SAFA Skysailor Magazine

19 January | February 2021 SKY SAILOR by Josh Woods On Sunday, 8 November 2020, I flew 97km from Bald Hill to Marulan. This was the second longest flight in a hang glider from the site. As a young fella, growing up in Wombarra on the Illawarra coastline, I’d sit and watch hang glider pilots zooming down the escarpment, dreaming that one day it would be me. After nearly seven years of flying, with dozens of dreamy flights down the Illawarra escarpment, I decided it was time to jump over the back. I’d spoken with my mate, Jono Kinred, numerous times about his over-the-back flights – he has the current site record from Bald Hill of 147km to Lake Bathurst, just short of Canberra. Being super competitive, this flight is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – who doesn’t want to out do their mates records? After waiting patiently for a suitable day with favourable easterlies and a decent cloudbase level forecast, it was finally time to have a go. Launching from Bald Hill at 9:30am, I climbed out to 1500ft in the gully, then headed south towards Coalcliff once I knew I could make the gap. The air was buoyant with amazing cu’s booming in the distance down Wollongong way. I raced to Bulli Pass with ease and climbed out to 2500ft, tracking south to Mt Keira. There was no looking back as a super sucky cu took me to over 3000ft. This is the ‘semi’ comfortable height to make the jump to Mt Kembla, any lower and you risk having to land in very few suburban parks, or attempt a fly-on-the-wall next to high voltage powerlines – no thanks! After reaching the safe landing zones south of Mt Kembla, I was able to relax for a while and just go along for the ride. Jumping from one climb to another, I reached Tongarra ridge above Macquarie Pass. Getting low and close to the treeline, I hit a climb that would scare the feathers off a wedge-tailed eagle, a devil’s climb, about as bad as anything I’ve ridden from the Forbes flatlands to the Owens valley – it took a lot of energy out of me, but I rode it to the top. Looking west over the famous Robertson pie shop, I got a little hungry for my usual steak and kidney pie with tomato sauce. This was the point of no return for jumping over the back, and as I pulled the trigger, it became one of those moments in flight that is almost indescribable. As I tracked west over the pie shop, I was drawn up the side of a cloud through wisps of mixing air. Looking down at the base in awe, I recall laughing to myself in disbelief about what I was seeing. As I popped through cloud wisp after cloud wisp, I covered a fair amount of ground drifting over the Southern Highlands toward the Hume highway. The climbs then became low and slow for an hour or so until I hit a decent 400ft up at Moss Vale. After reaching the Hume, I tracked away and around Belanglo State Forest and carried on until eventually decking it in Sydney University farmland, 97km as the crow flies from take-off. A little disappointed as it was only 1:30pm and still very early in the day, but happy to not be too far from my girl and son who were on their way to retrieve me. This was my first over-the-back attempt, and I’m deter- mined to have another go when the conditions are right. See the Ayvri Flight here . Bald Hill to Marulan – An Epic Flight Photo: Josh Woods