On October 25, 2018, Brazilian pilot Marcella Uchoa flew an amazing 410,72 km with her Ozone Enzo 3 glider in the northeast of her home country, setting 3 new female world records: Straight distance, Straight distance to a declared goal of 377 km, and free distance using up to 3 turn points of 414,5 km. These records are still in the hands of current European and World champion Seiko Fukuoka Naville from France, who claimed them in December 2015 in Australia, until the FAI validates Marcella’s new record claims.
The crew of the FAI (International Aeronautic Federation) have interviewed Marcella about her 8 years of paragliding experience and preparation for these record-breaking attempts that gave her 2 other +300km flights (the second, just under 400); an interview we reproduce below:
Marcella, what made you begin to paraglide?
I did a skydiving tandem flight and love it, but as it is so expensive and in my hometown there is a paragliding community, they offered me to teach me for free as I was the first girl to fly in my city. And since the very first moment I took my feet off the ground I was completely in love.
Who were the people that inspired you in your life and sport?
I met the world record holder Kamira Pereira in 2010, when I started flying, and listening to her telling me about her flights totally inspired me and I thought: “one day I want to be the woman who made the longest flight on Earth”. In addition, Klaudia Bulgakow and Seiko Fukuoka are my huge inspirations.
What are your achievements titles before breaking a record?
Last year I achieved the Brazilian Female Record, flying 362.4km. Regarding competitions, I have good results on nationals and regionals, also in PWC Andradas 2017, I was 3rd female.
Why did you decide to break that very record in that very place?
I was invited by the “world record holders team” (Rafael Saladini, Marcelo Prieto, Frank Brown and Samuel Nascimento) to join their expedition to “Sertão” this year and to be part of their team. It was a huge dream coming true, only being part of this team. As the towing launches are getting popular (and I totally understand why, as it is much safer than foot launch and increases the average speed of the flight) the team chose Assu, Rio Grande do Norte, to give it a try. And it seems it worked really well.
What flying conditions make your record different from the previous one?
The previous female world record was from Seiko Fukuoka last year in Australia, 402km. My previous personal record was 362.4km in Patu, Rio Grande do Norte, last year, and it was Brazilian female record. The flying conditions of the record this year were very difficult. Turbulent, blue and with a thermal inversion. Last year, it was fairly easy to fly as we had clouds all day long. Also, learning how to fly as a true team, the philosophy of helping each other to reach a common goal.
How long did preparation take?
I have been preparing myself for two years or more. This year was very intensive as it is my first year flying a CCC wing (Enzo 3), so it was a big challenge to prepare myself to be ready to face the “big air” conditions in northeast Brazil. Luckily, I had the chance to fly in PrePWC and PWC in Turkey just before going to “Sertão”, and it was a perfect preparation for it.
Who helped you most to get prepared?
My good friend Walter Oliveira helped me a lot getting prepared, flying together in different conditions. Rafael Saladini is my main coach, he taught me everything I know about flying in northeast Brazil.
“never givE up, always believe in your dreams and do whatever it takes to pursue and fight for them”
Who worked with you during preparation (any team)?
My preparation was mainly alone, I joined as many competitions I could to learn to fly as fast as I can. I had the support of the Brazilian League, to do a SIV course and to go to PWCs. In addition, I worked out a lot to prepare myself physically and started to meditate to train my mind.
What was the most tricky thing in breaking this record?
The mind for sure. It is hard to keep it calm sometimes. The routine in “Sertão” is very exhausting and demanding. Therefore, learning how to deal with our emotions throughout the frustrations is very tricky. I have a good friend who says: “The success depends on how you deal with frustrations”.
Tell us about those who supported you on the way (friends, NAC, trainer, local pilots etc)
As I said, Rafael Saladini is my main coach. But I also have to thank Cristiano Ricci (top local pilot) who taught me so much about flying, for sure I owe to him a lot. Walter Oliveira, also the local pilot, helped me a lot along the way. And the Brazilian League supported me. Not to mention my whole family who has always supported me in chasing this dream.
“Flying in “sertão” is a lifetime experience, where you grow not only as a pilot but mainly as a human being”
Tell us how it was to break the record. What was most difficult? Decisive? Unexpected?
The flying conditions of my record flight were very difficult. Turbulent, blue and very challenging. I was the last one to be towed, so I flew the first km by myself, then I was able to connect with Frank Brown and Marcelo Prieto and later on, we connected with Samuel Nascimento and Rafael Saladini. It was very very turbulent, it was not easy to fly the Enzo S in those conditions, so I was able to eat something only after 2 pm. I think I did not fly very well, I always climb well, but that day I could not do it very well. Only between 10-12pm we had clouds. After Quixeramobim, it turned blue again and the whole flight there was a thermal inversion making it more turbulent. We had several low saves. And when I thought it was getting weaker (I was even thinking of releasing the ballast) we took a +8 m/s thermal in the lee side that we climbed out as if we were papers.
Although, the end of the flight was extremely difficult, very weak, blue and we were stopping at any bubbles we found along the way. It was very difficult to maintain concentration after beating the women’s world declared goal record at km 377. But I swallowed the celebration and concentrated on my main dream. I was 10km to record, 1000m above the ground. Theoretically, I already knew it was going to happen, but there were so many “almost”, that I only believed when I saw the 403 appear on the GPS screen, that moment I cried out of happiness, unique feeling in my whole life, never felt such big emotion like that. But until then, I did not even breathe so I did not miss any gliding! Hahaha…!
And I still glided more 7km, totalling 410.72km. Taking off in Assu in Rio Grande do Norte, cruising the whole “Sertão” and landing near Tamboril in Ceará. It was 9 hours 48 minutes of flying. What a flight! If it were easy it would not be record, and being on a bad and difficult day gave an even better taste. As I said last year, there is no greater connection to nature than flying the whole day. Without engine, without anything, only you, your paraglider and the wind. Taking off with the sun on your back and ending the flight with a final glide towards the best sunset in the world, in the best place. There is no better feeling in the world. That is where you are sure that all the suffering is worth it. And with the thrill of having beaten three world records. For sure, it was the best day of my life! Dream of a lifetime!
Any advice to pilots, interesting notice, some share of experience that you gained while breaking this record?
My big advice would be, never giving up, always believe in your dreams and do whatever it takes to pursue and fight for them. The journey is never easy but living it every moment makes it more enjoyable. Because even though the final point is where you want to be, all the long and hard way to get there is what really matters if you enjoy it. I mean, even the wrong flights, the days that I bombed out in the middle of nowhere had to walk a lot with 30kg on my back, in the hottest hour of the day, they are worthy.
They are worthy to show us what we did wrong and to work on getting better on the next day. Or the days where you land close to a home of the nicest family who is incredibly warm to offer you everything they have to make you feel comfortable. That makes us think if we are being this friendly with people we do not know in our daily life. For me, flying in “sertão” is much more than just chasing world records, it is learning from the best people in the world about caring with each other, it is a lifetime experience, where you grow not only as a pilot but mainly as a human being.
*See Marcella’s records flight track on www.xcontest.org/
*Interview originally posted on https://fai.org/news/marcella-uchoa-3-record-flights-brazil
*Photos: Marcela Uchoa / Facebook