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latest Para-Newbie News-n-Pics, Jul07, Issue #0007, monthly.
July 25, 2007

Fresh Paragliding Stuff

Selected News, Image, Site Update

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Issued on Wed, Jul 25th 2007, Issue #0007

Table of Contents

  • News of the Month
  • Image of the Month
  • Website Content of the Month
  • More Paragliding Stuff

  • News of the Month

    As usual, I scoured the Web using a number of world news resources and this time discovered a couple of stories relating to paragliding competitions. Two very different competitions in this case! Neither one had actually started when the story was reported, but there's still plenty of info you might find interesting.

    Firstly, there's the PARAnoia ACRObatixx event in Europe. Yes, that's how they spell it! Now there's a spectator sport. It's often hard for spectators to see much during soaring competitions. But not when it's an aerobatics comp, and all the action happens in a small cube of airspace near the ground!

    Secondly, do you live in the U.S. and in particular Idaho or California? One man from each of these U.S. states will be competing in this year's Red Bull X-Alps race. Over here in Australia I've seen at least one documentary on this incredible paragliding event. I've done a little research and finished this news item off with some fascinating details on the GPS Live Tracking technology that lets you follow the minute-by-minute progress of the X-Alps athletes through and over the mountains!

    PARAnoia ACRObatixx 2007 - Wild Rides In Alpine Skies

    Source: OpenPR

    Date: 12 June 2007

    It all happens in the city of Zell am See in Austria, a land-locked European country. Nestled in a picturesque Alpine setting, the city and its surroundings is one of the most important holiday regions in Austria. From the 1st to 4th of August, for the third time, this 'Europa-Sportregion' will be the venue for a paragliding aerobatics comp like no other. The local soaring club, Ikarus Pinzgau, is overseeing the event.

    The competitors launch themselves from the nearby Schmittenhöhe mountain. Sometimes spelt 'Schmitten Hoehe'. Their flights then take them all the way down to Lake Zell where the real action occurs. This year there are 50 men and women competing, all of whom have the nerves of steel and top-notch flying skills required. Just like other precision movement events like gymnastics or diving, the idea is to do pre-set routines as accurately as possible. These pilots will make their paragliders do things in the air you wouldn't think possible! Very sensibly, it's all done over water.

    It's a knock-out competition, with seven qualifying rounds and a special final round called the Expression Session. Along the way, spectators will be able to see other death-defying acts such as a BASE jumper, and local heroes with names like ACRO-Fr!tz and Mad Mike Küng! Colorful lot, these Austrians.

    Now for some nitty-gritty detail. All the crazy flying occurs within the confines of a cube of airspace called the 'box'. This box is marked out with buoys located in the so-called 'Acrobay' right next to the lakeshore in Zell am See. Hence, spectators crammed along the shoreline can get a good view.

    Extra points are granted for special maneuvers such as grazing the water surface with the paraglider or by managing to land on a raft right in the middle of the 'box'!

    Something quite extraordinary will happen in the final Expression Session, when the finalists will actually launch from a helicopter! I guess it's possible due mainly to 2 things:

  • aerobatic paragliders are built for much higher stresses than ordinary paragliders
  • the competitors are skilled enough to throw their reserve very quickly if they have to!

    This might be very confusing for the general public who sometimes mix up paragliding and parachuting!

    Finally, the prize giving ceremony and the closing party 'Seefest of Zell am See' will mark the close of the competition. With a bang - there will be big fireworks!

    Two Americans Take On The Red Bull Challenge

    Source: Associated Press

    Date: 20 June 2007

    I think I've mentioned the X-Alps race once before in this newsletter, but here's a refresher. It's a marathon hiking and paragliding race from the Dachstein glacier in Austria to Monte Carlo, Monaco, on the Mediterranean Sea. As the crow flies, the distance across the Alps is just 850 kilometers (527 miles). But in between lie the huge cliffs of Switzerland's Eiger, the thunderstorm-prone Dolomites in Italy and the deep snow and hidden crevasses on Mont Blanc in France! What a journey.

    This year there are 30 male competitors from Russia, U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Turkey, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic. All of them trying to win a... can of Red Bull Energy drink! Actually, there's also a share of 17000 Euros ($23,500) in prize money. I think the real value of winning a race like this isn't measured in money or prizes. A win would be worth a lot of prestige amongst other extreme athletes. Not to mention a personal sense of achievement!

    Here's a handful of stats regarding this race. It's taken 12 days for winners in the 2003 and 2005 events to complete the course. Two years ago, the longest individual flight was 185 kilometers (115 miles), with heights of 3960 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level recorded. The longest total distance hiked by one competitor was 818 kilometers (508 miles).

    If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are from the U.S., so here's a thing or two about the 2 U.S. competitors this year. They are Nate Scales, 35, from Hailey, Idaho, and Hanza Rajmenak, 32, from Davis, California.

    Scales, a carpenter by trade, is treating the whole exercise as a holiday. It might turn out to be a rather tiring one though! He has a certain amount of relevant experience, being a keen mountain flyer since 1990. In particular, the Sawtooth range near Sun Valley in central Idaho. That's where he met the other U.S. Red Bull competitor, Hanza Rajmenak. Hanza spent seven summers taking paying passengers on tandem paragliding flights. In preparation for the X-Alps, he combined fitness training with his University research work. How? By lugging heavy equipment up the snowy slopes of Patagonia's Volcan Villa Rica every day!

    The unfamiliar European terrain and conditions will be a challenge for the 2 Americans.

    Apparently, thousands of people follow the X-Alps. Mostly Europeans I suspect! Besides news reports from time to time, continuously updated information is available at the website. This is the Live Tracking system that has had paragliding people talking since the last X-Alps race. Here's a list of what race fans can do at the website:

    • spot exactly where all the competitors are, as of just a few minutes ago
    • see the path taken by each competitor, in 2D or 3D
    • read the on-line logs recorded by each pilot, and see where they were recorded, on a map!
    • measure precise distances between athletes, turn points and the start and finish at any time

    Now for the athletes themselves, who by the way are provided with high quality clothing by a company called Peak Performance. Heck, they certainly deserve a freebie or 2! Each athlete carries a paraglider, harness, reserve parachute, emergency flares, helmet and warm clothes. Plus an amazing little piece of technology by Nokia that lets them:

    • listen to music as they hike
    • use GPS mapping functions
    • stay in contact with their support crew with calls or SMS
    • take photos with a five mega-pixel camera
    • record near-DVD quality video
    • upload log text to the Red Bull servers
    The daily routine starts with climbing a mountain in the morning. This is in order to launch off it and fly as far as possible during the sunlight hours. Next follows some brisk hiking to get further along the course or find another launch spot. The only rest is for 3 hours each night when no flying is allowed. Good decisions while in the air can save a lot of hiking time!

    So far there haven't been any serious accidents. Blisters from hiking are the main problem!

    This last section is reserved for geeks and nerds! ;-) The Red Bull X-Alps race has been regarded as one of the most technologically advanced sporting events in the world for some time. 2007 is no exception with Nokia N-series N95 mobile devices linked up with Live Tracking technology. Vector file measurements have been included this year. Hence precise measurements of distances between athletes, turn points and so on can be queried in real time.

    I've already mentioned most of the things the athletes do with their Nokias. In addition, the Nokia devices provide a link between the athletes’ navigational equipment and the Live Tracking website. Bräuniger Competino systems use Bluetooth technology to transmit GPS data to the Nokia N95s, which then send that information every few minutes to the Red Bull X-Alps server for immediate updates on the Live Tracking map.

    Image of the Month

    There's plenty of paragliding imagery on the Web these days, much of it so-so. Thanks to some paraglider manufacturer friends of mine, I can bring you some great pics that you might not find anywhere else. Hope you enjoy this month's featured picture, below. Just click on it to enlarge.

    This photograph was taken in late November, 2006, in Quixada, Brazil. Apart from the fact that both gliders are Ozones that's about all I have on this pic. It does capture the feel of a luxurious, smooth climb in the last big thermal of the day, before starting final glide. Look carefully, and it's clear the paragliders are travelling in opposite directions!

    If you're a shutter-bug, you might be interested to know that the camera used was a Canon EOS-1D Mark II.

    Website Content of the Month

    Pages are always being added to the site, and I usually highlight just one page here. This time I've picked a page that was first posted quite early in July. It's all about choosing a pair of paragliding sunglasses for your flying or para-waiting. It's amazing how hard it is to find the ideal pair of sunglasses for this sport. There are many different factors, but not all of them apply to everybody. Have a read and see which ones might apply to you.

    More Paragliding Stuff

    A Good Book For Free-Flight Paragliding

    Do you have at least a few hours of soaring experience under your belt? Keen to learn much more? The book Paragliding - A Pilot's Training Manual will fill out your knowledge nicely. Just remember it doesn't take the place of your instructor!

    Complete Reference For Powered Paragliding

    There are a couple of good books that people are using before and during taking up power paragliding. If you want a really complete reference book about the sport, many people are more than happy with Powered Paragliding Bible by Jeff Goin and Dennis Pagen. Published in April 2006. That Pagen name pops up a lot in light aviation literature!

    Paragliding T-Shirts

    Here's five typical designs. My wife isn't into any kind of flying, and she still thought some of these weren't bad! Just click them to see more details.

    Gravity Sucks White T-Shirt

    Surreal Flight 101

    Acro Black

    There's No Place on Earth... White T-Shirt

    Paragliding Dog White T-Shirt

    Bearing in mind that this paragliding newsletter and in fact most of the website is really for 'newbies', any constructive feedback is welcome! In particular, what would you really like to see in this newsletter? Just reply to this email and tell me your thoughts.

    Finally, please rate this newsletter at the Ezine Finder.

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