Since the first FAI World Paragliding Accuracy Championships held in the UK in 2000, this comparatively new CIVL discipline has been increasing steadily in popularity. Today some 1000 pilots from more than 20 countries are logged on the CIVL Paragliding Accuracy database and WPRS.
European countries currently dominate Paragliding Accuracy. However, Asia is rapidly catching up, with pilots from Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia in the rankings, and especially China, whose top pilot took gold at the 2009 World Championships. Over the past few years, we have seen FAI Category 2 competitions running in Japan, Kazakstan, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Korea. The number of competitions worldwide is increasing steadily too. In 2010, more than 35 Category 2 competitions were sanctioned and many countries run additional non-sanctioned national and regional events.
Although its roots are in parachuting and parascending, today’s Paragliding Accuracy competitions, both hill and tow launch, are flown on certified paragliders. The FAI rules are set out in Section 7C of the Sporting Code. Additional documents on organising Paragliding Accuracy competitions, and on the Judging Code, are available.
Competitions are generally both individual and team events. Often several ‘rounds’ can be flown in a day, in which case, a weekend event can comprise up to 6 scores or more, giving a highly satisfying competition. Although weather conditions play a critical role, generally, a Paragliding Accuracy competition is less weather dependent than cross country events. Providing the wind is not too strong, and the appropriate site is selected, a competition can start early in the morning and continue until near sunset. Overcast or non-thermic days are no barrier. Indeed, the 2007 World Championships took place in February, with pilots tow launched over a frozen lake!
Standard equipment in a Paragliding Accuracy competition is an electronic target pad: a pressure sensitive device measuring 30cm in diameter. (The same equipment is used in Parachuting Accuracy) The point of firmest pressure is measured and displayed, from 0 to 15cm. Around the pad, circles are market out at 0.5m, 5m and 10m. Landings made off the pad are marked by ‘fichet’ Judges and then measured manually.
One of the first lessons that Accuracy pilots learn is to fly your foot to the dead centre, not your eye! It is easy to overshoot. Similarly, if you set up too ‘cold’, only a very lucky thermic glide will skim you into the scoring zone!
In a Category 1 competition, the Judging team comprises: Chief Judge, Event Judge, 3 fichet Judges, 2 strike Judges, scorer/recorder and wind speed monitor. In a Category 2 event, some of these roles can be combined. While the fichet Judges mark the exact spot where the pilot landed, the strike Judges confirm the first point of contact (which foot, or maybe a ‘bum’ strike if the pilot is skimming in low).
Unlike parachuting and parascending, Paragliding Accuracy pilots must land on their feet and stay on their feet. If you fall over before your wing is on the ground, you will be penalised and receive the maximum score. (Remember, the winner has the lowest score in Accuracy). If a pilot approaches the target dangerously, stalling the wing, spinning or performing any aerobatic manoeuvres close to the ground, a penalty system is implemented (warning, maximum score, disqualification).
Practicing Paragliding Accuracy is an excellent skill for all pilots, whether cross country flying or hill soaring. You never know when you might have to make a landing in a very small field, avoiding obstacles such as power lines and trees. Paragliding Accuracy can help you understand how to control your wing in difficult situations, such as landing when strong thermals are triggered, and how to judge your glide to a potential landing field.
But more than that – Paragliding Accuracy can be great fun! Especially on days that are not ideal for cross country flying, or if there is a group of you soaring on a hill at the end of the afternoon. Even a top-to-bottom flight can be a learning opportunity if there is a target in the landing field.
Indeed – pilots should think about accurate landings on every flight. It is always good practice, not only to select early, the best field for landing in, but pick a (safe and sensible) spot in that field and aim for that. See how close you can get – 10m? 5m? 1m? It might be harder than you imagine.
Pilots wanting to try Paragliding Accuracy should look on the CIVL Paragliding calendar for Category 2 events. You will need an FAI Sporting Licence to compete.
If you would like to know more about running a Paragliding Accuracy competition, contact the CIVL Paragliding Accuracy Subcommittee Chairman, for a Cat 2 PG Accuracy Organiser Guidelines document.
For more information on the Judging Code, see Section 7C of the Sporting Code. For more details on Judging training, and documents explaining the various roles, contact the CIVL Paragliding Accuracy Subcommittee Chairman.
Each year, six Cat 2 Paragliding Accuracy competitions are nominated to form the Paragliding Accuracy World Cup (PAWC). See www.pgawc.org for further information. The site also runs a Paragliding Accuracy forum and provides additional news and information.