Leap of faith. Two dangerous sport enthusiasts jump from Ely Cathedral in a mission that had been planned for three years
- Credit: Archant
Two professional base jumpers leapt from the West Tower of Ely Cathedral shocking visitors as they landed on Palace Green by parachute on Sunday.
The extreme sport enthusiasts from Cambridge told cathedral staff afterwards they had spent three years planning the jump from West Tower.
The duo bought tickets for the tower tour and climbed 288 steps up the 66 metre high tower carrying their parachutes in back packs before breaking away from the main group led by a tour guide.
Most visitors leave their bags at the first level of the tower tour because the steps to the final climb become narrow.
Concerns would not have been raised, however, as their parachute sacks will have looked like a tourist’s rucksack.
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Once they had landed the pair ran away from the cathedral down The Gallery.
The jump has been described as extremely dangerous by a cathedral spokesman but because they had bought tickets, costing £14.50 each for the tour, they were not trespassing, so legally there was nothing they could do.
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Cathedral staff spoke to both men later in a telephone conversation in which they said they took their sport seriously and had been planning it for three years.
The Ely Cathedral website says that: “At 215 feet high, the West Tower of Ely Cathedral, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, dominates the Fenland landscape for miles around.
“Whether or not it is, as claimed, possible to see the tower from almost every church in the diocese, the view from the top is well worth the climb.”
Base jumping is considered by many as a fringe dangerous sport. The word is derived from the four categories of objects that can be jumped from - buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
The legal issues that a jumper must consider concern permissions to use the object from where the jump is made and the area used for landing.
A spokesman for a BASE jump information website said: “Surreptitious BASE jumps are often made due to the general reluctance of the owners of these objects to allow their object to be used as a platform means many such BASE jumps are attempted covertly.
“Jumpers who are caught can expect to be charged with trespassing, as well as having charges like breaking and entering, reckless endangerment, vandalism, or other such charges pressed against them.”
UK-based training company, Freefall University, which teaches base jumping, advises that people must first be accomplished skydivers.
“A sound understanding of parachuting techniques is essential. You need to be thoroughly conversant with such things as body positions, canopy flight, and canopy landings. By the time you’ve completed 200 sky dives, you should be capable of consistently landing your canopy inside a 30′ diameter circle.
“This is a critical factor in base jumping because of its notoriously bad landing areas, more often than not strewn with trees, rocks and other hazards.
“Base jumping without having first learned how to sky dive is not a smart idea, it can easily get you injured or killed.”
A base jumping information website reckons 107 people have died since 1981 in the name of the sport.