There is something irresistible about building a craft and driving it off a high platform into the water. Just ask any one of the teams that participated in Saturday's Red Bull Flugtag (pronounced floog-tog).
"You got to be batty to do this," said Go Batty team founder Nick Melita, whose craft was inspired by DC Comics' Batman. "But when we came together to create the video submitted as part of the application, I realized we had a highly motivated group. The best part was seeing everyone come together towards a common goal."
Go Batty piloted what resembled the Batplane off the ramp and traveled 66.5 feet, not enough to top first place winner Magic Carpet Ride, which went an incredible 138 feet. The record is held by a German team that covered 228 feet in this year's competition at Mainz, Germany. The crafts had to be human powered and could not be pre-fabricated. They were less than 30 feet wide and no more than 450 pounds.
Teams were judged based on distance, creativity and showmanship. Showmanship includes wearing outrageous costumes like those touted by people's choice winners Angry Birds, a team made up of University of Miami engineering students that garnered 6,300 of the 25,000 text message votes. The Oatmeal Effect, from Pompano Beach, placed second to win a jetpack surfing experience. They were followed by the aforementioned Go Batty from West Melbourne, who took home the third prize of hospitality passes for the Ft. Lauderdale Air & Sea Show. Participants ranged from aerospace engineers to bars like Miami's oldest Tobacco Road, which is about to celebrate its 100 year anniversary November 17. Tobacco Road spent about two months working together to build its craft, a birthday cake serenaded by Marilyn Monroe before going 46 feet into the waters below.
"The best part of participating had to be interacting with the crowd," said Tobacco Road's James Gol. "We had a great time competing and working with a great staff Red Bull and a well-produced event.
From many submissions, 30 teams were selected to drive their custom-built craft off a 30-foot high ramps into the welcoming waters of Biscayne Bay. Skydiver and part of the Red Bull Air Force Andy Farmington completed a fantastic maneuver from 5,000 feet up landing on the platform along with fellow team Air Force member Jeff Provenzano.
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"Looking out from above the crowd looked massive," said Farmington about the approximately 90,000 that sat in Bayfront Park, close to the record 110,000 that showed up to the free event in Tampa Bay in 2008. "The crowd was huge, the weather was great and we weren't afraid to fall in the water."
Though the crowd was relatively large, it still was nowhere near the 250,000 that showed up at Hyde Park in London in 2003. The event caused officials to close the centuries old facility, just as a free Rolling Stones concert had years before. The last Flugtag held in Miami, in 2010, attracted around 60,000 spectators. The crowd got really into the show, reacting to every craft and its imminent fall.
"It's a nice event to bring your kids to and enjoy a day at the park," said spectator and downtown resident Alex Pappas. "Gets to be a lot of fun looking at the different types of crafts and then seeing their ultimate destruction."