Yesterday morning I got out of bed with the worst attitude. Nothing was going to fix my day and I even questioned whether or not I would fly. The announcement at the briefing that we were calling a 318.9 km task to the town of Hay (where they used to hold big meets) didn't help. Having not made it even close to goal on the two previous (much shorter) tasks, all I could feel was discouraged at the thought of such a long one. But, rather than spend the energy to just blow it all off and not fly and have to explain to everyone why, I just went through the motions at the field. I jumped in the launch line very early thinking I could get it over with more quickly if I started first. But, it seemed I couldn't even do that part right. I got to the front of the line and on the launch dolly only to test my harness zipper and get it jammed up in a position where it wouldn't go up or down and I was completely stuck. That nearly made the decision for me. I thought in my state of mind, with things already going wrong, probably the best thing to do is call it a day. Jonny messed with my zipper a bit and just plain wasn't gonna have it (me not flying). Thanks Jonny! Unfortunately, this still meant that I couldn't zip up and flying any amount of time unzipped is not the most fun...it's cold at altitude and tiring trying to hold your legs up comfortably.
But, from the time I rolled across the tow field and got airborne, things started to improve. My first goal was to make 100km. Small, easy goal, little chance for disappointment. Check. That didn't take long. Although the start was slow with very light climbs in a gaggle of 30 gliders never getting over about 5,000 feet, it wasn't long before the day started to turn on. The air was what they called classic Forbes air....strong, relatively smooth fat lift. I never thought 1000fpm climbs outside of Florida could be so nice and relaxing. I met up and flew with various people for the first 150km, but I spent the biggest part of the task with Zhenya, meeting up, then separating, then magically meeting up again, gliding together, loosing her, then somehow finding each other again. It was so cool. I had Carlos on radio always just ahead of me, feeding me information that helped keep me motivated. It wasn't long before I was reaching goal number 2, making 200km....then #3, making the last turnpoint (just 60km short of goal and a bit over my previous personal best). It was at that point that it started to hit me that I was really going to do the whole task.
Fortunately, I was able to stay pretty high- between 7 and 10,000 feet for the best part of the day and it wasn't until the sun was low that the climbs became weak. Even then, knowing the day was shutting down, I just tried to stay as high as I possibly could and take every single little climb that came along. I started thinking final glide at about 40km out, but Carl was on radio telling me that the climbs weren't going much past 6 or 7 grand, so I should be very careful. I think I took my last real climb at about 20km, but the computer was telling me I didn't have it, so I knew I still had to find another 1000 feet or so somewhere. Well, I didn't find it. Instead I went on glide, with Carl on the radio guiding me to goal telling me I had it when I was sure I didn't (and in fact, he didn't believe I could make it from the altitude I started either - lying can be such a good thing sometimes ;-). I saw one glider after another run out of steam and land next to the road leading to goal, all the while pointing my toes as hard as I could and pulling the VG rope trying to get just one more millimeter out of it.
When I finally had goal in site, I remembered they had told us at the briefing that there was a giant antenna just short of the goal field. I spotting that and then spotted the gliders still rigged just on the other side of the road, power lines and fence line that ran perpendicular to my glide. To make the goal field, I had to cross all three. On radio Carl told me to just fly right over the top of the antenna and I would easily make it into the field. Problem was, I could see that I wasn't gonna make it over the top of that stinking antenna!! No worries, I would just continue gliding straight to that fence and then at the last second make a 90 degree turn into the wind and that would be that. Simple enough. But I never dreamed it would work out as perfectly as it did. I actually didn't think I had goal because I wasn't in the goal field - thankfully though, I did make the 400 meter cylinder, so all was good.
Jonny got the whole thing on his GoPro.
It was a four hour drive back to Forbes. We stopped at a pub where a few other pilots were having a beer and while standing at the bar a local walked up to me and said "are you Jamie?" I just pointed at Kathryn and said "no, that's her" ;-) Turns out the guy was a trucker and had been on our channel listening to Carl and I chatting through the whole last half of the task. Apparently he thought it was pretty funny when Carl got low and I told him that I was at 9 grand and he had to "stay up" to get me to goal.