took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
Their success underpins Alastair's.
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Greatest height to drop gambling machines: 296
This is the story behind my world record for the Greatest height to drop gambling machines.
I will admit this was such an unexpected thing
for someone to do. Certainly in my life, I've never known anyone to
dream up a similar stunt. In this case, I did it for a charity in whose
work I believed. That, as far as I was concerned, warranted a very
strong social message. Not sure what you think, although I am convinced
this world record produced a sufficiently blatant statement. And I'm as
proud as can be.
It all began when I ran my finger down a randomly
opened page in a telephone directory. I called the organisation and
asked if they wanted a world record. Normally, I'm sure, the recipient
of such a call would not wish to deal with the caller. In this case,
however, I was greeted by a warm lady who was very eager to progress
the idea. I couldn't believe my luck – my phone book had produced a
The planning really started when the charity
agreed to proceed. I had to come up with a strategy that would do their
cause justice. We brainstormed and questioned others for weeks until we
settled on my lodging an enquiry for the world record we ended up
breaking. At that early stage, though, nobody was to know what to
expect as the outcome. With caution, we advanced plans on the
understanding that no concrete arrangements could be made until I had
secured the world record details with the world record authority.
Before I'd heard back from the world record
system, we began putting a programme in place. It would be
approximately a year of hard work, needing everyone involved to push
plans forward to keep them alive. This included finding a suitable
helicopter, applying for aviation authority permits, assessing drop
site plans, reviewing weather forecasts, dealing with materials
engineers, adhering to national safety standards and locating the
machines we were to drop. At each step, we encountered more issues that
needed attention and eventually I was managing a spreadsheet that grew
to pages long. Of the jobs that needed seeing to, safety was the
primary concern. As things started developing seriously, I got a
positive reply from the world record system. We could then forge ahead
on plans with full force.
I, and those who assisted me most closely, were
very tired of the admin by the time this event was ready to take place.
But we were still sane, which was the main thing. Everybody was ready
three days before D-day. Then, the weather turned and the world record
attempt was postponed for a week. The next weekend, however, was
looking good. The team followed through.
With a vehicle load of gear, we all arrived at a rubbish dumping site. To us, this was the perfect place to dump a gambling machine. The machines had been especially prepared by a skilled materials engineer who was waiting on the office lawn to tie the load under the allocated helicopter. A regular whipping and rotating noise soon swamped all conversation as the smart red helicopter descended outside the office. As the helicopter hovered, a single machine was tied under it using a rope as thick as one's arm, then it rose straight up.
The idea of this stunt was to raise awareness of The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand and it certainly attracted a lot of media attention. While not all gamblers become addicted to gambling there are some who do. Learn to recognize if you have a problem and whether or not you can engage in responsible gambling. If not seek some help from a professional organization.
Over a dozen spectators, helpers and members of
the media jumped aboard a bus to the open pit. Video cameras were
positioned around the perimeter, and everyone was instructed to obey
their safety induction from where they stood behind the barrier tape.
We had been placed on a knoll, below which was an empty clay-lined
bulldozed pit; pine trees spiked the horizon and narrow tracks wound
their way across the vacant landscape. People waited; small talk filled
rotation became extremely loud as the horizon was broken. Beneath the
helicopter dangled a lone gambling machine, minutes from its certain
fate. I was struck by panic – what if the rope came loose and an
unsuspecting person below was flattened? My heart was thumping. The
helicopter aligned itself vertically over the pit, and lifted its load
higher into the sky. One could actually see the helicopter becoming
smaller as it pulled upwards. A stream of wind passed and the gambling
machine moved to one side, resembling a pendulum in slow motion. The
pilot adjusted. The machine counter-swayed; the pilot adjusted. Two-way
radio communication was then almost constant between the pilot and the
ground crew. Next I heard “Now!” but, keeping my eyes fixed on the
rope, it seemed nothing was happening. Life had frozen for an instant.
No, it hadn't. The rope began twisting and
collapsing on itself, falling freely. The machine reached terminal
velocity and hurtled toward the clay surface. We watched in silence,
and the seconds seemed to pass painstakingly slowly. Next, the dull
boom ricocheted off the angled pit walls and the machine no longer
existed. Too fast for the eye to see, splinters of glass, aluminium,
plastic and metal spread in every direction at phenomenal speed. Glass
tubes were heard exploding from 500m away. Life was all over for the
gambling machine in an instant. A mess that resembled nothing in
particular stretched for metres across the clay. Cheer rose from the
cordoned off knoll and I was ecstatic. In fact, I nearly screamed
myself hoarse from delight.
Once the safety restriction had been lifted and
messages of thanks had been generously exchanged, I collected a piece
of this machine from the mangled debris. It had been a sturdily built
item, but the charity knew how to show who was the winner in the end. I
was mighty pleased to have been the one to arrange much of it. The
sense of satisfaction I felt ran very deep.
This world record appeared on New Zealand
television and in local newspapers, and footage spread across the
internet to much of the northern hemisphere. I knew I'd managed a
worthy project when word got back to New Zealand that problem gamblers
around the world had used the video footage to help them cope as they
worked to free themselves of this habit.