Tuesday 31 May: Report by Craig Morgan
Task 3 – 48.4km
Now here’s a question for you. Given the choice would you rather briefly be a superstar, or forever live your life in bland mediocrity ?
Task flying gives me so many different emotions. These days I don’t even bother trying to explain to non pilots what we do and more importantly how it makes me feel. Do you know what I mean? Today in flight, I reached orgasm – briefly …
A cracking little 50-odd km task was set, not into the big stuff as the forecast had flattered to promise, but up and down, in and out and gambling with the proviso of cancellation should the threatening congestus explode in the sky. It didn’t, and off we shot.
Stay tuned tomorrow as I have some amazing footage of a collapse from takeoff followed by the ‘ooohs and ahhs’ of a mesmerising pile-in. I’m gonna respect the bloke and make sure he’s OK before I release the shocking footage. Firstly, it has to be said – it’s sweet as a nut waiting at cloudbase with one-fifty other dudes and dudettes in and out of the wispies, waiting for the off. Cool as custard. Try explaining that one to your accountant brother-in-law.
And then we’re off. Big exit start cylinders have been de rigeur this week and slowly we’ve all gotten our tangents righter and righter. I nailed mine proper job today purely to let Chris ‘Ben Johnson’ Harland know that I AM SPARTACUS!
Off like a scalded cat I went. It’s always the same. Some hotshot always has summat to prove and splits at mach 2 like shit off a shiny shovel. This time it was me and boy it felt good. Not even the suggestion of a competitor in my peripheral. Through the first couple of climbs, not needed, destination – yesterday’s snotty windy ridge which would be totally ‘on’ in today’s southerly. But before I even got there a five-up sucked me off, err – up. C. Harland joined me and away we squealed, parasites scrabbling toward us to join in the fun. No way boys – we’re off! Keep stretching the lead – keep asking the questions. Men from boys. You get my drift…. It’s like this in my mind in a race. I need to go, I need the rush, I need to chase the dragon. It’s like an addiction. But I digress …..
High over the windy ridge and on. Boom! Another ripper. I look back and there’s no one, not even the buzzards can stay with me, no one even close. My buddy Chris chose a different policy and hadn’t benefitted as I’d done. Unlucky!!!
So there I was. A fox, a pace-setter, a superstar for the moment and all eyes would be on me. So what would I do? It’s not often I find myself in this position. The accelerant was coursing through my veins and I would not let go of my high until it was ripped from my senses.
Brief thoughts entered my mind of what the legends would do. Maurer, Ogden, Macaskill, what would they do? They’d crack on and press home their advantage – wouldn’t they? So I left another guaranteed lift to the clouds to push again for the certainty of the big mountain. At the peak I eased off the bar in anticipation of the explosions we’d felt previously in that vicinity. The reward for my endeavours was like a wet weekend in Wales. A veritable fart in a biscuit barrel greeted me. Three-up! Pah, you’re joking. Crack on son ….
And then there I was at the end of the ridge with a kilometre advantage plus 100 metres to the good. But not enough to push out – way out into the valley for the crux turnpoint. Never go back. Never go back. It just ain’t in my make-up. You don’t sweat your nuts off, cream the field and meekly whimper back to admit your mistake and rejoin the mediocrity in the biscuit barrel.
So I was looking for some magic – a get out of jail free card. I could almost hear the gasp from the gaggle behind me as I went on glide. “What a tit”, I heard Hayman say, but he knows what I’m about. Besides I’d already bombed yesterday. I had nothing to lose ….
Over Tolmin’s mini ‘volcano’ a cheeky two-up evaporated after 100m and left me again in no man’s land. Just keep going for the turnpoint pal. But it got shitter and shitter. What can I say? I yawed and pitched my way into cylinder and clung to a snotty leesider.
The baying hounds were by now chasing me down. Smelling my blood. Feeling my fear. Beneath me. But only just. The mountain hadn’t been kind to them either and they wanted my scalp. The downward gear-change evaded me. Still hell-bent on retaining my advantage. Swallow hard son and dive downwind for the distant ridge behind Tolmin to soar up. A swerve, a slight trajectory change and bosh, I was on it – just. A quick look at the swaying trees and I chose to turn left. It had to be. It must be. But it wasn’t. The familiar bile in my throat rose. I knew. It was done. I was done. Swifts darted by teasing me and in a flash they were gone, along with my hopes. F*ck it – you’re down …
It was a whole three minutes before I could bring myself to look skyward, knowing that the gaggle had allowed me my moment of passion and elation before I slit my own throat. But boy it felt good. It’s great to win a task and even better to win a comp. But an hour of high octane racing, running like a criminal, shitting your pants at every deflation, catch me if you can, heart-racing adrenaline is something that I can only offer to you in a couple of short passages. But not to the mere mortals – I don’t share it with them, they don’t get it. But wow – today I really got some ……
These days I can deal with the shame of the retrieve bus. I’ve done it plenty enough. The knowing smirks. The beaming smiles from some who like to be retrieved with a ‘fast’ pilot. And oh boy don’t they laugh when the driver asks for your pilot number. This year I’m number one and oh yeah – that’s f*cking funny to hear on the retrieve bus, wouldn’t you agree ?
But hey – we’re all winners and all losers except for the winner of the day. And today I’m super chuffed to announce that Britain’s best pilot never to have won the British Championship won the task. Mark Wagga Watts has always been brilliant, consummate, brave. But he’s never put it all together and closed out a championship. This task win today has broken a ‘win drought’ of some four seasons and many of us are stoked for him. I sincerely hope he keeps his discipline, doesn’t fly like me and now plays the percentage game to do the business. Enough said. No kiss of death.
Mali, the Polish enigma who tossed his reserve on day one, won day two and came second today. Wow, that’s some rollercoaster – I should have married him – he’d understand me !!!!! Third was Slovenian Dusan Oroz. With Neil Roberts in fourth, that made three R11s in the top four.
But consider this. Today a top top up-and-coming British pilot who shall remain nameless saw the Devil up close and personal. Doing his first competition on a comp wing, it briefly got away from him, became uncontrollable and the pilot ended up in the trees under his reserve. I’ve done this too and can testify that it’s really scary. He is safe but the experience appears to have finished his budding comp wing race career. He’s gone home to his loved ones. Just a wee sobering thought before I turn in.
Follow the action from the 2011 British Paragliding Open in Slovenia
Mark Hayman and Craig Morgan
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