High risk, high reward: crossing the Thames

The Force is strong with this one – they murmured when German daredevil Franz Burbach crossed the Thames. It is not a remarkable achievement in itself.
But he did so on a tightrope, 100 meters upstream of Southwark Bridge in August 1972.

It was his second attempt; a year earlier he attempted to cross the river but dropped his balancing pole, turning the crossing attempt into a diving show on very short notice.
This time a young lady has jumped onto the cable, dangling for a while before falling into the water with a well-deserved splash. Burbach was determined; he did not let the attention-seeker spoil his show. He carried on and undertook the crossing of the Thames for the first time in history. At least on a rope. Said rope between Bear Wharf and Bull Wharf was a 35 mm diameter cable positioned and installed by us, Vanguard.

It was not the last time our company had aided the real Skywalkers.
In 1997, American highwire walker Jade Kindar-Martin and the French Didier Paquette decided to cross the Thames again. Simultaneously. In opposite directions. Without a safety net, safety nets are for wimps. It is safe to say they have elevated “high risk, high reward” to a whole new level. The 18 mm cable we lifted was 400 meters long and was positioned 30 meters above the water level. With exceptional aid from Special Forces Canoes, numerous cross ties were attached to improve horizontal stability.


Everything was ready to go at seven in the evening. Thousands of spectators and a myriad of TV camera crew held their breath as the two began their dangerous journey towards each other. They met in the middle of the rope where Didier dropped to one knee, allowing safe passage. Then they continued the dramatic skywalk, and at half past seven, reached their destination as dry as a quality vodka martini. They were celebrated with a thunder of applause and fireworks, setting a new Guinness World Record.

That was a really high-class performance!