A palpable mix of trepidation and excitement was in the air at Collins Barracks on Saturday morning as 166 students set off to far-flung destinations for Jailbreak 2017.
The two teams dressed in fairy outfits, orange prison jumpsuits and Sherlock Holmes costumes will have 36 hours to reach a secret destination, the name of which will be revealed in a series of clues over the next day and a half.
Participants had to raise €400 for the event's charity partners Amnesty International and the Society of St Vincent de Paul to qualify for a place on the starting grid, and although pairs are unable to use any of their own money teams have ended up as far afield as Argentina, Indonesia and Australia in previous editions.
Sporting some trendy headwear, team Fedora the Explorer from Trinity College were the welcome recipients of a 10-minute advantage ahead of their competitors due to their achievement of raising nearly seven times the required donation.
"We're hoping to go to Eindhoven, it's cheaper than Amsterdam, get to Europe and sort ourselves out from there," said team member Mark Perham, who will be travelling with his Business and French course colleague Liam Cronin.
“We’ve got a bit of money put aside from sponsors we’ve had before so we’ll use that and then just beg as we’ll go along. We’re excited to get going because it’s been a long time in the making. We don’t really know where we’re going to end up and if we’ll get to the final destination,” Cronin added.
Festooned in tricoloured attire and clutching an assortment of musical instruments, Ailsa McGuinness and Tess McGlynn from Dundalk will be relying on the kindness of strangers to get them out of the country and to the mysterious final location.
“We have a few plans on the way but it’s winging it. We have the ukulele, a tin whistle and we’ll sing a few songs on the way and we’ll see how far we get. We’ll knock a bit of craic out of it,” said UCD student McGuinness.
Dressed as Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Watson, the UCD pair of David Deignan and Mark Clerkin are hoping to channel the legendary duo's detective skills as they figure out a series of cryptic clues along the way.
“We’re going to get as far as Amsterdam and then it just depends. Looks can be deceiving, despite wearing Sherlock Holmes costumes we’re not very good at deciphering anything! We just wanted to get off the island,” said Deignan.
Sam McMahon from Trinity's St Vincent de Paul Society himself came within 20 minutes of winning the competition two years ago when he reached the finish line at Lake Bled in Slovenia.
Now in its fifth year, McMahon said the event is expected to raise well in excess of €50,000 which will go towards supporting services for the homeless as well as for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Interested observers can follow the teams’ progress on JailbreakRace.com, and can send a €4 donation by texting Jailbreak to 50300.