The Icarus Trophy is a paramotor race by The Adventurists in the U.K.
Mike Lange and I were raring to go. I spent the better part of a week going over the course looking for gas stops close to reasonable landing zones. It looked doable …. scary … but doable. To prepare for the challenges of long x-country I added a few pieces to the kit; a collapsible 5 gallon fuel container, a light weight sleeping bag and space blanket, a wing bag and small tool kit. Finally I mounted my camelbac on the left of the seat. It would serve two purposes, keep me hydrated and provide pockets for emergency food and misc. stuff. It all fit nicely under and around the seat and would cover the most obvious needs. My reserve was out of certification so I borrowed Tony Littell’s for the weekend. I was ready.
When we arrived at the Avaitor HQ in Lake Wales, it was blowing like stink and raining. Eric Farewell and Travis Burnes have put together the best and most professional PPG school in America. Located at the Lake Wales Municipal Airport they have everything necessary to safely teach powered paragliding. HQ is a great little building that serves as classroom, showroom and shop. It’s clean, well organized and hospitable. Most impressive was the semicircle of posh recliners in the in front of a large flat screen and whiteboard. Bravo!
The briefing was at 6:00p. Mike and I sat in recliners and chatted with the other competitors while we waited. Everybody was psyched but a little disappointed by the weather. Tomorrow was looking bad, the winds were expected to be NE 10mph at dawn and building through the day. Shane started the meeting on time with the disclaimer that this was an unsupported race and that the weather could be a show stopper. We went over the course and they pointed out several things I’d missed in my own prep. I was especially glad for Eric’s knowledge of the area. He pointed out a few places that I thought I’d like to fly to, if not during the race then another time. After the briefing, a few myself included, had resolved not to fly in the morning. I was fairly confident about getting up and could probably penetrate the wind to the first waypoint but I didn’t like the idea of landing in 20+ mph at Valkaria Airport.
That evening we went to the fish house for dinner. While we munched conch fritters and grouper it became clear who was serious and who was casual. Some of the pilots came completely unprepared, expecting race management to provide everything needed to race the course. Others were more like Mike and I with eyes wide open but slightly glazed over. At the end of the meal, there was no question Johnson Qu and Trey German were the real competitors for this race. Trey had competed last year in the big race and was favored but Johnson was the “hungry new guy” looking to win. I could see him on a real TV show charming the audience. Either one……They were prepared and fearless, they had it down, every possible stop and contingency seemed to be covered. Confident, young and immortal.
It was a beautiful warm morning. The winds were exactly as expected. It was flyable at Lake Wales and not so much upwind at Palm Bay. Mike went up for a quick flight and proclaimed it, ” not fun”. That iced it for me. Maybe this afternoon I would be able to shoot for the first waypoint but not this morning. I asked Eric if he had any quick release carabiners which would have allowed me to “dump the wing”, in the case of a high wind landing. Unfortunately it’s not exactly the kind of accessory people keep around. Before I attempt another x-country I’m going to “get me sum”!
Trey and Johnson launched without incident. Travis launched his drone and followed Johnson until he was out of range, about 5 miles. A broke out a box of Rice Crispy treats and handed them out to the spectators. Matt Minyard put on an aerobic show for the crowd finishing with a beautiful streamer flight.
The noon forecast was for more of the same.
I never launched, it was just too dangerous to attempt landing in 20+mph.
Kudos to the winners!
Here is Trey’s write up.