Okanagan men complete first leg in flight of their lives

On Wednesday, Peachland's Mark Jennings-Bates and Vernon's Glenn Derouin began their attempt to break a paragliding world record.

Mark Jennings-Bates and Glenn Derouin are currently paragliding around Australia to break a Guinness record and raise money for charity. Above is an action shot taken on their first day of flying.

Breaking into the Guinness Book of World Records is no easy task.

And to do it by attempting the world’s longest powered paragliding flight probably isn’t the easiest way.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Peachland’s Mark Jennings-Bates and Vernon’s Glenn Derouin began their attempt to fly past the previous record of 8,008 km, set by Canadian Ben Jordan.

“Our goal is to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest continuous expedition by powered paraglider by flying over 12,000 km around Australia,” said Jennings-Bates.

“We just flew the first leg (Wednesday) morning from Townsville to Charters Tower: A distance of approximately 80 km. We’re now waiting for the winds to calm down again before hopefully flying another 200 km (Wednesday) evening.”

The pair were set to begin their journey—which they have called the Flight4Life—earlier this month; however, poor weather conditions set them back a few days.

“The weather has been a real problem on a few fronts. The rain has meant that many roads are closed and while Glenn and I can fly over them, the ground crew cannot follow us.

“To add to that, the winds are typically north to south this time of year, which would blow us in the direction that we want to go; however, they are currently 180 degrees from that, so we are fighting a headwind.”

The Canadian pilots have been mentally and physically preparing for this journey for years.

“Both Glenn and I spend quite a bit of time in the gym and running and competing in triathlons.

“The other aspect is to keep your head in the right place. The flying can get really intimidating sometimes and you have to keep one eye on safety and the other on the goal. Our objective is to find that optimal balance between risk and reward.”

The pair met in 1990 after Jennings-Bates had taken a hiatus from rock climbing and decided he wanted to try his hand at paragliding. For several years, the two flew together in the Canadian Rockies until Jennings-Bates and his wife, Jackie, started to raise their family.

A few years ago, Jennings-Bates approached Derouin about tackling a world record project for charity. As a result, the Flight4Life was born.

The purpose of the journey—besides breaking into the record books—is to attempt to raise money for the Rally4Life Foundation: A charitable organization based in Canada that provide safe water solutions for remote communities as well as funding for schools and orphanages.

According to Jennings-Bates, each day, nearly 6,000 children die from lack of access to safe water or adequate sanitation.

“That is a child about every 20 seconds. We do not need to invent a cure—we know the answer.”

His overall personal goal is to raise $4 million for the Rally4Life Foundation.

He said, for this particular trip, the funds have just started to come in.

“Local people have been handing money to us as we travel and on Facebook I have several hundred dollars donated. A large part of the donations will come towards the end of the trip, but hopefully we can reach a meaningful goal of $200,000 for this trip.”

The flying duo will also be raising awareness and funds for a well known Australian charity, the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“Everyone tells us what a great organization they are,” said Derouin.

“We have already met many people impacted by the positive service they provide in rural Australia and around the country in general.”

One other perk for Jennings-Bates is that he has been recognized by Tourism Australia.

“Tourism Australia became quite interested in the project and my other activities when I spoke to them and felt (I) was a good fit for their Friends of Australia program.

“It’s really cool and has about 80 to 90 advocates, including some much more famous people than me. On Feb. 22, if our route and planning works out, I should be getting together with the other friends at a meeting in Sydney.”

Those other “friends” include the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Lance Armstrong.

To follow Jennings-Bates and Derouin’s journey or to donate to the cause, visit www.theflight4life.com.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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