A MOTHER of two is returning home to Hunts as a world champion for the second time, following victory in the World Gliding Championships. Sarah Kelman, 36, took the Women s World Gliding Championships crown at the fourth Fédération Aéronautique Internatio

Sarah Kelman 
Pictures: www.whiteplanes.com

A MOTHER of two is returning home to Hunts as a world champion for the second time, following victory in the World Gliding Championships.

Sarah Kelman, 36, took the Women's World Gliding Championships crown at the fourth Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Kelman, who lives in Conington, near St Ives, and represents Cambridge Gliding Club, fought off her greatest rival Jana Veprekova, from the Czech Republic, to secure her title.

Competitors took different courses, each of up to 600km, for the 10 days of the Championship, with the glider with the highest aggregate score adjudged the winner.

This year Kelman, flying her ASW-28, who won the first ever championship in 2001, beat Veprekova, by 527 points, finishing the final race in third position to secure the overall prize.

Kelman finished in the top five of every race and finished first on three days. The pilots spent up to five hours every day flying, adjusting the plane to the thermal air currants to achieve the smoothest ride.

The newly-crowned world champion said: "The competition was as tough as ever but getting off to a winning start on day one meant I had the advantage early on.

"It is a case of maintain concentration and reading the sky - a physically and mentally exhausting two weeks."

While many in Huntingdonshire have been cursing the murky skies, for Kelman they may have helped her secure her world crown.

She said: "On a day near the end of the Championships the skies were very grey. A few of the other pilots didn't look too keen but I looked up and thought 'it is just like East Anglia'."

It was soon back to the day job for the easyJet pilot, however, who was back in the cabin yesterday - just one day after returning home.

Kelman began competing in 1996, the year after she started gliding, and won her first international competition, the Women's Europeans, in 1999 before becoming the first and only woman to complete the UK 750km diploma in 2003.

The Conington flier said: "Every flight is different and never predictable. I still find it thrilling to be able to cover vast areas of the country in an aircraft with nothing but the air currents to sustain its flight."

Britain currently has five world gliding champions and is top of the International Gliding Commission Ranking lists with 10,000 active glider pilots in the country.

INFORMATION: For more on gliding, visit www.gliding.co.uk