Paraglider's record Cook Strait crossing

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 11:03 03/03/2013
Paraglider
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
HAPPY LANDINGS: Matt Stanford touches down from his paraglider trip across the Strait.

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From 12,500 feet above Cook Strait, Matt Stanford had a perfect view of Mt Taranaki.

The British expat cruised high above the Interislander ferry yesterday as he became the first person to cross the stretch of water in a paraglider.

Fourteen months of planning and aborted attempts came to fruition when the weather played its part and the green light was given.

With his partner Donna Meikle waiting at Oteranga Bay in the North Island, Stanford headed up in a helicopter above the Tory Channel before jumping out and heading towards his destination.

The helicopter then followed Stanford as a safety precaution, as well as providing him with valuable air traffic space that had been cleared for the attempt by Wellington Airport.

Within 40 minutes he had covered the 30km and touched down perfectly at the beach, overjoyed and thrilled to have accomplished his dream.

"I actually had a little cry when I was halfway across, when I knew I was going to make it."

Admitting to a few nerves after leaping from the helicopter, he said they soon disappeared once he got going.

"The concept is more frightening perhaps than the reality but flying so long over open water with no engine is always a little scary."

Having spent more than $6000 and dozens of stressful weekends preparing for the trip, the 29-year- old was hoping to raise money for World Vision through his website.

A former primary school teacher, Stanford said he was inspired to make the crossing after witnessing the passion his school showed while raising money during the 40-hour famine.

Both Stanford and Meikle said they were looking forward to getting back to a normal life now that the attempt had been successful, but another crossing could be in the works.

"Not seriously, but Foveaux Strait could be interesting," Stanford mused once back on terra firma.

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- Sunday Star Times

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