Hang glider Guy Hubbard claims Spanish national titles

Guy Hubbard (centre right), with the other winners at this year's Spanish Hang Gliding championships. Photo: Supplied

Guy Hubbard (centre right), with the other winners at this year's Spanish Hang Gliding championships. Photo: Supplied

He may be nursing a badly damaged rotator cuff muscle, but Guy Hubbard has achieved one of the biggest feats of his career.

The 38 year veteran of hang gliding recently took to the skies in both the Spanish National Championships and World Team Championships in Italy, taking home the open title at the Spanish competition.

It was a month filled with highs and lows for Hubbard, claiming the Spanish against a world class field.

"That's my best result so far," said Hubbard.

The race was not Hubbard's main focus, with the veteran treating the event as a warm-up before his national representative duties.

Nevertheless, when he got to day four of the race, he found himself in second place overall, and racing against a competitor that had him matched for pace.

Hubbard chose to focus on his own race.

It was a strategy that paid off, with the second placed Blay Olmos Quesada Jnr enduring an error ridden final round to give Hubbard a significant reward for his efforts.

"I was flying my own race and making my own decisions," the local pilot said, noting that in many ways hang gliding is comparable to the tactical battles waged in the sport of sailing.

"There's all sorts of tactics, and reading the conditions, except you have that extra factor of vertical... There's major decisions all the time.

Hubbard pictured with Blay Olmos Quesada Jnr during a day of racing in Europe. Photo: Supplied

Hubbard pictured with Blay Olmos Quesada Jnr during a day of racing in Europe. Photo: Supplied

"When you get in the last thermal... It's who leaves at exactly the right time, flies exactly at the right speed, and then is ballsy enough to get across the line as low as they can... that actually wins the race."

While success in the five day Spanish race was followed by the disappointment of crashing out of the World team championships, to hear Hubbard tell it, that was tempered by the fact he took part in last year's race as a member of the Australian team.

"Because I competed in Italy last year I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything,"

"We had some good days last year, where we flew into Austria and into Slovenia."

However, he did admit there was still some disappointment in not being able to finish off the competition due to the rotator cuff injury.

"I ran out of landing area on day four... I picked a small paddock to land in and still had a bit of speed by the time I got to the end of it and banged in pretty hard when I tried to pull it up."

"I've got to have an MRI and see a specialist... he'll say whether I just need physio or whether need an operation... It's not something that heals quickly, I would've been better off breaking my arm.

"It could be torn off the bone or could be just ripped in half... [I] don't know."

It compounded a disappointing week for the Australian team, who finished ninth in the teams event, though Steve Blenkinsop finished 17th in a field of 120 pilots.

With the incident leaving him with an arm in a sling, it has forced him into a wait-and-see in regards to several forthcoming local racing events that were previously pencilled in.

"I can't book in for the next competition, until I know that I'm going to be right for it or not, which is in October, and there's another one in November," he said.

Hubbard noted that at the very least he hopes to compete in an annual international competition held in Forbes throughout December.

"That's what's I like doing... competing against the best."

Cowra's Guy Hubbard, pictured with both the spoils and the tribulations of his recent European hang gliding racing stint. Photo: Ben Rodin

Cowra's Guy Hubbard, pictured with both the spoils and the tribulations of his recent European hang gliding racing stint. Photo: Ben Rodin

However, having arrived back into the country after his second European racing stint, 38 years into his sporting career, the 2017 Cowra Sportsperson of the Year was nevertheless proud to look back and reflect on how far it has taken him.

"It's only been the last six years that I've actually gone overseas; before that I was only doing one competition a year and wasn't actually getting enough points to make the Australian team," Hubbard said.

"It's unbelievable, when it lifted me off the ground on that first flight 38 years ago, [I] would never have thought it would take me all around the world and I'd have friends in countries all over the world - Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Norway.

"It's unbelievable... the people that I know now."

While he is now a globally recognised hang glider, Hubbard was set on his path all those years ago while completing a run-of-the-mill building job.

"We were building a house for Fred Fay, a local crop-duster pilot; it was just about finished, and he put this long bag in the shed," Hubbard said, who is now retired.

"I said, 'What's in the long bag?'"

"He said, 'That's a hang glider.'

"He actually gave it to me, I built him a pool pump housing for his pool... and I went out, taught myself to fly.

"[I] couldn't fly a hill big enough ever since."

From there, as Hubbard points out, with several of the world's best hang gliders not your typical profile of an elite athlete, he spent his time learning how to use the hang glider in a variety of conditions.

"It's accumulated knowledge over the years and experience," Hubbard said.

"There's not many very young blokes, who have got that knowledge, but hang glider pilots just seem to get better with age.

Still, training in Cowra played a big part in his preparation for the European Summer, riding with local cycling groups playing a big part in helping him to be seasoned and ready for the high altitude levels that are a part of competition.

"Before going, I rode my bicycle with the local bikers' group to get my red blood cell count up," Hubbard explained.

"When you're higher, you're getting more oxygen to the brain, you're thinking clearer so there is an advantage in being fit

"It is not a necessity but it does help."

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