World championships - worlds apart

The FAI World Paragliding Championships and the FAI World Paragliding Accuracy Championships are taking place just a few weeks apart in February 2007. Nothing unusual in that, perhaps. But geographically, the two events could not be further apart. The Paragliding event will be run in Manilla, Australia, and it is midsummer. The Paragliding Accuracy championship, however, is in Trakai, Lithuania, and it is midwinter! While Mount Borah, Manilla is sweltering in 40oC, with occasional views of smoke drifting from the forest fires some 1000km away, Lithunia’s normal temperature this time of year is –10oC. But both countries are suffering from the vagaries of climate change. Australia has been unseasonably cold, with the high mountains in Australia seeing snow on Christmas day, and Trakai’s picturesque lake, normally under 30cm of ice in winter, has yet to freeze. But preparations for both World Championships are nearing completion. Godfrey Wenness, organiser in Australia, has spent two years upgrading the four launch sites on Mt Borah with 15,000m2 of artificial grass and 8500tonnes of gravel on 5km of access roads. “The 10th Paragliding World Championships has been ten years in planning,” Godfrey commented. “It is the first Paragliding World Championships to be held in an English-speaking country.” It is also the first to be hosted at a site where a world distance record has been set (by Godfrey himself, no less!). The event will certainly run at absolutely maximum capacity (150 pilots) and more than 220 pilots have registered their interest, from 45 countries. Paragliding Accuracy is a much younger discipline and this year will be the 4th World Championships. Yet this event is understood to be the first free flying World Championship to take place in winter. According to FAI Steward, Riikka Vilkuna: “A winter competition certainly provides a different set of challenges for both pilots and organisers.” The event is scheduled to take place on the frozen lake at Trakai. The local club has held tow-launch Paragliding Accuracy competitions there every winter for at least five years. It coincides with the annual ‘Catch the Wind’ flying festival held on Lithuania Independence Day. Organiser, Violeta Grigoraitiene is expecting between 80 to 90 pilots from some 15 countries to attend. “Our biggest problem at the moment is that the temperature here is still 7 to 10oC and the lake has not frozen!” Providing they have at least two weeks of (normal) sub-zero temperatures, the lake should be in fine condition for the competition. “But we are preparing our reserve site, the local airfield, just in case,” Violeta confirmed. Lithuania hopes to validate the first Women’s World Paragliding Accuracy Championships, with entries expected from: Turkey, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia and Czech Republic. Registration for the World Paragliding Accuracy Championship is still open, so make sure your national team is signed up and well prepared! See the competition website for more information. Links: Paragliding Accuracy World Championships. Lithuania: www.pagaukveja.lt Paragliding World Championships, Manilla: www.manilla2007.com