Red Bull X-Alps 2011: Day 8

Chrigel makes tracks as wind makes for extreme flying
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Joy and pain… that’s paragliding. Day 8 on the Red Bull X-Alps 2011

Sunday is meant to be a day of rest. Not for the Red Bull X-Alps athletes. Instead, it was a day of wind.

Chrigel took turnpoint six – the Matterhorn – in a 30km flight in the lee of the big mountains. (For a good explanation of flying in the lee, see world champion Bruce Goldsmith’s article on it here.) Once he came out into the main valley though, he was hit by the wind and landed, vertically, on a sailplane field. There, the manager came out to meet him and to tell him the airfield was closed – because it was too windy!

Tom de Dorlodot above the Engadin valley on 24 July 2011. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

Tom de Dorlodot above the Engadin valley on 24 July 2011. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

Behind, some pilots took advantage of the stong wind to be blown along hillsides and mountains. Compared to two days previous where the pilot tracks looked like corkscrews, yesterday they looked like Slinky springs bouncing down the stairs.

Martin Muller's 3,000m ridge soar. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps live tracking

Martin Muller's 3,000m ridge soar. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps live tracking

Martin Muller (SUI3), who has been pushing hard to make his way through the field, must have had his heart in his mouth as he soared in a 30km/h wind up the 3,323m slopes of Pizzo Scalino (which means Lace Ladder, according to my translation). He got to the top, stitching together a series of delicate figure-of-eights, and then turned and went over the back at 60km/h. Watching it on live tracking was gripping stuff.

Jon Chambers (GBR2) was at it too. Flying fast and long 360s in strong wind. In the flats, this is ok, if a little rough. In the mountains, it’s flat-out scary.

This morning Chrigel is already in the air and on his way to the next turnpoint, Mont Blanc. He’s 260km from goal. Toma Coconea is 90km behind. And the chasing pack, with Tom de Dorlodot (BEL) in third, is another 50km behind that.

It’s still a long way to Monaco, but if Chrigel keeps up the pace, will anyone else actually get there?

Watch the Live Tracking here


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