Saturday, May 31, 2014

First ever wingsuit flight at Mt Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: The region’s first ever flyby using a wingsuit will take place as part of the fourth annual Expedition Mt Kinabalu to be held August 15-17.

The annual event raises awareness about Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common fatal childhood genetic disease. It has become a showcase of both Sabah’s natural treasures and community kindness, and is organized by Sabahan Catherine Jayasuriya, the founder and executive director of international charity Coalition Duchenne.

The expedition featured in her 2013 award winning documentary Dusty’s Trail: Summit of Borneo.

Capturing the essence of the event, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the Guinness World Record Greatest Living Explorer said, “Boys with Duchenne have challenges even I cannot imagine and this climb is a great way to celebrate their spirit”.

The expedition has grown each year to become a significant part of Sabah’s international event calendar. It shows that Sabah can be a focus for international media attention and serve to make a difference on global issues.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and the Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun recognized that importance when he met Jayasuriya’s son Dusty Brandom, who is now 21, at the inaugural event in 2011.

“I told Catherine when she interviewed me for her film that we welcome her and Dusty back home. This is the place of their ancestors. Dusty is the epitome of courage and he puts a face on disability. A child in the kampung who faces obstacles like Dusty can find hope in what he has achieved. Here in Sabah, we respond to global themes and causes. Catherine is a mother, a filmmaker, a philanthropist, and a Sabahan who is making a difference in the world. We are very happy that she has come home and shared this event,” said Masidi.

This year, over 100 international climbers will take part in Expedition Mt  Kinabalu. A historic wingsuit flyby by two professional wingsuit pilots adds to the excitement. Wingsuit flying is the sport of “flying” while wearing a special suit with air filled wings.

Coalition Duchenne has worked in collaboration with Squirrel, a manufacturer of wingsuits, to develop a bright red Coalition Duchenne wingsuit, which has been worn by wingsuit pilots around the world to promote awareness for Duchenne.

Wingsuit pilots participate in a challenging, dangerous sport and can relate to the losses experienced by the Duchenne community.

In March 2014, one of the most experienced, professional wingsuit pilots, New Zealander Dan Vicary, lost his life in a tragic accident in the Swiss Alps where he lived.

Dan was strongly committed to the Coalition Duchenne cause and had planned to travel to Sabah to take part in Expedition Mt Kinabalu 2014.

His wife, Lisa Hutchins, will travel from Switzerland to Sabah to fulfill his dream. Also supporting Lisa, honoring Dan, and flying for the cause, is his friend, Australian Chris “Douggs” McDougall, a world champion wingsuit pilot and BASE jumper.

Current plans call for two wingsuit flights. One will be the first ever flight in Sabah and will be from a helicopter above Kota Kinabalu. The wingsuit pilots will cross the sky above the city and land at a yet to be determined public location.

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