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Hang gliding: Skyfloater world record

Wednesday 11 August, 1999

Skyfloating to the world record, as reported in 1999

I didn’t even plan on flying that day and little did I know that in a few hours I would be dehydrated, hypoxic, and on my way to the Falcon World Distance Record.

Everyone else was so focused on setting new cross country records, I knew I needed to at least take a flight just to be in the club. I planned on taking it easy and having fun, having no illusions my flight was going to be record breaking, .

Belinda let me use her supprone skyfloating harness, vario, helmet and radio. The harness allowed me to use my feet on the control bar to do most of the work.

The Falcon 225 belonged to Davis Straub. He flies it with his SkyCycle Trike. Everyone had launched and was making miles while I was the last hang glider to tow. I thought to myself, “If I can at least get up and do 10 miles I’ll be happy.”

Carol Graham (tow goddess) looks curiously at me seated under the big Falcon. She had never seen someone launch supprone off platform tow, but neither had I. I launched a second time at 1:35 pm and catch a little something.

I fly slow, (of course I have to). I turn in almost everything, no matter how slow the climb. Going cross country in the seated position for the first time was a joy. I could see the cloud development ahead of me. I could use my legs to fly. I could see other gliders turning (2 paragliders) and I could turn easily. My neck didn’t get tired.

At 17 miles out I thought 20 miles would be great. At 26 miles out I thought 30 would be super, and so on. Luckily, the wind was blowing at least 15 to 20mph.

About 43 miles out, I climbed to 15,005msl and I begin to think that 50 miles would be respectable. Then I remember something Gary Osoba had talked about in Knoxville at the Soaring Convention – Lateral speed to fly is more important than vertical speed to fly. What he means is following a string of lift to the left and right between major cores will get you downwind faster and higher. So this theory dictated the course I would take from now on.

I keep bumbling down wind into good lift and wind. At around 80 miles I go on final glide. I run into the blue and it is just a matter of time and more distance until I’m on the ground. My ground track averaged around 45 to 50 mph. Seems like I am floating forever. Finally at 88 miles out I’m thinking, “if only I had taken a different line I could break 100.”

I crab crosswind to land near a major intersection at 4:40pm. I have zero anxiety anticipating my landing in the big Falcon. 95.3 miles flying supprone in a paraglider harness. Wow! I’m not even tired. It was fairly easy. I did not do anything special except stay up. My previous personal best distance record had been a 92 mile Exxtacy flight in Florida.

Belinda, Mike Barber and Katia (Ramy’s wife) pick me up 5 minutes after I break down. Big smiles and congrats all around. The next day Rob Kells and Steve Pearson tell me they think I’ve set the distance record – for a Falcon. Steve tells me there is a big $$ prize for the first person to go 96 miles, silence for the next few seconds then he starts laughing.

Updated January 2011. Unfortunately the author’s name has been lost. If anyone knows who wrote this, please leave a comment below

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