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- Hannibal Barca

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Adventure Travel

Apr 28, 2017

Irish Wingsuit Team Sets New World Records

On a recent jump in California, three members of the Irish Wingsuit Team shattered existing world records for longest flight, both distance and time.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

Jumping out of the aircraft from over 34,000 feet up, David Duffy, Stephen Duffy and Marc Daly used the jump as practice for an even bigger project, when they hope to wingsuit across the North Channel, from Ireland to Great Britain.

The Irish Wingsuit Team, a group of four wise-cracking thrill-seekers, flew into the record books at the beginning of this month. On April 9, in preparation for an even bigger, riskier flight, three of the team’s members—brothers Stephen and David Duffy, and Marc Daly—set new world records for both time and flight in Davis, California.

Photo courtesy of the Irish Wingsuit Team

Their jump was a subproject of a larger goal still over a year away that the Team is calling The North Channel Crossing, in which they hope to fly their wingsuits from the North of Ireland to the UK. They will need to fly at least 21 kilometers to avoid splashing down in the water. “Us being Irish, the concept of this came over drinks in the pub, about three years ago nearly now,” Stephen Duffy told The Outdoor Journal. “We’ve been doing lots of subprojects working towards it.”

Photo courtesy of the Irish Wingsuit Team

Their recent jump in Davis, CA was the biggest subproject yet. The Team decided it would behoove them to try a flight of at least 21 kilometers over land before they attempted it over water.

Duffy, Duffy, Daly and Des Reardon (the newest member of the team, who didn’t participate in the record-breaking jump), all have day-jobs: Stephen, 31, is an aircraft engineer and university lecturer; Marc Daly, 47, is self-employed; David Duffy, 30, is a Sales and Account Manager at a construction company; and Des Reardon, 31, is a “military man,” according to Stephen.

The three are also highly experienced skydivers and wingsuiters. “We all have over 1,000 jumps, and that includes 600 to 800 wingsuit jumps,” Stephen said.

Photo courtesy of the Irish Wingsuit Team

The Duffys and Daly formed the Irish Wingsuit Team in 2011, and have been operating out of the Irish Parachute Club ever since. Since its founding, the team has represented Ireland at World Cup and World Championship events around the globe.

The high-altitude nature of the California jump posed a variety of problems and dangers for the guys. Temperature was perhaps their biggest fear: at the altitude from which they hoped to exit the plane, they estimated it would be roughly -55 degrees Celsius.

One of their sponsors—a company named Flexitog that designs and manufactures insulated wear for people working inside freezers–came to the rescue on the temperature front. According to Stephen, the guys at Flexitog said, “Guys, you’re all crazy…. What do you need?” and then outfitted them with compression skins, thermal layers and custom designed suits.

Not your average head gear… Photo courtesy of the Irish Wingsuit Team

They also had to line up an aircraft and support crew that would support their high flying aspirations. The Irish national Airline, Aer Lingus, stepped up to the plate.

When the Team arrived in California, raring to go, they had to hurry up and wait. Stephen said, “We done what the Irish do: bring the bad weather with us.” After three straight days of thunderstorms, they finally had clear skies to test out their oxygen set-ups and cold-weather gear before the main event. Stephen, David and Marc did three prep jumps from 13,000 feet, 18,000 feet, and 24,000 feet. “The last one was our first record attempt,” Stephen said. “On that one, we broke the European Continental Time and Distance records for free fall.”

Feeling confident, they readied themselves for the “big day.”

The trio awoke at 4:00 am on April 9. They arrived at the drop zone at 5:00 am to gear up, and boarded the aircraft at 6:00 am.

“We had to pre-breathe 100% aviator’s oxygen for an hour before take-off,” Stephen said. “The idea of this is to push all the nitrogen out of our tissue,” to prevent the “bends” (decompression sickness, caused by changes in pressure, most commonly associated with divers).

Technical difficulties with the first aircraft led to the team deplaning and boarding a different one. Another hour of pre-breathing oxygen and everything was a go. The plane took off around 11:30 am and quickly climbed to 34,400 feet. Their predictions about temperature weren’t far of the mark: the thermometers registered -59 degrees Celsius.  

Feeling good, the Irishmen jumped.

And, GO! Photo courtesy of the Irish Wingsuit Team

“I went first, then Marc, then David,” said Stephen. “We flew a straight line from over the mountains and into the valley as far as possible.” After an exhilarating flight lasting nearly ten minutes, they each landed down in different spots, but Marc hit the jackpot. “Marc landed in a field right beside a guy who was loading up his RV and who provided him with cool, chilled beers,” Stephen recounted, laughing. “Only that man could find beer in the middle of the American countryside.”

When they got back to the drop-zone, they checked the results from their fly-sights (little GPS units that record all the statistical data from the flight), to see how they had done. “David flew the largest horizontal distance of us, at over 29 kilometers. If you take in the angle of descent, he flew 32 kilometers, and that’s known as absolute distance.”

Stephen flew 26.5 kilometers and Marc flew 25.5 kilometers. Though David went the farthest, Stephen spent more time in the air. “I was up there for 9 minutes 31.4 seconds. That’s a long time to be falling.”

Between Stephen and David’s flights, the team set four new world records: the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the world’s governing body for all airsports) record for wingsuit time of flight, the Guinness record wingsuit time of flight, the Guinness record for horizontal distance, and the Guinness record for absolute distance. “We also set all the Irish national records and broke the European continental distance and flight of time records as well,” Stephen said proudly.

The guys were chuffed: “We’ll need to do at least 21 kilometers to get across the Channel, and we learned we can do that,” Stephen said.

With the records and that confidence under their belts, they are now firmly focused on the North Channel Crossing jump. The tentative plan is to jump in September 2018. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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