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12:30 - 08 April 2004

The Trip of a lifetime lies ahead for a North Lincolnshire man - after he scooped a top prize in a competition he had never knowingly entered.

Derek Spicer, of Warley Road, Scunthorpe, paid 35 to a website which automatically selects and enters him in 500 competitions a year. The top trip to China was first prize in a competition with the British Library and will allow him to take in the Great Wall, Ming Tombs and the Forbidden City.

The website Derek had signed up to,, uses unique software called Automated Competition Engine to enter its members into hundreds of competitions every year.

Each of its members, who pay the 34.95 12-month subscription, are sent a weekly e-mail to notify them about the competitions they have entered.

And the company claims it has won its members new cars, mobile phones, digital cameras, holidays and laptop computers.

Derek had only been signed up with the company a few months when he received a letter from the British Library to say he had won a competition in conjunction with their Chinese Printmaking exhibition.

Before this, Derek had never been any further than Jersey on holiday.

He said: "China is one of the places in the world I would really like to go.

"I couldn't believe it when I got the letter, so I phoned them up to check it and it turned out to be genuine - I was chuffed." he added.

Derek, who makes roof trusses at Howarth Timber, said he had been entering competitions with various internet companies for about five years and had never won before.

He explained was the only one which actually entered him into competitions.

The other companies just notified him about forthcoming ones so he could enter himself.

The trip, courtesy of the China Travel and Information Centre Ltd, includes a four-night stay in Beijing and three-nights in Xi'an - staying in four-star hotels.

Derek's sister, Susan Macdonald is accompanying him and they will also visit Xi'an's Terracotta Museum and Shaanxi Provincial History Museum.

Derek won the competition because his entry was the first correct answer to be drawn at random.

A spokesman for the British Library said: "The competition was open to all that attended the Library's Chinese Woodblock Prints exhibition at St Pancras in London, and via the Library's website at

"We are delighted Derek has won the prize, and wish him a happy and enjoyable holiday in China."

The next competition at the British Library will accompany their forthcoming Silk Road exhibition.

The prize will include a tour of eight Chinese cities and tickets for the overnight soft sleeper train from Beijing to Xi'an and Jia Pass to Turpan. To enter visit from May 7.

What is the name of the world's earliest dated, printed book? THE DIAMOND SUTRA

How many years ago was printing invented in China? 1,500 YEARS AGO

3. What is the capital city of China? BEIJING