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Northeast Expedition 2007

This year the expedition is going to be organized in a different format. Instead of having a big group based in just one city, 3 pilots with the driver and technical support Dioclécio Rosendo de Lima Filho (Dió) are going to monitor the best places and in these places the distance flights will take place.

The objectives are the solo distance and declared flights. It will last for a month and it is planned to flight in the best days. The pilots are going to put their flight on the XC Brazil and associated sites:

::: Northeast Expedition objective: the objectives are the world solo and tandem in this category.

::: Best Flight 2007:

South American Record - 414Km
Marcelo "Ceceu" - SOL Tracer 11

South American Record - 397,7Km
Rafael Saladini - SOL Tracer 11

Northeast expedition 2006:

Worldwide Declared Distance record (Double): 305km André Fleury e Claudia Ribeiro – SOL Tracer Bi
Worldwide Free Distance Record (Double): 314km André Fleury e Claudia Ribeiro – SOL Tracer Bi

Northeast expedition 2005:

Worldwide Declared Distance record (Solo): 331km Marcelo 'Cecéu' Prieto – Dynamic ARF-2

Worldwide Declared Distance record (Solo): 355km
André Fleury – Dynamic ARF-2
South American Free Distance (Solo): 371km
Marcelo 'Cecéu' Prieto – Dynamic ARF-2
The Best Flight of the World in Mountain Take-off (Solo): 371km
Marcelo 'Cecéu' Prieto – Dynamic ARF-2

Norteast expedition 2004:

Worldwide Declared Distance Record (Solo): 305km
Marcio Pinto – SOL Dynamic AR
South American Free Distance Record (Solo): 348km
Marcelo 'Cecéu' Prieto – SOL Dynamic AR
Brazilian Female Free Distance Record (Solo): 205km
Kamira Pereira – SOL Eclipse
The Best Flight of the World with a DHV 2 paraglider (Solo): 320km
Marcelo 'Cecéu' Prieto – SOL Synergy 2

Norteast expedition 2003:

Worldwide Declared Distance Record (Double): 275km
André Fleury and Claudia Ribeiro – SOL Kangaroo 2
Worldwide Declared Distance Record (Double): 284km
André Fleury and Claudia Ribeiro – SOL Kangaroo 2
Worldwide Free Distance Record (Double): 299km
André Fleury e Claudia Ribeiro – SOL Kangaroo 2
Flight of 397km

The day started just at 5:30 am with the alarm clock bothering me. And I thought just for few seconds about turning it off and forget the fact that I should get up and fly. The laziness hold me until I opened the windows and saw the blue sky.

Olympio and I went for the breakfast, after that we met our rescue Dioclécio who after years working in the XCeara knew that this day could be special. We left the hotel around 6:40 a.m.

In the way to the ramp between many yawns due to not being used to wake up early, we saw the first consist formation and this made our adrenaline start to run quickly in our veins.

We arrived at the ramp at 7:10 am and took off as early as possible. I remember yelling to Dió that I would just make a training flight until the city of Nova Russas, because I wasn´t organized enough to face such long flight. Before I took off I made a check list in my mind and found out important things that deserve attention. I had only R$6,00 in my pocket, my radio had no 100% charged battery and I wasn´t wearing a probe urinate during the flight, but I thought that it was just the first day and didn´t worry about this lack of organization.

With a wind of 15 km/h, which impressed me because Quixadá is known for the strong winds and we took off without any problems and soon we reached 1.000 meters high. The game was just starting.

During the morning the condition was pretty much uncertain and a lot of patience was necessary and a bit of luck to survive the first hours. In the first minutes of flight I thought that I wouldn’t make because the lack of rhythm flying in the morning. And more: the days that I took off so early I was with Marcelo Prieto, one the experts in flying at this time.

Our first try in the game was more than right. We reach the second thermal soon after the ramp and reach 1.000 meters again. Uau .. Clouds front of us and some naïve relief took over me. With my premature confidence in our second movement what I more feared just happened. We were too low and Olympio landed at the Mountains of Serra do Padre (km 15) and I was 50 m higher and managed to survive just resting on one of the mountains monolith. I stayed there for about 10 minutes without going up.

Unorganized and turbulent wind cycles didn’t let me climb as I wish. I was afraid to get hurt just at the beginning in the rock and that made me take a desperate decision. In a poker game they call it as all-in. I turned 90° right in direction to a vulture group which hardly could go up.

The following seconds I just survived because there wasn´t much hope to continue flying, I was just 100 m high. I thought of landing with Olympio and take off again but then I decided believe in my last move.

Before I got in the vulture group, I started to hit in small wind cycles that went up at 0,5m/s and decided that wasn’t the moment to waste something that was going up. I flew together with the wind cycles hoping that at any moment a thermal could get loosen. My instinct did not fail and soon I saw a group of vultures going up just after me.

This my little glide would define my destiny at that day. My king was almost checkmate and with few chances to revert the game. I went down again to a critical high that could easily take me down to the ground, but with much luck there were still 2m/s wind cycles under the vultures that soon took me to the cloud base again. Uau!!!! My king was safe again and I managed to rebuild my defenses.

When I looked at flight route direction I couldn’t believe how good the condition was until Monsenhor Tabosa (km120). And because still was early, that beautiful blue sky was not very much safe, after all the ceiling was still low (1200 m). Even so loosing much time at the begging I could recover the wasted time with the right decisions.

8:45 a.m. and I was at 300 m high. It is high that determines the destiny of the flight in the morning. Few options were left for me to survive. Once again I used my instinct and instead of getting attached to the failed and weak wind cycles at that glide, I went to the called vegetation “jurema” that have already saved me last year. My instinct once again helped me much and I climbed until I got again in the condition.

At that moment I was wondering what that for me makes sense. Flying so early with ceiling so low is like starting a chess game only with the king. It’s a fight against the clock where the more time goes by, more friend pieces are entering the game to help me. At this moment the ceiling was 200 m higher and at least someone was helping me.

The nest part of the flight was pretty much easier. Condition was well formed and I broke my velocity record until Monsenhor Tabosa with an average of 45 km/h. I arrived in Tabosa Mountains around 9:45, an ideal average to break 430km.

The city is called Monsenhor Tabosa, but I rather call it hell. The wind speeds up and it can be fatal to the unwarned that trust in the mountains wall as thermal trigger. Last year I have experienced terror moments when I was back flying there and I didn´t want take any risk. Five kilometers before the wall I decided to gain the maximum possible high to jump directly into the mountain plateau, where the safe conditions are better.

Jumping into the Tabosa Mountain plateau I relaxed because for me that moment was always the most dangerous of the flight. My mistake. I crossed the plateau quickly and soon I was at the cloud base making my last glide just above the rough area on the right of Tabosa. At that time in the morning the ceiling was 1600 m, but because I was flying in the mountain plateau, my king was alone again.

At the mountain descent was my most dangerous moment during the flight. I once again was too low in the middle of a rough area in the plateau and I remembered that jumping into a plain just after the mountain without gaining high is suicidal. There weren´t much options.

In these tense and dangerous moments I use to think in the word humility. Humility not meaning the behavior with others, but the behavior during the flight. It´s worthless being humble with others if we are not with ourselves, taking unnecessary risks beyond our limits. I try to think about this in every take-off and in every dangerous situation that I have during flight. It´s worthless have the awareness of danger if you don’t have the discipline to not expose yourself to it.

I looked at my left and I saw a dust devil about 200 m away from me. I have tried contact the rescue seconds before and found out my radio´s batteries were flat. My situation was not very much safe. I though: be humble. I decided to wait for few seconds onto a descendent. Right decision. I landed onto a plateau, about 50 m from the ground and I made it. A cycle started to push me back to the cloud base. Ceiling at 1800 m from the ground at 10:30 a.m.

I always knew for my own experience that the next part used to be the fastest of the flight. From Tabosa Mountain to Poranga. Once again I was wrong. There were no clouds in the sky, the condition pretty much weak with thermals that hardly went more than 3m/s.

I didn´t inform my position to Dio since 10:00 a.m. A big mistake in long flights, especially in the “sertão” (the most arid region in the Brazilian Northeast). Then, I remembered that I had another battery in my backpack at the back of the harness. “Humm!!!” – I thought! I have already loosed the brakes and reached my backpack in the harness in previous situations. Now I was in the midle of “sertão”with a competition canopy and without contacting my rescue for an hour.

The following moments were tense. I had to unzip and soon I had to command the canopy. The procedure to take of something from the backpack is very dangerous, because we have to take of the straps and twist backwards our body taking care to not drop anything. After 10 minutes of tension finally the battery was in my hands. I celebrated when the straps were back on my shoulders and finally I managed to turn on my radio and talked to Dió that I was few kilometers from Novas Russas, the main goal of the day.

I looked at the watch and I was told by Dió that my average was great and even with a not so good condition in a passage that usually is the fastest of all routes, after Poranga it could get better. I decided continue the flight.

I broke my velocity record until Poranga, and I arrived there around 1 p.m. I thought how amazing it was, being at km 200 at 1 pm. There were still 5 h of flight.

I was at the Poranga plateau and decided to make at least 300 km on that day. Because the condition until Pedro II (km 270) was not so good, with few clouds and big blue holes, I decided to slow down to guarantee another 300 km in my resume.

After my king being alone almost during the 5 first hours of the game, the ceiling was already 2500 m. My game was with much more friend pieces and I was confident after flying so down at the beginning.

I arrived high on the left of Pedro II around 3:30 p.m. and ask Dió: it will be today, Dió?? The answer was motivating…

The Dioclécio´s encouragement was very important in my following decisions and I started to get anxious about breaking the record. When I was close to Piri Piri (km 315) I almost went to ground because my anxiety. I made a long glide thinking of getting close to the city. I got low so down that almost there was no high enough to reach the ground. In five minutes I managed to loose all my pieces of the game and only the king was left again giving me signs about the checkmate.

At this moment I remembered the difficult hours in the morning and decided that the flight couldn’t finish right there. I jumped over a lake just before Piri Piri and went to 300 m from the ground. The ground was close, but my head was in Barras (km 370 and my previous personal record). I had to concentrate to focus at that difficult flight moment which was very complicated after almost 9 hours flying.

Instead of giving up, I decided that I should fight to try climb again. Finally after a 20 minutes stress trying to climb without any success, I managed to land where I wanted 30 minutes before. The cloud´s base: 3000 metros. My queen has just entered the game.

Without wasting time, I started to remember my final moments of the 370 km flight in the XCeara 2006. I remembered that I have won my last thermal in Piri Piri and that I have made my last glide very close to the city of Barras.

At that moment I thought that there was my last chance to finally have my checkmate. After suffering all day along and leaving my king alone, it was time to give in some pieces in order to deceive my enemy (the clock) and win the game.

I had to take the hard decision of abandoning the thermal just above Piri Piri without reaching the base. In front of me some clouds showed me that the thermal activity was close to end. I had to risk because it was pointless staying in Piri Piri climbing up to the base and loose the final precious minutes. All-in again. It was now or never.

My instinct didn’t disappoint me after all. I found another 2m/s thermal in the middle of the way to Barras and soon realized that the Brazilian, South American and Mountain world record were very close. My queen entered the game very aggressive and soon I would checkmate my biggest enemy: the clock.

I climbed, climbed and climbed just to guarantee. The euphoria tried to take over me but tried to control myself. My last contact with Dió was in Pedro II and when I realized that I should inform him my position, I found out another problem: my radio´s batery was flat again. In order to not die of regret, I decided that I would come back in any way, by lift, walking or even on a cattle´s back.

It was still 5 p.m. so my calculations about the final glide were not right. Still there were much thermal activities; therefore there will be descendents on the way. It´s totally different at 5:30 p.m when the activity ends and it is possible to make wonderful glides. My calculation was base on my last flight to Barras where I made almost 40 km in my last glide. I arrived at 1500 m from the ground.

This moment was maybe my only big mistake during the flight. On the right of Barras I found a 1,5m/s thermal. I started to climb already contaminated by the euphoria. Tired, dehydrated, hungry, without money in my pocket, crazy to urinate and without contact with the rescue, I took a stupid decision to film my last moments of flight.

I recorded during 5 minutes climbing the last thermal of the day until I lost it because of lack of attention. I switched off the camera and without thinking I decided to not come back to track the thermal again. Another 100 m and I reached 400km. If I had put the base there, maybe I would reach the 410km. Ahhh if I could come back in time...

In a desperate act to contact Dio, I changed the battery for the old one that went flat back in Tabosa. I was luck and it worked and the Dió´s words were unforgettable. “We can see you, congratulations for the record, you deserve...”

I landed in a road to Miguel Alves, in the middle of some houses, in a village called Anjica. There I met Dona Elza who welcomed me with a big smile. If the saint Dioclécio wasn´t there and following me, maybe I would have to sleep there, what I believe would not be a problem since I was very much welcome by everyone.

In a total of 10 hours and 11 minutes flight with 397,7 km, very low average with less than 40km/h, but with all the adversities and a victory. We always look for perfection. I was not perfect and I am not perfect, but on that day I got very close.

Thanks my God for taking care of me during the flight and give me this opportunity to share this experience with my friends and everyone who is interested in this matter.

Thanks Marcelo Prieto and André Fleury for teaching me all about how to fly in the Sertão and for choosing me as son during the SOL Northeast Expedition 2006.

Thanks Dioclécio for his friendship and constant stimulus during the flight.

Thanks Ary for the support and believe me as a qualified member to get in the SOL´s team.

And finally a special thanks to my dear cousin Rodrigo Monteiro who taught me to fly and always encouraged me to practice this wonderful sport.

Today is my birthday. I wrote this for me as a memory. I never wrote about my flights. I forgot many dangerous and happiness moments. I thought that this one would be worth keeping it as a memory.

Rafael Saladini

SOL Paragliders :: Rua Walter Marquardt, 1180 - Rio Molha - Caixa Postal 370
Cep 89259-700 - Jaraguá do Sul/SC - Brasil - FONE: 55 (47) 3275-7753 - FAX: 55 (47) 3370-7114