Daniel Sidoli wrote a short article about speedflying at the Lakes Charity Classic 2008 for SkyWing magazine. His flying pilot profile also featured in the same edition.

Speedflying at the Lakes Classic

By Daniel Sidoli

In February I received a surprise e-mail from fellow speedflyer and BHPA instructor Gordie Oliver inviting me up to the Lake District with the promise of a party, food and local ale, but above all a scary helicopter ride to a mountain top along with the paraglider acro boys. My side of the bargain? I had to speedfly down the 2,500ft face of High Crag to put on a show for the spectators. Life is hard. Who was I to refuse wish an invitation? It’s not every day I get a lift to launch.

What can I say about the Lakes Charity Classic? Ten out of ten! It’s set in some of the most breathtaking terrain I have seen in the UK. The weather played ball, giving us glorious sunshine and light winds in the evening for the displays. If you have not been to this event in the past I would strongly recommend going – it was definitely worth the 600-mile round trip from South Wales.

Just picture it – a chopper ride for the display pilots to the mountain top, and 2,500ft vertical height over a crystal-clear lake for the acro boys to do their thing in the evening sun. Among them were the Lucky Clowns from Switzerland (if you haven’t seen them fly just check out YouTube!). Some launched from the mountain-top itself; others D-bagged from tandems piloted by equally crazy people! Stalls, spins and SATs… and the UK’s first-ever tumble performed by Scotland’s Terry Stubbs on his Apco Twister.

The speed flying display put on by Gordie and I went down well with the crowds too. Such a long flight, descending the mountain face within metres at some points doing 60-70km/h, feeling very close to nature and more alive than I can describe. If you have to ask you will never understand. All this was topped off with a big party in the evening full of the most hospitable people, making Laura and I feel very welcome. Cumbrian hospitality rules!

Big thanks to all the people I met and all the acro pilots, but particularly Patrik Homes at UK Airsports for the pictures and his continued support, also Gordie Oliver for the invitation to take part in a great event. The Lakes Charity Classic raised £2,500 for local charities, and speed flying has landed in the UK! I will be along next year for sure, but in the mean time I think an August speed flying trip to the Lakes is needed.

Pilot Profile No 177: Daniel Sidoli

Daniel started flying on sailplanes in 1998 and soon after gained a PPL in Florida, where he took the opportunity to do a tandem skydive. He was also involved in freediving and twice took part in the UK Freediving Championships. After leaving university, paragliding took over from skydiving and he flew in south Wales for several years before becoming disenchanted by the long days spent waiting for the right conditions. In 2006 a passing comment from a former instructor got in him interested in the use of smaller wings to get more airtime. He bought a 12m wing and quickly realised it was too small to ridge soar, but found a new direction in skimming down hills at speed. “It’s all about the line down a hill… it’s not about ridge soaring in high winds. Flying down the faces of hills and mountains is simply exhilarating and makes me feel alive.” The slow learning curve led him to set up www.speedfly.co.uk to help others find out about the sport, although his advice is often to forget it and take up something else. In June Dan gave a spirited speed fly demonstration at the Lakes Charity Classic at Buttermere. He plans to try his hand at speed riding competitions next year, and he and some BASE-jumping friends are working on a speed wing D-bag system. We will be hearing more from him soon!

Age? 29.

Marital status? In a long-term relationship with the long-suffering Laura.

Born? Caerphilly, South Wales.

Where do you live now? Cardiff.

Occupation? Building surveyor, I’m respectable from 9 to 5, but then it’s me-time!

Previous occupations? CAD technician, barman, factory worker, the list really is endless.

How and when did you start flying? I always wanted to be a military pilot. I learned to fly sailplanes at 10, then did my PPL at 19 with the intention of going into the RAF but failed selection a few years later with the comment, “You’re not quite outdoors or adventurous enough”. I got into paragliding five or six years ago while at university as I didn’t like all the red tape associated with light aircraft.

How and when did you start flying? Speed flying for me was a natural progression from paragliding. Had I taken up skydiving the progression would have been into BASE-jumping. I needed something new with more excitement, and speed flying came along at the right time. Two years ago it was so hard to get a speed wing – there was no info about wing loads, sizes etc. Now there is lots of info out there.

Which pilots most influenced you? Rob Whittall, just for the memory I have of him. I was trying to decide between paragliding and skydiving and watching the video Super Fly Hard. It was seeing Rob that sold me on paragliding – he was smiling and laughing and looked like he was having so much fun. I also admire a number of other pioneering pilots in skydiving and BASE-jumping and of course speed flying, but in general it’s anyone who is not afraid to be different and push the envelope of what can be done.

Where and what was your most memorable flying experience? The invitation to demo speed flying at this year’s Lakes Charity Classic, no contest. How often do you get offered a helicopter ride to the top of a 2,500ft mountain, to then blast down the face of it in the clam, warm evening air? Such a buzz. The Lake District is speed flying heaven. The people really made the event for me and the misses, they are so welcoming.

What is your favourite flying site in Britain? The Lake District now, but closer to home the Brecon Beacons are great.

What is your favourite site in Europe? I’ve only been speed riding in the Alps, but will be taking my speed wing to Italy in August. Mount Baldo over Lake Garda has a gondola to the top which I think is about 6,000ft. It should be interesting!

What is your favourite site in the world? Any place big, wild and with some sort of lift to launch.

Who do you most admire in the sport? I admire anyone who speed flies or speed rides. It takes a certain type of person.

What trait do you most deplore in yourself? I change my mind a lot. No, wait… erm…

What trait do you most deplore in other people? Pompous people who believe the hype about themselves and talk down to others.

When not flying, what do you do for recreation? Camping with the misses. We always seem to end up camping near hills though. I have been downhill mountain biking recently but seem to fall off all the time.

What is your favourite piece of music? I like dance, trance, pop, rock, metal and classical. So whatever suits my mood at the time.

What is your favourite book? Any books on space and science. It’s so big up there I love thinking about the possibilities and the adventures our lucky great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will have once we get off this rock.

What is your favourite film? So many I can’t pick just one. Flight of the Navigator, Predator, Alien, Terminator, The Goonies – all the films I was raised on back in the 80s.

What is your greatest fear? Looking back on my life with regret. Trying things out, even if they go wrong, is what life is all about.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? A warm, calm, summer’s evening at the top of a 10,000ft mountain with a chair lift to launch and a bar in the landing field, with the misses at the counter waiting with a pint of Cumbrian ale!

What would your motto be? Don’t forget where you come from, and always have time for others – you might need help one day.

How would you liked to be remembered? As a decent person who enjoyed like in his own little way.