Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thursday 17th January 2013: We blew them away!

Task 10, Day 11.


We beat the Aussies in to goal today to get Bronze Team Medal!!!!!!

Full blog to follow -  enjoy the moment!

Kath was still out flying, but of course will be included in the updated team photo from the Closing Ceremony - this picture is of the pilots who made it over the goal line! 
So its now Friday morning. Apologies for the late update but as you can imagine we decided to go out to celebrate last night, and this is why....

I hope that the results are as we anticipate because the Scorer Wes won't tell me until we get to the Closing Ceremony.

Rumours that the competition organisers were going to continue pushing the tasks to their full extent were well founded - no last day short task, instead a 214km out-and-return flight via a turn point on the return leg was called. The weather forecast for light southerlies also indicated that there would be good lift but predicted to shut down earlier than usual at around 5pm. Because of this the launch time was brought forward to midday and the first of three start gates at 1.40pm. No time to waste then.

At our post-briefing team huddle, Carl went through the instrument and waypoint check, something we did every morning to make sure everyone had their instruments properly programmed. We suddenly noticed that the Aussie team were also in a huddle, pointing out members of Team GB to each other. Being only a few points behind their Bronze position they were obviously discussing tactics to protect their position. A bit of light hearted banter followed, with Jonny Durand and Carl participating in some good natured "sledging" which ended up with Carl throwing a cup of water towards him. Unfortunately Scott Barret's instruments were in the way leading to a bit of less light hearted banter. Oops. But maybe the tension of the day was starting to creep in....

Out at the airfield we were met by the usual welcome committee. The last day of the comp is traditionally a "mufty" day with all the crew wearing fancy dress - some of the costumes brilliant, including the quad bike boys going for a "Mad Max" look.

We were the first team to arrive, apart from Kath who came out slightly later to avoid the heat. Both Gary and Carl had some maintenance to carry out on their gliders so we needed to get a move on. Noma, one of the Moyes crew, was already there to help Carl fix his VG. As the guys finished rigging I put a GoPro on Dave's glider, mounted on the upright so that he could swing it around to get a variety of shots.
Midday came around quickly, and with the blast of the hooter, the first gliders were up and away. Team GB were soon airborne, climbing underneath a beautiful looking sky. Apart, that is, from Kath who was continuing her bad run of luck on the tow. With another weak link break, she was soon down for a relight, but not before we had to carry out some emergency maintenance on her instruments. With no time to fix her non-functioning radio, she was back on the trolley and towed up successfully to join the rest of the team.

Dave climbing in a gaggle
As the day was predicted to shut down early, it was important to get a good start. All the team took the first start gate and were soon making excellent headway on the first leg to the 4Ways turnpoint some 117km to the North. Steve set off in the truck to park up at Bogan, 26km up track, to try and maintain radio contact, while I went back to HQ to look at onward travel arrangements for the team - after the Closing Ceremony on Friday we were all leaving for Sydney before either the return flight home, or in Gary and Trudy's case, to start a two week post-comp holiday. Nice work if you can get it!

Dave later in the day getting a climb

Logging in to the live tracking website, I could see that Jonny Durand had made the turn point and was heading back down South. A quick phone call to Steve told me that Grant, Carl, Gary and Gordon were right up there too, with Tony and then Kathleen just a few kilometres behind. We despertely needed to storm the course today if we were to have any chance of beating the Aussies in to third place - from what I could decipher from the radio transmissions and looking at the live trace, things weren't going to0 badly at all...

Trudy and I returned to the airfield at around 4.30pm, taking the Union Jack with us which I mounted on one of my extendable walking sticks - it would be rude not to have had a decent marker and windsock in the goal field to help our team over the line and to land safely! As I sat on the veranda sipping a cold beer (well it was the last day and I knew they were all going to make goal), my radio burst in to life.
"Gordon 10km from the last turn point. 9000 feet. 15:1 needed to make goal".
What? Already looking at the numbers for a final glide? 
"Team GB, I am now back in radio range. Please update me on your positions".
"Grant 10km from turn point. 12000 feet. Carl and Gary nearby".
"Who is with you, and what is your position relative to other teams?"
"Gordon at the front of lead gaggle with Manfred and Christian (Ciech)".
No mention of any Australians. 

Dave looking for the last climb

On the veranda more and more people were gathering, listening to their team radios. One of the Aussie support crew was talking about our positions, reporting them back to their team. After this mornings debacle, it was time for some fun and games. With Trudy sitting under the shade I called across that Gordon was on finals and coming in fast. Suddenly a Tweet appeared from Dave May, the Aussie driver,  reporting this and presumably to his team over their radio - nothing like a bit of extra pressure on the pilots to keep up!

Team GB were all taking various tracks past the last turn point, trying to find the best air to continue their approach to the goal line. Grants numbers were improving. 12:1, 11:1, 10:1, 9:1....OK, this is it, final glide time...... Gordon and Carl must surely be with him. All we needed were three team members in ahead of three Aussie pilots to potentially get the Bronze.
"Come on, guys. Keep going. No one in goal yet!". I was getting just a wee bit excited.
Rumours were flying through the goal field that Jonny had been held up in some bad air, having pushed on high and fast. With no mention of any other Aussie pilots, things were starting to get very, very, interesting....

Up near the goal line, all the competition ground crew and team support crews were gathering, trying to get a glimpse of the first gliders to come in. With Union Jack flag at the ready, I was staring North, hoping to see a British wing.

And then the cry "Glider!" Who was it? Someone mentioned Gordon. Another Grant. Perhaps Manfred? Come on......

It was Lukas Bader from Germany, followed quickly by Joerg Bajewski (GER)  and Zak Majors (USA). Still no Brits, and importantly, no Australians. Primoz, Balazs, Matjaz, Anton... still no Aussies. 

There was no mistaking the orange and black undersurface of Grants glider as he approached the line at speed. YES! Waving my flag like some mad Englishman in the midday sun, I ran over to meet him, just in time to hear Carl say he was approaching the line at height, and then Gary swooping in over the line in amongst a handful of other gilders. YES! YES! YES! Three Team GB pilots in fast. But who were the other pilots? Any Australians?  Only one, Scott Barrett.
Things like this just dont happen. After several waits in the goal field, wishing and hoping for Team GB to race in ahead, I had watched with heavy heart as our competitors pipped us on final glides. This was unreal, and the good news continued. 

Gordon arrives in goal
"Gordon over the line".
"Dave over the line". 
5 in. Where was Tony?
"Tony, I am not going to make it..."
"Keep working Tony, you can do this. Come on!"
Tony gliding in very low towards Steve
Looking across the next field, we could see Tony gliding in VERY low. As he approached 
the fence line, we could see the nose of the glider pitch up as he went through some buoyant air turning gently to stay in it for as long as possible he gained a few extra precious feet, or so we thought.Tony has subsequently told me that he got turned on the final approach... "Keep coming, keep gliding" called Grant over the radio.
"Speed up and use ground effect" I added... Holding our breath we watched as Tony pulled on, skimming over the ground with feet to spare, finally just making it over the line and landing just a few feet the other side.

YEEEEEEEESSSSSSS! What a result. But Kath, where was Kath? With no radio, we had no contact with her for the entire flight, but as we had not received any texts or phone calls, all we could do is presume she was still flying.

Surely we had made Bronze position? As we celebrated in the goal field, Jonny Durand was the second Aussie pilot in over the line. With some spectacular loops, he made an impressive landing approach and to make sure he knew the wind direction, I ran out with my flag to show him the wind direction... only trying to be helpful! As he swooped in low, he headed straight for the flag, trying to grab it as he flew by... all good fun.
Gordon's phone rang. I knew it had to be Kath. Unfortunately she had not made it past the last turn point. What a shame. But with no sign of Corinna from Germany, perhaps she had made it further - later in the evening I spoke to Corinna who had in fact flown a few kilometres further.
And that was that.
You could not have made this up. I did not believe that Hang Gliding could be so exciting for those not flying - the atmosphere in the goal field was intense! Team GB did of course go out to celebrate last night. The Closing Ceremony is in a couple of hours time and I will post one more time to include photos from the last day, and as we receive our medals....


  1. Superb effort guys, thats how to fly a comp !!

  2. Woooooooo hoooooooo !!
    Well done chaps, can't wait for the skywings write up

  3. AMAZING RESULT GB!!! What a Team effort!!! Cheering you all the way from here!!! WELL DONE!!! xxx

  4. Fantastic great brilliant .going to miss this blog.

  5. Oh and well done and congratulations everyone.

  6. Top job Team UK. Well done and congratulations from proud Sky Surfers back home.

  7. Really great effort team, Fantastic move to pull it in at the end.

    -And some brilliant blogging from Ben down there. You kept us waiting for the next episode.

    .. By the way, where is it?

  8. Amazing achievement, well done team. Buy you all a pint at the BOS. :-)

  9. Great flying guys but where's Kath?

    was she taking the photo...?

    cant wait for the skywings write up, hope its as good as the rest of the blogs Ben,. well done all.

  10. Thank you Ben for your fantastic reporting and good onya Team GB for making it a white knuckle ride all the way to the last day in the battle for the bronze. Congrats to all!

  11. Ben you are my Blogging hero . . . I knew the result after talking to you guys on skype and feeling and seeing the excitement of the team at the end of your day, BUT reading your account of the day has just made me feel it all over again


  12. Wow. What an exciting read. Amazing teamwork, flying and of course blogging. Edge of the seat stuff. I think I have converted a few of my year 10 tutor group to this!


  13. It's been a entertaining read. Good job Ben & well done the team. Now, if only you can get The Beeb to pick up the story...

  14. I have really enjoyed following this competition - your blog has really brought us all to australia and into the middle of all the excitement drama and emotion of the experience - for me it is insills a huge sense of inspiration to try hard to get high and fly far this year makes me really look forward a lot to the BOS - to talking with you all and to doing my best to have fun up there - what a great sport this is...