Britain’s longest-running paragliding competition, the Lakes Charity Classic, celebrated its 21st anniversary over the first weekend of June this year. Organiser Gordie Oliver reports.
After the worst May in memory for Lake District free flying, the event was rewarded with near perfect conditions, allowing task setters Kitt Rudd, Jocky Sanderson and ‘Dangerous’ Dave Ashcroft to set ambitious tasks, sending pilots flying off all around the Lake District in search of victory.
On the first day the experienced A comp pilots were challenged to fly upwind from Blease Fell to Grasmere and then back into an advancing sea breeze. Ten pilots achieved the task and in the process jointly claimed the UK out and return record.
Day two dawned with a freshening easterly breeze so Carrock Fell, notorious for having a light wind effect compared to the rest of the Lakeland Fells, was chosen. Proving as reliable as ever and despite complete cloud cover conditions were still suitable for a task and a race to goal was set for Threlkeld some 15km away.
Martin Knight was the overall winner of the A comp, and Mark Leach the B comp.
Returning to the events base on Saturday evening, people waited in anticipation to see what aviational antics were to be performed in the fabled LCC Acro Show, especially as last year Felix Rodriguez had gone for the infinite tumble record.
As the display started spectators looked across the lake to see a mini paraglider launch and then start to climb at an incredible rate. As the glider approached the event, the increasing sound of jet enginges gave away its form of propulsion. It was ‘Jetman’ Eric Viret whom the organisers had brought over from Switzerland to entertain the crowds.
Eric has developed, and is the only pilot in the world flying with jet power to remain aloft using, two turbine jet engines, originally designed for use on military drones, which he flies with a specially strengthened ITV Awak 12m mini wing. He put on an amazing display. The site and sound of him looping and spiralling his way around the valley at air speeds of up to 80km/h left all present open mouthed. Watch a video of Eric’s jet-powered flight on Cumbria Live TV.
As Eric’s fuel ran out and he headed for landing, the top of High Crag opposite the event’s base errupted as 17 speed wings took off in unison and proceeded to roll and tumble their way down the 700m mountain. Jocky Sanderson launched next on his Ozone Buzz to provide a full SIV run whilst broadcasting by radio to the 900 spectators over the event’s loud speakers, exactly what he was doing.
Finally Zebur Mercan and Brad Brougton closed the show with a syncro acro routine in challenging rough conditions, finishing with Zebur landing just short of the lake shore beach and then being dragged unceremoniously back out into the lake by the increasing wind, to be recovered by the rescue boat.
Bands and DJs kept the party bopping well into the early hours of Sunday morning, with all attendees celebrating this great event’s longevity. For many it was the best weekend of their summer, if not their lives.
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