That summer we decided to go on a hang-gliding holiday and explore the hills of Devon and Cornwall. Trevor had a London black cab at the time, and he drove it down with the hang-gliders on the roof and me in the back like a lord. Soon we found some deserted cliffs on the North coast of Devon. The wind was blowing straight off the sea. We stood on the edge of the cliff, where the wind seemed fairly calm, and stuck our hands out over the edge. The wind was rushing up the face of the cliff and your hand was nearly blown away. It seemed ideal. We set up or hang-gliders in the relatively calm air at the top of the cliff. It fell on me to go first. This had its pros and cons. Pro: you have somebody to help you off; con: you’re the guinea pig. When you go over the edge the nose of the glider will get lifted first. You need to be very quick otherwise you risk doing a somersault.
Off I went and I immediately shot up like a rocket. I flew around for a bit while I half got over my adrenalin rush. Hang gliding is the most terrific rush. I was about to get another different sort of rush. It was very easy to fly and the view was magnificent. Then I had a look around for Trevor. I checked the top of the cliff and the flying zone around me. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I was beginning to think that he had flown away somewhere. I heard a faint cry through the howling wind. I still couldn’t see him. Then I saw him, with his hang-glider, pinned to the cliff face about 20 meters from the top. If the wind had suddenly dropped, he and his glider would have tumbled down the cliff to the rocks 200m below.
I have described all this from my point of view. My understanding of Trevor’s take off and crash is that he didn’t go off the cliff fast or straight enough. This is understandable, he had nobody to help him and the hang-glider was being buffeted about by the gusty wind. As he took off one wing of the hang-glider got lifted more than the other and the glider went into an uncontrollable turn, while still moving forward. Very quickly it was going straight at the cliff and bang!
I still get guilty about my procrastination on the beach. I have discussed it with Trevor and he thinks I did the right thing. What a sport he is!
The first picture is a bit of a fake. It is of me about 20 years later flying a different hang-glider in a different country.