Shoreham Beach is made up of shingle, and the first few hundred yards of Stage 54 of our walk were a trudge. After a short while, however, we were walking more easily, having arrived at a thoughtfully placed plastic boardwalk.
At one stage, for a bit of variety, we headed off the beach and walked along a short road behind some beach huts. There we found a Gaudi-esque bench, mosaic in design and looking comfortable and yet uncomfortable in its surroundings, in approximately equal measure. We quite enjoyed it; someone had gone to quite a lot of work to make it.
This was not the only noticeable bench we found today. A short while later, as we entered South Lancing, we saw a wooden seat on the shingle beach. It was in the design of a surfboard and had a plaque: “In Memory Of Our Friend Mark Dare: 6-10-84 to 22-6-06“. Engraved into the timber upstands were the words, “Who Dares Wins“.
We have passed numerous benches which have been dedicated to numerous people. Every now and again, however, I feel as if I would like to know a little more about the person and why the bench is there. This was one of those occasions.
Mark Dare was a student at Bristol University and joined their skydiving club. On the 21 June 2006 he was at Gap, in France. He jumped out of the aircraft and had what they tend to call an “uneventful” skydive. His canopy opened normally. However, for some reason or another he performed a low turn when coming in to land.
Low turns are dangerous. To either side of the parachutist under canopy are the main risers which eventually become all of the separate lines leading up to the canopy itself. Attached to each of the two rear risers are toggles which are both the steering mechanism and the brakes. Pulling on the left one pulls down the rear left corner of the parachute itself. The air passing through the left cells of the canopy meets added resistance from the rear left corner, whilst the air passing through the right hand cells continues unimpeded. The result is that the left hand side of the parachute slows down whilst the right side does not: the parachute turns to the left. At the same time the rear left of the canopy is pushed upwards by the air which is now being deflected downwards by the corner. The canopy ends up facing in more of a downwards direction, so you also lose height whilst making the turn.
The turn of the parachute will swing the person underneath outwards, so if the parachute turns left then you will swing out to the right. When you release the toggle, both parts of the canopy fly at equal speed again. The canopy levels out and the person underneath swings back down underneath it again. It is a little like being a pendulum.
Low turns are dangerous. If you turn too late then you level out too late, and swing back under the canopy too late. This is all well and good when you are 1,000 feet up in the air, but when the ground is close it can sometimes get in the way as you swing back in, and it is unforgiving. I do not know the exact circumstances of Mark Dare’s final flight, but it appeared he just turned too low. He was taken to Grenoble Hospital where he died the following day.
This was his 99th jump. His next would have been his 100th and a cause for celebration. Bristol University Skydiving Club now awards the Mark Dare Award at the end of each academic year to the most improved skydiver. Mark Dare is also remembered by this well-crafted bench.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Gaudi-esque Bench: N 50° 49.646 W 000° 16.699
- Approximate Location of Mark Dare Bench (not shown in Google Earth): N 50° 49.593 W 000° 17.010
Walk #54 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):
- Date of Walk: 31 May 2013
- Walk #54 total distance covered: 9.72 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 445.64 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!