actually quite a sunny day, and there was much, much pale, Irish skin crisping in the sun. But I digress.)
Competitors are allowed pretty much any sort of flying machine, with only two real caveats: it can't have any more than a set wingspan, and it can't store energy. Not in any form. Petrol, diesel, rockets, compressed air, clockwork and even elastic are all out. All that's allowed to power it is human endeavour.
The Irish, never the ones to miss out on a bit of silliness, nonetheless demonstrated the fact that they've raised tomfoolery to an art form. Every team was in costume (we even had Smurfs walking around in the crowd), everyone had some sort of pantomime or dance to go with their launch, and everyone - almost without exception - crashed straight off the end of the pier into the water.
Given a six-metre drop, the farthest that any team managed to.. err.. fly... was ten metres. It doesn't sound like much, but that particular effort almost got a standing ovation from the crowd.
Some of the acts were more weird and creepy than fun and entertaining. I think the bloke from Icon (one of the very few local night clubs) managed to scare away almost all the hetero punters after his dancing-in-a-thong act, and the Spongebob Squarepants act, although it actually managed to fly a bit, nonetheless still engendered the urge in almost all male spectators to smack the sodding thing silly.
Notable entries included Buzz Lightyear, a remarkably faithful rendition of the Pixar character; the Flying Scotsman (more on that later) and, of course, this being Ireland, innumerable variations on the theme of flying pork.
The "Most Ingenious" award has to go to The Flying Scotsman. The team didn't actually push the contraption off the end of the pier; instead, they concealed a launch ramp and pulley system inside the beastie, and used mechanical advantage and the mass of all the other team members to spit their pilot out of the front of the vehicle. Yep; they harnessed themselves to the launch mechanism and then jumped off the pier. Only in Ireland...
As an added bonus for the spectators, there was supposed to be an air show scheduled for the same weekend. I say "supposed to be" because it was cancelled at the last minute due to a dispute between the hosting county council and the event organisers. Apparently, although the organisers had arranged for a permit to hold the show, they were required to also obtain a permit for all the spectators to actually spectate. Again, only in Ireland...
The upshot of all of this, however, is that the Red Bull crowd managed to poach the skydivers who were booked for the air show and have them at the Flugtag instead. More entertainment = more fun, I guess..
Towards the end of the day, it was noticed that this whole water thing was actually becoming a bit thin on the ground. Yep, that's right: the tide had gone out, and the Shannon was now too dangerous to drop people into any more. Only in Ireland...