I’ve won 23 free holidays! Our guide to becoming a competition champ 

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Money Mail revealed last week how interest in competitions and prize draws has boomed during lockdown.

We spoke to two super-successful pros who had won impressive hauls by entering scores of competitions each week. 

Since then, we have been inundated with emails and letters from our own army of competition enthusiasts.

Winning ways: After reporting on how interest in competitions has boomed during lockdown, we have been inundated with emails and letters from our own army of competition enthusiasts

Here, we share a handful of the most incredible success stories — and your top tips for those starting out.

Over the past 35 years Colin Colesell, 77, has won more than 23 holidays, a car and tickets to three football World Cup finals.

In 1990 an electrical wholesaler ran a competition asking entrants to dream up a slogan for the firm. 

The grandfather-of-four’s submission — ‘when you want the best they are poles apart’ — was chosen as the winner and the prize was a trip to the World Cup final in Rome. 

Even better, he travelled by Concorde accompanied by the late footballing legend Bobby Moore.

Over the past 35 years Colin Colesell, 77, has won more than 23 holidays, a car and tickets to three football World Cup finals

Over the past 35 years Colin Colesell, 77, has won more than 23 holidays, a car and tickets to three football World Cup finals

That same month the retired salesman won £5,000 worth of home improvements in a Heineken competition and a trip to Los Angeles after buying a winning video camera from House of Fraser.

Colin, who lives in Portsmouth with his wife Sharon, 67, says his secret is never to give up. He adds: ‘A few friends started entering competitions when they saw the prizes I won. But they got bored of it and stopped when they didn’t win.’

Colin also suggests joining the London Competitors’ Club, which has a £20 annual membership fee. Members share tips and details of competitions.

A TRIP TO VEGAS AND £5K OF GADGETS

Nick Williamson won a five-day trip to Las Vegas after correctly answering the question 'Where did Lennox Lewis last defend his title'

Nick Williamson won a five-day trip to Las Vegas after correctly answering the question ‘Where did Lennox Lewis last defend his title’

Nick Williamson, 63, has been a competition enthusiast for more than 20 years. 

He first started entering regular crossword competitions in You magazine in the mid-1980s but didn’t win a prize until a £25 runner’s-up cheque landed on his doormat in 2008.

However, he won a five-day trip to Las Vegas in 1999 after correctly answering the question ‘Where did Lennox Lewis last defend his title’ in a Mail competition (answer: Madison Square Garden).

And in 2009 he won a £10,000 conservatory in a competition on local radio station Wave 105 that required him to guess how many cardboard boxes could fit in a storage facility.

His guess of 665 was just one off the correct answer.

Nick, who works in IT support, also struck lucky in 2006 when he submitted his favourite Christmas song — Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree — to Virgin Radio’s website, winning £5,000 worth of Sony gadgets.

At his keenest, the father-of-two would enter 60 competitions a week. Now, he enters around ten a week.

Nick, who lives in Hampshire with his wife Melanie, 55, says: ‘I enter as many draws and competitions as possible. Somebody has to win.’

His top tip is to enter radio station competitions multiple times online to increase your odds. He also suggests signing up for free trials of competition websites such as Simply Prizes and Coffee Break Winner.

I flew right into history

Brian Barnett's won a seat on the first non-stop flight to New York

Brian Barnett’s won a seat on the first non-stop flight to New York

Brian Barnett’s first-ever competition entry saw him become a part of aviation history.

In 1958, Brian, left, then a 22-year-old buyer for Esso, spotted a Daily Express competition offering one reader the chance to win a seat on the first non-stop flight to New York, on BOAC’s DH106 Comet 4 jet airliner.

All he had to do was come up with a slogan. Brian, now 83, settled on ‘Comet 4, ace of space, in the transatlantic race’ and sent it to the newspaper’s office in Fleet Street written on the back of a filing card. The next day he received a call declaring him the winner.

Brian, who lives in Bromley, South-East London, says: ‘To me this was the other side of the world and I wanted to make the most of it. 

It was the first time I ever saw a colour TV or parking meter or went to a supermarket.

‘The prize was the highlight of my life and I am lucky to be regularly reminded of it. 

Last year British Airways featured me — alongside the Queen and photographer David Bailey — in its High Life magazine to celebrate 100 years of aviation.’    

I’D SCOOP PRIZES EVERY MONTH

Financial adviser Richard Allin had a tremendous winning streak in the 1990s.

At the time he was entering around ten competitions a week in magazines and newspapers, winning prizes almost every month, including a year’s supply of nappies, a mountain bike and a £400 camera. 

But his biggest wins were courtesy of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday prize draws.

In 1999 the father-of-two won a trip to New York with his wife IIona, 58, on the new Concorde. Three years before that he bagged a 14-day cruise around the Canary Islands.

As his children got older, Richard, 65, who lives in Chippenham, Wiltshire, found he was too busy to enter as many competitions but plans to pick it up with renewed focus when he retires this year. His tip is to go for competitions that don’t take up too much time.

How to get started 

Try websites such as Simply Prizes and Coffee Break Winner. 

They charge annual subscription fees of £67 and £49 respectively but offer three-month free trials. Websites loquax.co.uk and compersnews.com also round up opportunities.

Competitions expert Di Coke lists competitions and instant wins on her website superlucky.me.

Check out MoneySavingExpert’s Competitions Time thread or Lucky Learners on Facebook.

Set up a dedicated email address for competition entries to avoid being bombarded with junk mail.  

He says: ‘I prefer just submitting my name and address or answering a simple question.’

WINNING STREAK… OVER 60 YEARS

Naomi Younge, 80, has been entering competitions for decades, winning everything from hampers to grooming kits for her cat.

However, her favourite prize to this day is still the three-quarter-length ranch mink coat she won more than 60 years ago. 

Aged just 17, she had entered a poem into a competition run by Jackie magazine and was notified of her success by telegram.

The coat was presented to her by singer Jess Conrad. But Naomi, who lives in Hailsham, East Sussex, says her mother was so worried about the publicity and burglars that they ended up selling it for £1,000 and using the money for a family holiday.

She says: ‘The coat was lovely but very heavy.

‘And where would a 17-year-old wear it? It would have cost a fortune to keep in storage.’

Naomi, a retired PA, has continued to enter competitions, focusing on those advertised in magazines and newspapers.

She used to enter six or seven a month but has entered fewer since lockdown because she has not been able to get out.

Her top tip is to go for competitions where you need to use your brain. She says: ‘You have got to be original and try and get the judge’s attention.’

a.murray@dailymail.co.uk

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