On arrival at the field we saw gliders rising almost vertically into the air, but this rang no alarm bells. I was not aware of the difference between a tow launch and a winch launch. It was very windy, and my instructor told me we should get a good lift. I was first buckled into a parachute, then strapped into my seat. Immobilised by harnesses, I knew the moment had come. The cockpit covers were closed, and as the tow line taughtened we began to move slowly forward.
Suddenly we were moving incredibly fast. As we were effectively catapulted into the air, I was tipped onto my back and pinned against the seat by the force of the acceleration. Everything went black and consciousness was reduced to the sensations in my chest and head. I began to wonder if my less-than-perfect heart would stand the strain! Mercifully we levelled out after a few seconds, but although still alive, I was by now desperately trying to hold my stomach down.
Somehow I found the courage to stay up for 8 minutes. I felt too dreadful to read the instruments, but I did take the controls for a few moments to move the nose up and down. I also managed to take two photographs of the ground below, to convince any doubters in the future. Then I begged the instructor to take me down!
The descent and landing were smooth and undramatic, but to my dismay I was not allowed to escape immediately. I had to help balance the glider by holding one wingtip, while it was towed back by tractor to the launch area. My very cold and windblown fan club was waiting for me and called out: “How was it?” “B***** awful!” I replied and made a dash for privacy.
My son opened the back of the Volvo, where I sat heaving and honking until I felt well enough to face the ride home. As we got into the car my son handed me a plastic carrier bag “for emergencies”. To my embarrassment, I had to ask for another one to sit on! Back home I lay flat on my back, absolutely motionless, for two hours. Four months later I still felt queasy when I relived the experience.