Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Big Wednesday (part 2)

A picture of the Beautiful Gold Coast!! I went to a quarry just on the southwestern of town and hit a light 200 fpm climb and took it back to 4,000ft asl. I then pushed west trying to get out of the strong NE wind that funnels up the valley to Toowomba and then spills over the hill into the flatlands. This wind claims many pilots including myself and has ended lots of potential record days. I soon hit another climb that was all broken and drifted slowly to the west in rough mixing air. The climbs stayed rough and low until I reached Dalby and was rewarded with a 1,000 fpm thermal to 8,000ftasl. It was about now that I was feeling sick after all that bad air I had just been flying through. I was in a don’t really care attitude so I was going on long glides trying to land cause I thought that I would not make the distance. Ant my driver told me not to give up and to keep going, this is exactly what you need to make these long flights possible. If you have a driver right below you and they are telling you to keep going you have to go so I did. After drinking some more water from my camelbak I started feeling better and before I knew it I was at Chinchilla (300kms) from launch. I do a quick time check and see that it is 2pm and I still have 4 hrs 30 mins of daylight left, at 50kph I could go close to the 500km mark. There is a light Sse wind on the ground and cloudbase is around 9,000 ft asl and some bands of high cloud rolling through. I was not stopping for anything under 500fpm and was mostly getting rewarded with 6-800fpm. As I approach Miles I can see that the conditions look better to the north and that straight west towards Roma was dark high cloud and less cu’s. I also knew that there were lots of forest to the north of Miles and I did not want to get stopped by flying somewhere that had no landings. I decided to keep going toward Roma down the main Highway for a easy retrieve. Once topping out on the next thermal I could see that it was looking worse to the west and that I had to fly more NW to avoid over shading. I noticed that there was not much forest now to my NW west so I veered off the road at the 370km mark. I went on a long glide and was starting to get low when I noticed two Wedge Tailed eagles climbing off to my left. I was rewarded with a strong 900fpm back to just over 9,000ft asl. There was now a cloud street starting to form up in front of me so I pushed on trying to get as far as I could in the last good part of the day. Half way down the street the sun started to disappear behind a front that was approaching me from the west. This now meant that I had lost my sunshine 1-hour earlier than planned. I was now at the 420km mark and knew that I would be lucky to get more than 2 or 3 thermals before my flight would come to a end. I glide to one last good looking cloud and arrive there to find 300fpm climb as I was getting higher I searched it out more and found 600fpm. As I reach cloudbase I can see that there is only one wispy cloud about 20kms in front of me and then just a thick dark sky to the horizon. I tucked my arms in and pulled full rope on my Litespeed S 4 knowing I need to conserve as much height as possible on this glide. I arrive at the 456km mark and hit a 200 up at 5,000ft asl and will spend my next 20 minutes there trying to get enough height to break the record. I was at least 90 percent sure that this would be my last glide for the day so I needed to stay there as long as I was climbing. I was now desperately trying to figure out how much height I would need to break the record. I did some sums in my head and figured out that at 15:1 I would need to get to 8,800ft before I could go. Moments later the thermal comes to a end and I am only at 8,100ft asl. I Start thinking about the final glide a had at Gulgong on the the 214kms task and start believing that I am in fact going to get a better glide than 15:1. With a big deep breath I pull my rope on for the last time today, tuck my arms into my matrix race and navigate my way from my Garmin 76cs. I tell Ant on the radio where I was heading but there were not too many roads, so I quickly tell him that if I land and he cannot hear me find a phone and call home. I figured this would be my backup plan incase my radio went flat or I was out of reach. I am soon getting lower and the pressure is building fast as the record still lays some 15kms in front of me. I notice that I am getting a better glide and am gaining some valuable distance. I now calculate my landing position and believe that I will go really close to my previous record. I notice the ground is rising and I start to get a good afternoon glide down low. I see a farmhouse coming up on my right and fly past there to what was to be a small road named duck creek. I am now staring at my GPS and I see 497kms tick over and a big sigh of relief knowing that I am beating the record and I am still flying. At the 498kms I fly over the little dirt road trying to make the 500km mark I unzip my harness and fly straight ahead down a fence line leading to know where. It is amazing how long it takes for 1km to tick over on the GPS finally the 499km shows up. I am prepared to turn low as this was the only choice I was going to have due to my height. I am now just about to give up on the 500 as I need to turn to get back into the light breeze below me. Just as I turn at about 20 feet I see the GPS click over to 500kms. I land coming out of the turn and did not even crash. I quickly jumped out of my harness and looked around to see nothing but a fence and about 30 cows. I gave a big scream out of excitement but that scared away my only audience that I had to share this great memory. I packed up quickly knowing that I needed to walk out to the road some 2kms away in hopes of finding someone. I am now walking out to the road and am lucky enough to find out that I can drive into my glider and harness. Once on the road I was able to hear Ant on the radio. He said that he had directions to find me so I just waited and called him every 5-10 minutes to make sure we had contact. It seemed that he had been driving for ages and was not getting any closer. I asked him for his co-ordinates and figured out his position compared to mine. He was nearly 40kms away and in a strange place so I told him just to drive to Injune the closest town and see if he could get some fuel and directions there. It was now getting dark and I had lost contact with Ant so I decided to walk towards the last farmhouse that I saw. It was pitch black and I was using the torch on my phone to find me way up this rocky dirt road. There was now a lightning show happening behind me and there was that smell in the air of rain approaching. This made me walk even faster toward a glow of house lights in the distance. About 1 km from the house I notice the lights turn off and my heart drops thinking now the landowners are going to be asleep and wake up to me at their door. This is not the best way to make friends or try and tell them that you have just flown in a aircraft without an engine from the Gold Coast. So I was trying to figure out how I was going to go about my next part of the journey when all of a sudden I see some lights coming up the driveway behind me. Yes this was now going to be easy a nice lady pulled up and said” what in the world are you doing out here” I told her the story and she invited me back to their house. Judi went inside the house to wake up her husband Neville as he had just gone to sleep and the both invited me into what seemed like heaven. I now knew that I was in good arms and had a place to sleep if all else failed. I asked to borrow their UHF base set and was able to make contact with Ant who was now in Injune but there were no fuel stations open and I was still about 30 kms away from him. Neville quickly offered me some fuel that would get us back to Roma where there was 24 hr fuel. Ant got some really detailed instructions and 40 mins later he was arriving at the front door. After a quick bite to eat, some water and a top of fuel the Heinricks were waving goodbye to us. It was now time to get the glider and start on our 7-hour journey back home. I got the glider and harness and we were now on our way back to Chinchilla to pick up Dave Stevens who had landed there breaking his P.B. As we drive into town at 1am we try and call Dave on the radio and there is no reply. We knew that he was at the Laundromat but drove through town and had somehow missed the Laundromat. So I turned around and went slowly back through town and found him asleep inside with a box of OMO as a pillow. He woke up to the sound of the car horn and was now half awake and stumbled into the car. We found his glider just outside of town and then I made him drive to Toowoomba as I needed to have a sleep. I soon woke up in Toowoomba and it was now my turn to drive the last 3hrs home. We arrived back in Canungra at 4:30 am where I dropped off OMO and then made the 30 min drive back up the windy mountain to home a place that holds the longest flight from a mountain in the world. I arrived home to a nice sunrise and sat down and had breakfast or should I say dinner before stumbling out to my bed at 6am for a well-deserved sleep. Looking back at it now thinking about being in Perth and the journeys I had to take to make it home to get this chance of breaking a record. Then after completing the task it seems unbelievable to me that I achieved what I had set out to do 3 days earlier. I would like to thank laura from Perth for letting me leave my holiday early and to Lee for getting me on the virgin flight back to Sydney, Red bull for delivering me with energy to make this all possible and moyes for giving me the equipment necessary to break such a record. A big thank-you to Ant for driving for me as without him there I definitely would not have done the record and flown over the places I did to make it possible.
Friday, December 08, 2006

Big Wednesday( part 1)

After just competing in Gulgong classic I weas off to perth for a holiday. This will be the first trip I have had without my glider or harness for a long time. All was going well until I heard about the rumors of some possible record days coming up back home. I was then studying the weather map constantly over the weekend knowing that from my position it was going to be at least 2 days journey home, so I needed to predict the future. It was on monday morning that I woke up in Perth and checked the weather again and decided that either tuesday or wednesday would be the best days. I now had one slight problem my plane ticket was booked for tuesday to fly back to Sydney and that meant me missing the chance to break the record. I quickly asked if it would be alright to go home early for a random crack at the record. I got the all imortant yes and I was straight on the phone to see if I could get on a flight that was leaving in 2 hrs back to Sydney. I managed to make the flight by just a few minutes and was now soon boarding the Virgin Blue flight to Sydney. When I arrived in Sydney I tried to talk Dave seib into driving some 10 hrs up to the Canungra and try for a record on wednesday. I had finally convinced him and our bags were packed and ready to leave bright and early the next morning.We drove to the factory and dave had decided that he would not be able to make it as he had to much work to do. So I quickly loaded up before sunrise and I was off to Queensland. I called home early in the morning to see what the weather was like and big jon told me it was looking good and he was going for it. I drove for 10 hrs twitching and making the odd phone call to see how he was progressing in fear that I might have been a day late. I arrived home and still no word of big jon but just after 3pm my phone rang and it was big Jon, a big sigh of relief knowing that my record was still safe.He had wound down at Dalby (220kms) after not having a driver and going to slow to break the record he gave up on the day. So I went for another 5 hour drive to pick him up to make it a total of 1400kms of driving that I did for the day. Arriving back home I soon found my long lost bed and had about 6hrs sleep. I woke up to about a 10-15knts SE and was now ready the phone was ringing constantly and soon there were about 8 pilots all set up on the hill by 8am. Davo was first to launch folowed closely by me and Enda in the paraglider. It took us about 20 minutes to climb out and soon we were heading over the back at 8:30am. I went a slightly different way to Davo and Enda and was rewarded with a good climb back to 3800ft. I just tried to stay in front of the big shade line behind me as I went through what would be one of the most challening parts of the flight. I had to do a bit of zig zagging through the Baudesert area to reach the foothills on the other side where the next clouds were.This section claimed Davo and Enda as they got stuck low in the shade. I then had a pretty good run through the Boonah valley and was soon at Boonah T in 1hr (50kms)so things were not looking to bad. I tried to push quite hard but I had very little tailwind and the climbs were not great. Arriving at Toowomba base was still low and it was mostly blue with just the odd cloud accross the Great Dividing Range. I was thinking about landing at Withcott (135kms) cause the weather looked like shiot in front of me. I realised then that my time was wrong on my gps and that in fact it was only 11:20am so I was here 1 hour earlier than any other flight that I had made. So I kept going and once making a hard crossing I was soon low and scratching on the flatlands.