13 July 2013

13th FAI World Paragliding Championship


Strong north wind. Jeremie LAGER of France is World Champion!

Reluctantly, the time has arrived to travel home. But we take with us memories that will endure a life time!

Photo credit: Josh Cohn


Strong north wind.


Strong north wind.


One hundred and thirty glorious kilometres over magnificent mountains, alpine meadows, and forested plateaus.

The course
The forecast was excellent and, finally, we had pleasant launch conditions.

Photo credit: Debbie Hsieh
I launched directly into a solid 5 m/s thermal that lifted me to the 3000 m cloudbase within minutes. It was cold and rough as we sped along the course, deep in the mountains.

The final glide proved to be critical. Many landed tragically short. I made the difficult decision to abort final glide only a few kilometres from the end-of-speed section and turned 90 degrees to the course line to search for lift. I used the little height that I had to dive low into the lee of the south hills and miraculously found a little dragon of a thermal that nearly frontalled my glider but gave me the chance to attempt another final glide. My second attempt also failed and this time I made a slight course deviation and found another climb for a third attempt. The numbers felt conservative but soon the situation became tense as my glide ratio decreased to 5:1 with a 7:1 required to reach goal. Luckily, the sinking area past. For the first time in twenty years of flying I crossed the line after a three-attempts final glide.

Relieved to be in goal



Rain. The weather cleared late in the day but not early enough to complete a task.


The task was stopped before the start time due to overdevelopment along the course. There was rain, lightning, thunder, and a gust front.


125 km, 3.5 h, convergence, 20 km final glide. Stefan Wyss of Switzerland won.

My awesome Boom9 (Photo credit: Martin Scheel www.azoom.ch)
Course line convergence
Boom9 silhouette over goal
Josh and I taking glider pictures of each other
Photo credit: Josh Cohn

We had a bipolar 120 km task. In parts I turned in zero for minutes, in another I flew straight for minutes with full bar and climbed at 8 m/s.

Adrian Thomas of Great Britain won.

Goal bliss

The north wind made launching impossible. Task cancelled. We had an immense meal.

Our landlady has been making home cooked meals

The north wind subsided long enough for a sufficiently safe and long launch window. We had a gorgeous 70 km race with 120 pilots in goal. My end game slowed me a little but I earned among the highest leading bonus.

Stephan Morgenthaler of Switzerland won the task.


The north wind made launching impossible. Josh, Eric, and I hit the gym.


A strong north wind created lee side conditions that prevented us from launching while we waited for the anabatic winds to strengthen. But cloud spread out brought shade over our south slope and we remained in our harnesses, waiting, as the start time past.

Just when we thought we wouldn't fly, it began to blow in lightly. Within ten minutes 150 pilots launched into light thermals and climbed to base. Since the start gate time had past, we left on course to the east immediately.

There was a lot of shade and some of the passes allowed the north wind to penetrate, creating turbulence, sink, and difficult crossings.

We flew over some beautiful and remote slopes with herds of wild horses, dramatic rock formations and a waterfall. The demanding conditions only allowed me to come away with images stored in my head and not in my camera.

The second part of the course proved difficult for most pilots. I landed with Peter Neuenshwander, Michael Sigel, and Torsten Siegel. We thought we had done well until we heard from Martin Scheel that there were fifty pilots in goal. Our mood changed.

Landing field
We had landed in a beautiful valley surrounded by small hills and forest. Since there was only a narrow trail nearby, we decided to walk out to the south, away from the mountains, towards the main road. The path meandered through forest and along fields of wheat and potato. Fruiting trees along the path tempted us to stop- apple, pear, fig, cherry.

Along the way we had to cross this stream. I took off my shoes and navigated bare foot among the stones, avoiding falling over with the weight of my paraglider on my back. After putting my shoes on on the other side I felt refreshed. I realized that today was a good day.

Within an hour we reached the main road and were soon retrieved.

Marco Littame of Italy won the task.


Official practice day. Very windy.


Registration and opening ceremony.

Opening parade

Josh, Marty, and I rode to the peak to fly but there was overdevelopment across the valley and after observing the conditions develop we made the decision not to fly. During the ride down the mountain in the chairlift we heard thunder and by the time we reached the bottom, a gust front had arrived.


At dawn we left by train to Sopot. Yassen told us the forecast was good so we were keen to arrive in Sopot early.

Dawn arrives
Our train left at 6:25 am. It was only a few cars long, open air, very old, and covered in graffiti. The coolest train I have ever seen.
Our ride
The Bulgarian countryside streamed by effortlessly as I smiled in disbelief of where I was, how I arrived here, and why I was here.

Three hours later we arrived in Sopot.

Richard and China attempt to converse with a local pensioner
Our priority was to fly so we slammed a round of Red Bulls and showed up at the lift.

The flying was epic. After so many months of planning, anticipation, so many hours of traveling, so many lost hours of sleep, it felt so good to smell the cool air at cloud base, high over Bulgaria.

Landing after a 80 km triangle

It was thirty-hour blur of time zones, departure halls, the hum of turbines, and the incessant smell of eau de Boeing that brought me to Sofia, Bulgaria. I met a partial of the Brazilian team and we took a taxi to Art Hostel to spend the night, before catching an early train to Sopot.

Taxi in Sofia

My eyes opened to the synthesized sound of church bells from my iPhone. It was 6 am. After months of preparation, it was time to leave. Overwhelmed with an emotional cocktail of anticipation, hesitation, satisfaction, and regret, I began my journey to Bulgaria.

[VLOG] A Walk in the Garden II

Do we need a reason to fly?