Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Not Quite the Day!

An XC flying story by Jonny Durand and Enda Murphy. JONNY: After nearly 3 weeks of rain off and on I finally went for a fly on Sunday. I did not fly far as the ground here is soaking wet and so green that staying in the air is even more challenging. Sunday night the weather map was looking good so I got my equipment ready for the next day. I woke up to the sound of more rain on the roof and I knew that it was no longer a record day. Tuesday morning I woke up at 6am to blue skies and did a quick weather check. It was not long before I was on the phone to Enda telling him to get his gear together and be set up on launch by 8am. After Enda drove for me on Sunday I promised him that I would drive or supply a driver for the next record day. A quick phone call was made to Marty and to my surprise he was awake at 6:30am. He was like so were going flying and I was like oh I hoping that you were going to drive for us. MARTY: Bloody lovely a 6.30am wakeup call not to go flying but just to drive!! ENDA: I got the call from Jonny and arrived at launch with both my Hang Glider and Paraglider. If it was windy I was going to fly the Hangie but if conditions suited the paraglider I would have a go at the site record which was around 260 kms. I was pretty undecided until Jonny launched just after 8am and reported the wind was only 15 to 20 Kms. A quick setup of my Magus XC and I was away into a good climb and over the back at 4000 ft. JONNY: After my Sunday flight I already new the fields over the first 50 kms were very wet and I really had to hold back and at times wait until the clouds formed in front of me. I n fact it was so wet around Beaudesert the clouds were forming at only 3000 ft ASL in places. MARTY + ANT: Well as I left the hill I had a call from Ant who had been on many long distance retrieves with Jonny and he said he would come along for the ride. This really suited me as he could share the driving and I hit the bourbons a bit harder. ENDA: I was getting good info from Jonny and that really helped me to keep the brakes on and not deck myself early in the flight. Of the last 5 attempts I have had at starting record flights at 8.30 most have ended in the first faults by 9.30 so it was a great relief to get through the early section. JONNY: I knew that once I got through the Beaudesert section it was going to get easier and less likely to land. I was flying on the front edge of the clouds taking every thing to stay high because low saves were not going to be easy. I finally reached Boonah T 50km mark and it had taken 1hr 20 mins but it was only 9:50am. I did a long glide and got low before finding a tractor mowing a green field that got me back to base. From here I had some great clouds and stopped only every now and again before arriving at the range just south of Toowoomba. MARTY + ANT: Up until now we had been able to position ourselves between the boys but as Jonny pulled away we had to speed up to stay in touch with Jonny. He was able to relay Enda’s position a nd how he was going behind. ENDA: As I approached Towoomba I aked Jonny how strong the wind was as there is a notorious compression zone where the Easterly pushes over the main range. He told me the wind was 40kms/hr which go me very nervous as we were only getting to around 5000 ft ASL. ‘He then said he made a mistake and it was only 20 or so. Anyhow just to be safe I went over slowly with as much height as I could. JONNY: Enda asked me about the wind at Towoomba and when I told hom 40kms/hr I could sense he was about to turn back so I needed to do a quick correction back to only 20kms/hr. He seemed a little happier with that so Í thought to myself what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. This next part of the flight is probably the easiest place to land on a record day and there is nothing worse than landing there early and looking at perfect clouds to the horizon. So considering I was at Towoomba at 11:30am (130kms) I was as early as I could possibly be on this given day considering there was only 2 or 3 clouds on the other side of the great dividing range. I stayed really high well 3,000ft agl and drifted in light lift trying to to wait for some more clouds to pop close by so that I could get under one and get back high. The next 80kms was rough as there is a strong ENE wind down low with a SE wind up high. It was mostly blue with a few clouds here and there mostly to my north. To the south there was nothing and only a few to the west of me. I get to Dalby pretty fast now 1pm and all of a sudden I start to get sick and lost my 4 and half weetbixs that I had for breakfast. I start calculating time and distance verse progress and considering how I was feeling I told the Ant and Marty that I might just land cause at the rate im going if I stayed up to sunset I would do 500kms. I thought this is all to familiar so I said to them if I can fly 510kms is it worth to keep going and they said yes. Then I thought how often do you have a chance at the record with 2 experienced people driving below you telling you to keep going on a midweek flight. So I had to go at least to the Australian paragliding record to make sure Enda got there. ENDA: Once out onto the flats at around 12.30 I was very confident I could beat the site record as there was heaps of day left to fly. All I had to do was make sure I stayed in the air all day. This was now going to turn into an endurance battle. With directions from Jonny of where to go and what roads to follow I was able to concentrate fully on trying to stay high. It still was hard going as up high the tailwind was good but down low it was a cross tail and with no streeting every glide dropped me back into the crosswind. MARTY + ANT: We were still charging along and after 400kms we still had not seen Jonny in the air at all. We finally managed to get a visual and were able to keep him in sight for the rest of the flight. JONNY: I had been flying through blue skys since the 260km mark and only getting to 7,000ft asl with climbs no stronger than the 5-600 fpm for for the last 140kms. I finally reached some clouds at the 400km mark and felt like the next 100 km was going to be easy. It was just after 4:30pm so I had less than 2 hrs left of flying time which would put me very close to the record of 500kms. ENDA: At around the 230-240 Km mark just where I would need my last climb to beat the current record there is a huge area of open-cut mines. I was so sure of getting a strong thermal off the mines I was already thinking about 300kms or more. Of course as luck would have it there was not even a blip off the mines and I ended down to less than 500ft off the ground and short of the record!!! Thankfully I managed to get a climb that slowly strengthened and got me back to a safe altitude and the record in the bag. MARTY + ANT; We were getting really excited now as both the boys were getting close to beating the current Australian records, HG 500kms and 335Kms for the PG. We were willing another couple of thermal for them both. We couldn’t speak directly to Enda so Jonny had to try to relay the info to us when he could. JONNY: I charged off under the clouds and over the big forest just after Jackson following the main highway west to Roma. The climbs were not that strong I think due to the large amount of rain they had out here in the last few weeks. I was trying to stay high but I knew if I really wanted to beat the 500km mark by more than a few kms I was going to have to take some risk. I just spoke to Enda and he had just beaten the newly set Beechmont paragliding record set by Shane Hill 3 weeks earlier. The thought of setting 2 new records on the same day gave me some more inspiration. I have to divert to the north for a cloud to try and get high again as I know the day is coming to and end. I find light lift and search around in hopes for something more than 1-200fpm but there is nothing so I decide to stick around and climb getting dizzy and watching the sun getting lower. ENDA: I passed the 300km mark and knew that I only needed one more good thermal and glide to break the Aussie record. I spotted a very large feedlot ahead and headed to it but instead of the smell of cattle poo wafting up in my final thermal my luck had run out and I glided out at 50 Kms? Hr to land at 325Kms. Pretty happy but very tired after 9 and half hours in the air. I phoned my positon to the boys who were just trying to chase after Jonny down some back roads. JONNY: I got back to 7,500ft asl and thought that if I could leave now and get one more climb at the next cloud about 10kms in front I would go close doing 550kms. I was now 461kms out and left in search of one more thermal but when the cloud disappeared that I was heading to I decided to go more crosswind and lose some ground trying to get back up under some other clouds. There was some light lift and I stayed there for a few circles before leaving to go downwind hoping the sunny side of the cloud might be working better. With no luck under any of these clouds I had no choice but to go on glide down the road to where I had landed on my record flight set back in 2005. Right at the end I could see I was going to get close to the record so instead of following the main road I saw a dirt road off to my north which would give me my best chance of maximizing my distance. It was hard to see landings as I was starring straight into the sun and I found my self following two sets of power lines and before I knew it I was having to turn and land underneath the high tension wires next to the road as I missed clearing the tree line to the next field. I touched down at 498kms spending 10hrs 20 mins in the air to end up landing 2kms short of the record at 498kms MARTY + ANT Well after a flawless day we managed to knock the channel swich on the radio so we missed Jonnys last few directions but as we were so close we managed to find him and load him up for the long drive back. A fuel stop in Roma then a pickup of Enda at Miles and we were all go for home. The Red Bull supplies had a big dent put in them on the way. EQUIPMENT JONNY ENDA Moyes RS 3.5 Mac Magus XC 26 Moyes Matrix Race Harness Advance Impress Harness Blueye Rodeo’s. Blueye Rodeo’s Flytec 4030 Race Brauniger Compeo+ Sensair Headset A big thanks to Marty and Ant for the long hard retrieve and our sponsors for all the help. Jonny and Enda.