Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Soaring to Mt Aspiring with Alex

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thank you to the Gliding Family

Sadly Issue 32 of SoaringNZ, will now not be printed until mid January. There is NOTHING we can do about this. And yes, we're not very happy. We did everything we could to get it to the printers in time, but there were gremlins in the files and by the time that was sorted, it was too late.

Here anyway is my editorial for the issue. It's heartfelt and personal. The gliding family rocks.

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I’ve observed before that the gliding community is more like a family than a group of clubs. It is small enough that you don’t have to be around very long before you manage to meet many of its members and learn of many more. Some people you don’t see very often, some people you don’t like very much, and other people you adore, just like a family. The gliding community has certainly felt like a family recently.

We’ve been down to the South Island Regionals, which is an annual pilgrimage for our family. This is the start of the summer for us, when we set up the caravan in the Omarama camp ground for the season. Once the caravan’s set up, it makes it easy to pop down for the odd weekend, or longer periods between work commitments. Lots of other people do the same. The summer campground regulars come from all around the country. Some people stay a week, some stay longer. For many of us, this is the only time we actually see each other in the flesh all year. For years, my son Robert would measure himself against Paul Barrett’s (not that short) lovely wife Linda to see if he was taller. It was a ritual. For many years she was in the lead, then one year they were level pegging. Now he towers over her.

There is a large wood round acting as a door stop at the entry to the ablution block. That block of wood was first in use four or five years ago, as a step stool, so that Leah Ruddick from Wellington could reach the sink in the Ladies to wash her hands. She hasn’t needed it for two summers now. My kids have grown up with the gliding equivalent of aunts and uncles to spoil and discipline them and a pile of cousins to get up to mischief with and measure themselves against.

Nick Oakley and my son Alex grew up together, spending summer holidays swimming, biking, boating and learning to fly gliders. Now, together, they’re off flying in their first international competition – Australia’s Youth Nationals – Joey Glide. Their team manager, helper and crew person is their “Uncle” David Tillman.

Another thing about family is that sometimes it never occurs to you to ask them for help, but they’ll offer it anyway.

Earlier in the year, when Alex and Nick announced their intentions of going to Joey Glide, we started trying to work out where the money to pay for it would come from. Neither of our families could afford to send them off with a pat on the head and a packed lunch. The boys’ ultimate aim is to fly in the FAI Junior World Championships in Australia in 2013. We thought that would be interesting to potential sponsors. We put a considerable amount of effort into grant applications to various trusts, those ones out in the community that provide funds for up and coming young sports people. It was a huge amount of work, made more complex by having to explain what the sport of glider racing is all about, before we could even get to explaining why these young men were worthy of the attention and the money. Ultimately it all came to nothing. None of the sources approached came through. How much of that is to do with the obscurity of gliding as a sport, we will never know.

Meanwhile, the boys were working hard to earn funds. Nick works as a farming contractor and Alex is a student. He has a casual part time job working at a petrol station. He thought he’d found a job for the university holidays working with one of the Geotech companies, drilling samples all over Christchurch, sadly they haven’t come back to him about when he can start. By November he had enough money to cover the camp, but had nothing left over for next year at university. Alex is young, and has no problem with the thought of extending his student loan to cover that, even if his parents aren’t so sure that’s a good idea. It did mean he had enough money for the trip.

And then, at the Regionals, the gliding family got behind the boys. The Mike Rix trustees agreed to pay airfares, but it was the generosity of individual people that leaves me teary. Many people donated to the cause. There is now enough money to completely cover the costs of the trip for both of them, with some left over. The remaining moneys will be kept aside for their on-going training, leading up to the Junior Worlds. It is only a fraction of the money that will be required for the whole campaign, but it is such a generous start.

As I write this, the boys are in Australia, enduring temperatures in the 40’s, and getting to know the gliders they’ll be flying next week in the contest. And that reminds me of some more people who need to be thanked, the Australian gliding community. Complete strangers have reached out to help the boys. Alex has a Cirrus to fly, for free. Thank you Adam Woolley. Adam simply says that he has got a lot out of the sport; he wants to pay it forward. To our extended gliding family out there, if you’ve stepped up in any way to help the boys achieve their goals, we thank you so much. Know too that the boys are doing their very best, to be worthy of your trust.

Next issue we’ll bring you the Joey Glide report.

Enjoy your summer
Stay Safe

Jill McCaw


  1. This is a great story, Jill. Good luck, Alex and Nick!

  2. Good luck to the boys in the contest! Loved reading about your gliding family, Jill!