x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Burj Khalifa ‘the most insane jump we ever did’

French daredevils Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet tell The National about their jump from the world’s tallest building, which put them into the Guinness Book of World Records.

French nationals Fred Fugen, right, and Vince Reffet tell of their world base-jump record of 2717 feet from the Burj Khalifa. Clint McLean for The National
French nationals Fred Fugen, right, and Vince Reffet tell of their world base-jump record of 2717 feet from the Burj Khalifa. Clint McLean for The National

“That was special.”

It might seem a bit of an understatement, considering Fred Fugen was referring to his record-breaking base jump from the top of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

On Monday, Mr Fugen and his French compatriot Vince Reffet leapt off the top of the Burj and into Guinness World Records.

“We usually jump from mountains,” Mr Fugen said.

“The main difference with the building is the shape – we were allowed to turn around the points of the building.”

The two circled the building one and a quarter times in 90 seconds – 30 seconds of which were freefall.

“Three years ago when I came [to] Dubai and I saw the Burj, I thought it would be a dream to jump from the tower,” Mr Reffet said.

“This is the most insane jump we ever did. It is a big accomplishment. It is like a dream.

“An idea came and we just put all our energy to make it happen. It is three years of work and a whole team that helped us.”

Beyond the fear of jumping from the 828-metre building, Mr Reffet said he was “focused and concentrated”, and did not want to leave any room for error.

He paid tribute to Dubai and to its Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, for allowing them to make the jump.

“This was an amazing experience in an amazing country and the dream came true,” Mr Reffet said.

“I thank Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed and Nasser Al Neyadi [chairman of Skydive Dubai, which organised the jump] – without them it would never have been possible. They have allowed our dreams to happen.”

Alan Gayton, general manager at Skydive Dubai, said: “Over the past three years, when the event was initially planned, there were many base jumps, base-jump training and helicopter-jump training.

Before the jump, the pair had to climb more than 200 metres of ladders to reach the top, which Mr Gayton said was even harder than the leap.

Nineteen cameras were installed around the Burj on the day to document the event.

“Dubai Film documented it. It was a huge team and there were two helicopters filming,” said Mr Gayton.

Two videographers jumped with them from the “highest point of the pinnacle”.

The safety of everyone was paramount and back-up from the Dubai ambulance service was also present “so every point of safety was covered”, he said.

The event was kept a secret to thrill the audience, Mr Gayton said.

“We wanted the impact of the filming to show the people. It was early morning, so there was less chance of it being leaked,” he said.

“There will be new and more innovative things [to come] – all we can say is watch this space. You will see the high quality [video] will show the world what we are doing here in Dubai.”

Mr Reffet said he “would do it every day” if he could, but now has another dream to realise.

“The next project will involve a high mountain in Europe – that is all we can say.”