Behind two records in one day, with Seiko Fukuoka
Seiko shares her last record adventures from Australia.
Everything started two years ago, when I decided that I wanted to hold all of the long distance paragliding world records.
This year I came to Australia for the Free Straight Distance Record (current record was 395 km) and Distance to Goal Fixed Record for which we need to declare the goal before the flight (current record 301 km).
Beside all the flying skills a pilot has to gain in order to break a record, the weather has the last word. The ideal conditions for this kind of flight are: enough tail wind to cover as much terrain as possible, strong lift, and high cloud base.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s forecast didn’t look that great with light wind and a bit stable to try to brake The Free Straight Distance so I decided to fly for Distance to Goal Fixed Record with a declared distance of 366km. Here is how it went:
After another perfect winch take off provided by my ground crew I start to head west, finding light north wind on my way.
As the predictions shows the cloud base is very low which kept my flying speed quite slow.
Five hours have passed and I haven’t even reached the 200km mark – at this point my hopes were low it doesn’t look promising to reach my 366 km goal.
Anyways I don’t let the numbers bother me and I keep my mind on my final target. After fighting for 4 more hours I find myself 40km from goal with really weak conditions and my body started to feel the need of a big Australian steak. I tried to stay in the air using every minor amount of lift I find in my way and look around searching for my best winged friends at this crucial moment but I find none.
Suddenly, bingo! A good thermal that I squeeze to the end and then look at my GPS: I am 10km away from goal. After 10 hours in the air I am finally heading for my final destination, I got it!
I arrive above goal with almost no energy left but with a big smile on my face, I check my altitude – 1300 m above the ground. I am getting ready to lose some high when I hear all the crew on the radio: Seiko why you don’t try to get the free straight distance record too? Really?
I hesitate for a second. I know it is late, I have to fly at least 30 more kms and I need to land 30 minutes after sunset at the the latest. Check the time and I have less than 30 minutes to achieve this second record, my pilot brain answer the question immediately: why not? Go get it.
The lift is almost none so I keep flying until I find a weak but well formed thermal that helps me to get some altitude, check the numbers again I am 20 km from the 400 km mark! The glide looks good, check the time I might make it!
Of course life is not that simple, once I start to get closer to the record distance I realize the terrain start to get higher and there are some hills on my way. Oh my god! I wasn’t planning to get this far so I didn’t check the map of this area.
Nothing to do, I am on my final glide I cross my fingers and keep flying with one eyes on my GPS and one eyes on the hills in front.
I pass the 395 km mark, I got it but I am already here I am going for the 400 km!!! Come on you can do it! At this point I am almost touching the hills when there is no more room for me to fly I look to the GPS and see the magic number: 402 km!
I do one and half turn and I land in a beautiful farm field.
This was such an exciting and unexpected flight! I broke two records after almost 11 hours in the air. I have no doubts that the last lift I found on my way was a gift from Santa! In the end these flights always remind me the same: Never Give Up!
Thanks to all of you who follow my journeys! Happy Holidays!