On Sat 25 March my pilot Jay and I ventured out to compete in our first ever time trial race as a para cycling duo, and what a day we had!
We were accompanied by the infamous exsight “White Bike“ complete with new tyres and a shiny detail .. she almost outshone her riders! A big thank you to Chris Mills for the tyres and Ben Gaffey for getting her ready to race.
Randwick Cycling Club hosted the event, a 18km time trial on the Hefferon Park criterion track, renowned for being one of the most technical tracks around. They say if you can master this track you can master any… and we did!
With initial guidance from the two other teams, Paralympic and national champions no less, we were in very good hands. It only took Jay a couple of warmup laps to get a feel for the track and off we went. We were told if we could average 30 km/h we were doing well, so this was our goal. You can imagine our delight when we look down and realise we were averaging 31.5! We completed 9 laps of the 2 km course at this speed and gave it everything we had, with nothing left in the tank when we finished. The bike didn’t let us down and we only clipped the backpedal once on a tight corner but Jay quickly corrected that by taking the corner wider for the rest of the race.
Given that neither of us have never done anything like this before we did incredibly well. We placed 3rd, made the podium and even won $30 prize money! We will be donating our prize money to Exsight as thanks for the loan of the bike and the support we received from Geoff leading up to the race.
We cannot tell you how much fun it was and the experience has inspired me as a Stoker to keep training and get stronger and faster in order to reach my goals. I can’t thank my pilot Jay Gaffey enough for all the support and encouragement she gives me every day.
A massive thank you to the Randwick cycling club for supporting us on the day and of course to Geoff Stratton and the Exsight Tandems Team for everything you do to keep us riding.
We left the track with huge smiles on our faces feeling very proud of ourselves and what we had achieved. Two time Paralympic and silver medallist Stu called out to us as we left…“See you at nationals ladies“…Well you never know .. the journey continues
This is Geoff’s story. A unique description of skydiving from someone without sight to distract the senses. Also check out the video that Dallas was able to film during the dive. The video link is at the end of Geoff’s story.
A SKYDIVE IN WOLLONGONG – by Geoff Stratton
Thursday 3 June 2021. A cool morning but the forecast rain hadn’t yet arrived. Xiumei and I drove to the Skydive Office at Stewart Park. This is where the journey begins. The paperwork completed and weighed (with all of my four jumpers and two track suit pants to protect me from the anticipated freeze), I weigh in at only 68kg. Then came the kitting-up with the all-encompassing harness that will strap you to the tandem captain (If that is the correct term), with Dallas the Charismatic assisting with black humour, such as, “Is this harness the one that was stopped being used?”, and the lady staff member replying “No! it probably will go one more time, if we are lucky”.
Once on the bus travelling to the airport at Albion Park Rail, it was more like a gentle drive through the park and conversation that belied what the future held.
Within minutes of arriving at the airport on the bus, it was up three steps, and getting the first surprise that the roof of the plane was lower than I expected. I trip but only fall to my knees – in prayer, which obviously was answered, as I am sitting here now in a state of continuing euphoria!
The seat was a raised long firm foam rubber one that you sit astride, where Dallas, my guardian angel sat behind me with the exit door only a metre away – saving me a long shuffle when the action was to start. Once the other brave or, perhaps, naive like me passengers were aboard, the plane was away down the Runway. I hardly was aware of lift off, most likely my flight and fight responses had already kicked in for a destiny unknown. Dallas continued progressively to tighten and secure the harness straps to make us one person instead of two, my words not that I know really, still the relaxed talk and reminders of the small part I had to play: “Hands up to shoulder level holding the loops to keep them close in”; the tight fitting goggles were put in place, not too uncomfortable once they were properly adjusted. Over Kanahooka Park, on to Stewart Park gradually climbing to fourteen thousand feet. The sliding door slipped backwards with a brisk not too uncomfortable breeze, probably due to the fact of me wearing all my wardrobe to prevent hypothermia. Dallas, instructed to straighten the knees and we shuffled forward off the low seat with the open door becoming ever more the point of no return: and then!
A ROLL TO THE RIGHT INTO SPACE! AND THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN! Seeming to spin around and around until we stabilised. A tap on the shoulder to tell me to place the arms stretched out, a little like swimming – and that is what it felt like as though the 200kph free-fall wasn’t through air, but similar to the pressure of water. The speed was fantastic with the roar of the rushing air making anything else impossible to hear. Strange as it may seem there was no fear of the rapidly approaching ground – just the movements from side to side and waiting for the next momentous stage.
Suddenly there was a slight sense of a bump as the parachute opened; once again my existence spun as we slowed and I assumed a more natural upright position – I am still wondering during the free-fall, whether I was diving down or in some other position. Once the vestibular system had adjusted to it’s changed angle we floated down with Dallas steering; sometimes turning to the right giving that feeling of riding a wave as we turned into the rise; slipping back to the trough and swinging into a left turn rising up and back down to neutral. This movement felt a little like that fairground ride called The Waltzers that swings you this way and that way causing that slight tension of apprehension. All the time the reassuring voice of Dallas made these sensations ok, allowing the drifting pleasure to supersede anything else. All too soon I was practicing the landing movements “Knees up, straighten the legs out in front” and shortly afterwards it was for real, sliding gently along the grass and back to terra firma.
Since the Skydive yesterday, there has been this strange euphoric state that I can only imagine must be something like people experience when tripping out on their favourite mood changer.
I am truly indebted to Skydive Australia, particularly the staff in Wollongong and most of all Dallas who gave me the experience of a lifetime that matches one of floating down a river in Sri Lanka by boat that took us through the rapids with the boatman merely holding onto my hand – with no fear – amazing since I am a poor swimmer.
Geoff is the president of Exsight Tandems Illawarra and has been blind since childhood. He rides a tandem bike with anyone who will pilot him. This takes courage to trust another person to safely negotiate the Illawarra roads and cycleways. But does he have the courage to jump out of a plane?
One of Geoff’s tandem pilots, Dallas, also happens to be a tandem skydive instructor with Skydive Australia (Skydive the Beach). He wants to take Geoff for a skydive over Wollongong. Geoff is apprehensive, and needs some motivation to do it. If he could raise some awareness for his beloved Exsight Tandems charity, or even find some new vision impaired people to get involved with Exsight, that would do it, he says.
Seven Vision Impaired Exsight members are competing in the international postal Home Range Cup (HRC) target shooting competition for 2021.
COVID restrictions have limited the number of European shooters involved this year, with only one VI shooter from Austria competing in the same Division as the Exsight shooters. Regardless, Steve, Peter, Rhonda and Sarah are all shooting scores that would have placed them highly in pre-COVID HRC competitions.
After 2 rounds and a possible maximum score of 1308: Steve is in 1st place with 1245.5, Peter in 2nd with 1236.8, Rhonda in 3rd with 1234.5, Sarah in 4th with 1230.3, Victoria in 6th with 1201.2, Bronwyn in 7th with 1167.1, Troy in 8th with 1080.3. Round 3 of a total of 4 rounds has just commenced with Sarah setting the “bar” at 620.3 out of a possible maximum of 654 for 60 shots. This is an average of 10.3 per shot (maximum possible is 10.9 per shot).
The second Mt Keira Challenge was run on Sunday 22nd November 2015, and of course Exsight was on the scene. Three (3) tandem teams from eXsight Tandems Illawarra participated in the ride to the summit, all mounted on Cannondale tandems.
The ride from Sydney to Wollongong in support of the MS Society was held on Sunday 1st November 2015.
eXsight Tandems Illawarra was well represented on the 2015 MS Sydney to the Gong Ride, with four (4) teams on Cannondale tandems and three (3) solo riders, participating in both the 90 km and 56 km rides. A total of $935 was raised by the eXsight TRN team as sponsorship for the MS Society.
I’ve always been one who looks for an adventure in life. In 2003 I went for a bicycle ride with my 17 year old son Joshua to Africa. We took our mountain bikes with panniers, tent, sleeping gear, cooking gear and rode from Johannesburg, through the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and all the way to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
We still had a long way to go on our journey to the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. Once arriving in Nairobi we then ventured high up into the mountains to climb the 2nd tallest mountain in Africa, Mt Kenya. The following week we made our way to Moshi in Tanzania and climbed the ultimate mountain in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro. Now that was an incredible experience. Continue reading “Terry Wall: Introduction to eXsight”
In April 2008 Geoff Stratton had an Apollo tandem, an old beach cruiser tandem and was put in contact with Peter Meers, who had some experience captaining a blind person on a tandem. This is the seed that would become Exsight, but how did this pair grow into a group of over sixty members in Wollongong, with branches in Sydney and Armidale? Geoff tells the story.