Wednesday, 30 January 2013
The Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara is said to have broken his own world record for the largest wave surfed when he caught a wave reported to be around 100ft off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal.
If the claims are verified, it will mean that McNamara, who was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but whose family moved to Hawaii's North Shore when he was aged 11, has beaten his previous record, which was also set at Nazaré.
When McNamara set that record in 2011, he was accompanied by fellow big-wave surfers Andrew Cotton and Alastair Mennie and at the time Mennie said that the conditions were "perfect" for McNamara whom he described as "inspiring".
"Everything was perfect, the weather, the waves," Mennie said. "Cotty and I surfed two big waves of about 60ft and then, when Garrett was ready came a canyon wave of over 90ft. The jet ski was the best place to see him riding the biggest wave I've ever seen. It was amazing. Most people would be scared but Garrett was controlling everything in the critical part of the wave. It was an inspiring ride by an inspiring surfer."
Speaking to the Observer in 2011 after his record-setting 90ft ride, McNamara explained: "We'd been invited by the government of Portugal to Nazaré to investigate it for a big wave competition. There is an underwater canyon 1,000ft deep that runs from the ocean right up to the cliffs. It's like a funnel. At its ocean end it's three miles wide but narrows as it gets closer to the shore and when there is a big swell it acts like an amplifier.
"The harbour where the jetskis are kept is about five minutes' ride away. I can see it from my hotel window. You go out and it can be almost flat as you leave and ride along the coast. You start seeing the waves after about half a mile when you pass some rocks and turn a point. Then you are in the break. It's unique. The waves break into cliffs 300ft in height. You can't contemplate coming off because it would kill you."
Monday, 15 October 2012
"I think 20 tons have fallen from my shoulders. I prepared for this for seven years," he told German-language ServusTV in Austria in his first interview after the leap.
"It was the right decision," added the Austrian, who broke three records: the highest freefall jump, the fastest freefall speed and the highest balloon flight by a human. He failed to make the longest freefall jump.
The former military parachutist rose in a purpose-built capsule beneath a giant helium balloon to a height of more than 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airliner.
After a salute to the millions watching around the world, Baumgartner jumped from the capsule and plummeted toward earth, reaching a speed of 833mph - or Mach 1.24 - faster than the speed of sound, according to his spokesman.
Shortly before leaping, in footage beamed live around the world on a crackly radio link recalling Neil Armstrong's first words on the Moon, he had said: "Sometimes you have (to go) up really high to (understand) how small you are."
After a perfect start, anxious viewers around the world looked on in agony as the Austrian started tumbling chaotically for what seemed like an eternity before finally achieving the correct position.
"The exit was perfect, then I started tumbling - I thought I'd get it under control, but then it really started. I really picked up speed, it got very violent. I thought for a few seconds I'll fall unconscious."
"Thank goodness, I managed to stop - it was very difficult. It was much more difficult than many of us expected."
Baumgartner said he wasn't even aware of breaking the sound barrier.
"I didn't feel the sonic boom, I think it happens behind you," he said.
The Austrian took more than two hours to get up to the jump altitude. Baumgartner had already broken one record before he even leapt: the previous highest altitude for a manned balloon flight was 113,740 feet, set in 1961.
He had been due to jump from 120,000 feet, but the balloon went higher than expected.
One of the first people to congratulate him was Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who hailed the "great success."
"Austria is proud of your accomplishment," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Former NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao, speaking on CNN television, said he believed elements of the pressure suit used by Baumgartner would be "incorporated into future pressure suits that are used in spacecraft.
The Red Bull Stratos mission was the second attempt for the skydiver after an initial bid Tuesday was aborted at the last minute due to winds.
The biggest risk Baumgartner faced was spinning out of control, which could have exerted excessive g-force and made him lose consciousness.
Temperatures of 90 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 68 Celsius) could also have had unpredictable consequences if his suit somehow failed.
The helmet problem as Baumgartner ascended added to the sense of alarm: the heater failed on his faceplate, meaning it became fogged up when he exhaled.
After considering the options, the nerveless Baumgartner and his entourage decided to go ahead with the jump.
Baumgartner's 100-strong backup team includes retired US Air Force colonel Joe Kittinger, who held set the previous highest freefall jump record from 102,800 feet in 1960.
Baumgartner holds several previous records, notably with spectacular BASE jumps from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After Sunday's leap, he recalled the emotions sweeping through his body when he stepped out of the capsule high above Earth.
"When you're standing there on top of the world you become so humble... The only thing is you want to come back alive," he told reporters in Roswell, where the launch mission was based.
His jump coincided with the 65th anniversary of American pilot Chuck Yeager breaking the speed of sound.
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Andy Murray ended Britain's 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with an epic victory over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.
Murray, 25, emulated Fred Perry's 1936 achievement, winning 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 in four hours 54 minutes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Murray also reached the Wimbledon final and won Olympic gold this summer.
"When I realised I had won, I was a little bit shocked, I was very relieved and I was very emotional," said Murray.
Despite his other successes, this result will arguably have a greater impact on his career and the future of tennis in the United Kingdom.
Murray - the new world number three - lost his first four Grand Slam finals to share an Open-era record with coach Ivan Lendl, but like the Czech he has triumphed at the fifth time of asking.
And while it is a dream of Murray's to win Wimbledon, the British number one has long been tipped to make his breakthrough at Flushing Meadows in the final major of the year.
He was the boys' singles champion there in 2004, hard courts are his favourite surface and he enjoys the atmosphere in New York.
Murray is unlikely to ever forget the atmosphere inside the world's biggest tennis arena as he celebrated his success, which arrived in his 28th appearance at a Grand Slam tournament.
A swirling wind made conditions troublesome for both players, but it was Murray who coped better in the first two sets and eventually ended Djokovic's title defence and 27-match hard-court winning run at majors.
"They were incredibly tricky conditions," said the right-hander from Dunblane. "Novak is so strong, he fights until the end of every match and I don't know how I managed to come through in the end."
After early breaks were exchanged, Murray struck again before moving 4-2 ahead following a game that included a 54-shot rally.
Djokovic rallied to force a tie-break, yet his opponent showed greater belief and took a sixth set point with 87 minutes on the clock.
Murray roared with delight and carried his momentum into the second set, breaking an out-of-sorts Djokovic twice for a 4-0 lead.
A lapse in concentration allowed Djokovic back in and when the Serbian landed a majestic lob for 5-5, Murray clutched his left thigh.
There were no signs of injury, though, as Murray held to 15 and then forced a flurry or errors from the world number two, opening up a two-set lead for the first time in a Grand Slam final.
The crowed urged Djokovic to respond and he did - threatening in game one of the third set before making his move in game three.
Murray was now starting to berate himself and voice his frustrations in the direction of his coaching team in the stand, never more so than when two backhand mistakes saw chances squandered in game six.
He then fell a double-break down thanks to an incredible backhand on to the baseline from Djokovic, who easily closed out the set.
Djokovic looked revitalised, Murray weary, and the right-hander from Belgrade swiftly found himself 2-0 up in the fourth set.
Just when it seemed Murray might respond, Djokovic was called for a time violation and he angrily took his performance to a new level.
When Murray's backhand broke down again, Djokovic leapt with joy and it seemed he could become the first man since Pancho Gonzales in 1949 to rally from two sets down to win the US Open.
But Murray had other ideas and made a devastating start to the decider, breaking in game one and consolidating it with some defensive play of the very highest order.
The third seed was in dreamland when Djokovic netted a forehand to hand over the double-break, only for a nervous Murray to immediately surrender one of his strikes with a timid backhand.
A love service hold put Murray back on track and he advanced to within one game of victory when Djokovic netted a forehand.
Murray served out the championship 79 years to the day that Perry won the first of eight major singles crowns.
"I'm disappointed to lose, but I gave it my all," said five-time major winner Djokovic, a friend of Murray's and seven days younger. "I had a great opponent today. He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody. I would like to congratulate him."