Tag Archives: chris lewis

When a Blind Man Jumps out of a Plane!

Photo of Chris Lewis on the very edge if an oprn play door 12,ooo feet up about to do a tandem parachute jump

What does it feel like when you jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet?

“That feeling … on the edge of the plane, when are we going to go? … and suddenly VOOM you’re gone … the Noise… Absolutely Sensational!”  Chris Lewis

 

I blame it on having an action man as a kid and the abundance of war-related stories on television and at the cinema in the 60s and 70s.Photo of an Action Man - the parchuting red arrow version But, when offered a choice between a posh lunch out, a new fire pit or a parachute jump for my 60th birthday, I jumped at the parachute option.

The organiser hadn’t sent much information other than that I was doing a tandem jump, to bring a face mask and a pen as well as to wear trainers. Obviously, I had thought of what it might feel like but I headed off to Headcorn Aerodrome in Kent a couple of weeks ago feeling like it was a bit of an adventure.

The training was very clear about what to do: listen to your instructor, keep your head up when you jump out of the plane and lift your legs when told to do so approaching the landing. Simple! Fitted out in an overall, sporting a very tight plastic face mask and tied tightly into a harness we boarded the small Cessna Caravan plane.

Chris and Steve the instructor outside the plane

Once aboard the instructor secured his harness onto mine and tightened it up. We were pretty close.

I asked Steve (the instructor) a lot of questions about what it would be like, how long each part would last and how many times he had jumped. He said we would not be able to communicate during the free fall but would be able to do so once the parachute kicked in. Luckily he was very experienced!

When the light came on after 15 minutes of circling and climbing above the airfield to 12,000 feet we bum-shuffled to the up and over door. I had been told to hook my feet under the plane and then we would rock backwards and forwards a couple of times before Steve would initiate the jump. Well, honestly, when I got near the open door all I could hear was rushing air passing the plane.

I fell, didn’t jump and the noise was incredible. It was, I should be honest, very disorientating. Apparently, we free-fell for 45 seconds.

Chris high in the sky doing a tandem parachute jump
Chris high in the sky doing a tandem parachute jump

During this time I gradually got my orientation back and Steve got us in the classic skydive position with arms out to the side and pointing forward and legs curled up behind.   Once settled, he spun us around to face the cameraman (who had jumped from the plane just after us) and made me wave at the camera. Bizarrely, it didn’t feel like we were falling at over a hundred miles an hour, but we were. It wasn’t cold and I didn’t have any other sensation other than the noise in my ears. It was actually very comfortable.

45 seconds in and 6,000 feet later, the parachute kicked in. Amazing, from that rush of noise to absolute silence. Steve asked me if I was OK. Honestly, I was feeling a bit nauseous but declined the offer of a sick bag! In fact, Steve then asked me if I wanted to  ‘pull some moves’.

This involved various degrees of turns with him controlling the parachute from a couple of guide rods. After an initially gentle one he asked if I wanted to go for it. Never being one to decline a new experience, I said yes. He then proceeded to take us through a figure of eight, pulling several Gs of pressure on our bodies. At one point we were, apparently, facing directly down to the ground, with the parachute out to our side. It was absolutely exhilarating.

After the initial 45 seconds of free fall the parachute part  lasted around 6 minutes. Before I knew it Steve said, ‘750 feet, get ready to lift your legs when I tell you’. He told me.

 

Chris and Steve the instructor about to land
Chris and Steve the instructor about to land

I lifted my legs up in front of me and we landed with him sliding in behind me. It was as gentle as sitting on a sofa. The only problem on landing was me getting tangled up in the lines from the parachute!

Chris smiling on the ground untangling himself from the lines of the parachute
Chris smiling on the ground untangling himself from the lines of the parachute

So, back on terra firma, the adrenaline really kicked in. If you get a chance to watch/listen to the video you will hear my bad language.

Blind Man and a Parachute Video below

Subtitles  start at 1min 24 seconds

Transcription link:  https://blindsport.uk/Parachute

It’s fair to say that I was buzzing for days afterwards. The thought of that final second in the plane and the first second falling out were amazing. And, yes, I would do it again, if only to focus on that initial experience of free-falling.

Chris and Steve pose for the camera, both smiling safely on Terra Firma
Chris and Steve pose for the camera, both smiling safely on Terra Firma

It’s not for everyone. Indeed I reckon 80% of people I have talked to said they would never go near it. For the other 20%, I really recommend it as one of those experiences in life you really should embrace.

And, as a blind person, those sensations of falling, flying, experiencing G-force all compensate for not being able to enjoy the view – of the Thames estuary apparently.

Mind you, not being able to see out of the plane in the first place also probably helps.

by Chris Lewis    |  Twitter: @Chr1sLew1s

 

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Ridderrennet 2017 – a lack of snow but no lack of fun!

Cross Country Skiing in Norway - Ridderrennet 2017

Ridderrennet 2017  – Article by Chris Lewis

Ridderrennet, for the non-initiated, is a week of disabled cross-country skiing put on by the Norwegians, featuring the King’s guards from the army, students from the Sports Science degree course and a wealth of volunteers from across Norway.

Cross country skiing is ideal for us vision impaired as the two tracks that skis fit into help guide us up and down the variable Beitostelen terrain. Well, that’s the theory.

The 28 strong British delegation arrived in Beitostelen on Sunday 26th March to find  “the worst snow conditions I have ever seen in my 43 years of attending the event” said Mike Brace. People who can see commented on how much of the mountain’s rock and ground they could see where former years have just shown snow piled up. The organisers shifted the activities from the sports and health centre to the World Cup centre and the fun began.

Chris lewis and Mike Brace
Chris lewis and Mike Brace

Everyone attending gets a guide allocated to them and they disappear during the week into the different parts of the resort to practice their skiing and shooting (with a sonic rifle, no bullets involved). The resort is so compact that everyone returns to the hotel to have lunch and swap stories about their triumphs and challenges. I have, personally, never experienced such a high level of helpfulness in a hotel. The main challenge for the VI attendees is avoiding the many wheelchair skiers hanging around the lobby!

Once the practice is done there is the matter of a couple of races. The biathlon took place on the Wednesday with a series of 2k circuits followed by the shooting. I  bottled out of this as the conditions were ‘a bit challenging’ but those who took part had a lot of fun. The 8k race on Thursday and the actual Ridderrennet race on Saturday see the military band come out, lots of loud music and tension mounting as people compete against time and each other.

The atmosphere on Saturday was excellent with a couple of Norwegian Ministers also joining in the battle to get up hill as quickly as possible, gulping in deep breaths of fresh air at the top before plunging downhill again. I can honestly say  I have never done anything quite so physically challenging.

The race was made more fun by my fellow Devils cricketer, Alan Turnball, being alongside me at one point and some very choice language being used when I fell across his path. He wasn’t to know that he had just sworn at a Minister of the Norwegian Crown as well!

Chris Lewis and a Minister of the Norwegian Crown at Ridderweek in Norway 2017
Chris Lewis and a Minister of the Norwegian Crown at Ridderrennet in Norway 2017

The British delegation featured some real veterans like Mike Brace (43rd year of attending) as well as some newcomers who took to the sport like ducks to water (bad analogy). It is a fantastic week of challenging yourself against nature and also presents an opportunity to mix with fellow VIPs as well as those from other countries.

My favourite memory, though, is waiting for a car at the top of the mountain and seeing an army Volvo estate go past me with a wheelchair fixed to the ski racks at the top. I got pretty accustomed to people in wheelchairs shooting past me on the course.

Congratulations to the Norwegians for putting on such a fantastic inclusive sporting event and to all who participated in the British delegation. If you’ve never given it a chance, keep an eye out for next year’s event.

It’s a sport that demands a great deal physically but gives pleasure back in spades both from a sporting and social perspective.

article by Chris Lewis

Ridderweek

  • Ridderweek is held in March or April in Beitostolen Norway.
  • You have the opportunity to participate in a 5km race for women or a 10km race for men; a biathlon (a 6km ski coupled with sonic rifle shooting); and the 20km Ridderrennet race.
  • You can read Metro member’s accounts of the previous Ridderweeks by accessing the ‘articles’ link on this page.
  • Contact Mike: mike@mikebrace.co.uk  for enquiries about next years skiing trip

 Interested in VI skiing  then check out  the Metro blind Sport’s Skiing page