Charlie King reports from the start of a 289km adventure paragliding race through the French Alps
I’m sat on a chair in the sun outside our tent, getting my blood caffeine levels back up to somewhere approaching normal after a day of enforced near-abstention. Mont Blanc is poking her head up through the clouds in the distance, and paragliders are still to-ing and fro-ing in front of takeoff at St Hilaire. Not a bad place to be!
For us it’s been a morning of registration and briefings, going through the rules of the comp and handing out tracking devices, squashed in a small room and bombarded with French, which was quite hard on the old head.
In the afternoon we all donned our competition T-shirts for a photo shoot of the 40 pilots plus their supporters, before launching from the north takeoff into the melee for a short flight to test GPS traces and trackers.
It was pretty stable unfortunately, and difficult to get much height above launch (easy to stay up at launch height or just below). It was nice to explore the ridge and the imposing cliffs from close-quarters.
The forecast is not ideal. SW winds tomorrow, starting strong and getting stronger, then three days of afternoon overdevelopment and possibly rain. The wind is then set to become northerly for Friday or thereabouts, and the sun will hopefully come back for the weekend.
Which doesn’t make the route-planning any easier. There are several options, but it’s hard to decide for sure until tomorrow when we see what the weather’s actually doing.
Worst-case scenario it may not even be flyable. The first decision is whether to head off to the north, or to the south. North is winning in my head at the moment as the winds seem to favour it, but I’ll decide in the morning. Right now we’re off to the buffet with the other pilots at a restaurant / bar in town. More tomorrow.
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