Since first being published in 1955, the Guinness World Records book has sold over 120 million copies to date in over 100 countries, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The newly-released 2013 edition comes packed with 3D technology, info-graphics and over 3,000 mind-blowing records; ranging from the amazing (oldest couple to run a marathon, at 83 and 78); to the costly (most expensive toilet, Nasa’s Endeavour, $23.4 million); to the downright weird (most watermelons smashed with a head in one minute).
We caught up with the Australia/NZ representative of Guinness World Records, Chris Sheedy, about the book and what it takes to be a record-holder. In addition to looking after all the PR and media for the region, Chris is also the official adjudicator, and attends any major record-making or breaking events that take place. When Australia took the prize for the biggest toga party and longest bikini parade, Chris was there. “I did adjudicate the biggest toga party and I personally counted the ladies in the largest bikini parade – they were both wonderful events.”
Less wonderful, but certainly as interesting are some of the odder events he has attended. “There’s an element of strangeness to most events I attend, but the record for most watermelons smashed with the head (which was broken in Chinchilla, Queensland, a few years ago) stands out as one of the more memorable. Having said that, a lot of the things we adults take seriously are pretty strange, too. Butterfly swimming, dressage… Guinness World Records celebrates the imagination of children, and to kids everything is wonderful and of equal importance.”
His personal favorite record is to witness so far was in 2008, standing on the landing ramp at Calder Park Raceway as Robbie Maddison landed the world’s longest motorcycle jump, at a distance of 106.9 metres. “It’s such a classic record – I had goosebumps.”
The 2013 book isn’t just about documenting exciting new events and records, it’s also expected to set some. “Our readership, and the book industry to an extent, expects us to lead the way when it comes to technology, and to books becoming more interactive. We constantly use technology to make the records more accessible, understandable and exciting.”
This year’s Guinness World Records book is pushing the boundaries of interaction and text, with new 3D technology, augmented reality, and the digital bonus chapter, Chris explains. “Download an simple app then point it at specific pages in the book and see the book come alive. For example, on one page the world’s biggest spider climbs out of the page, on another the world’s shortest man wanders around the page. It’s wonderful and amazing and slightly unsettling all at once!”
The 2013 book is a fascinating read, and after a few pages it’s hard not to start imagining ways to get your own name into the book. Chris isn’t immune to the appeal of setting a record. “During my first week 13 years ago I found a record I knew I could break – most grapes eaten with a teaspoon in 60 seconds. I set it up one lunchtime and no sooner had I started than the Keeper Of The Records came up and shut it down. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that GWR staff are never involved in the breaking of a record.”
If you’d like to see your own name in the book, through breaking a current record or inventing and setting a brand new one, Chris’s advice is be prepared. “Apply as soon as possible through Guinesss World Records website. It’s quick, easy and free (costs can be involved if you require a corporate adjudication) and it means the guidelines for the specific record will be sent out to you so you can follow the rules. After that, train with great passion and enjoy becoming the best in the world at whatever it is you’re attempting!”