03 May 2024

1st FAI World Paramotor Endurance Championship - spotlight on the new format

This August, a groundbreaking new paramotor championships format - conceived in Estonia and brewed in Great Britain under the watchful eye of Barney Townsend - will burst onto the international scene, attracting new and seasoned pilots to compete in the first FAI World Endurance Paramotor Championships.

Incorporating both foot launch and trike classes, the Endurance Paramotor tasks will challenge pilots' navigational and endurance skills, with much longer flight windows and more focus on strategy over speed. Some tasks are borrowed from the classic format, and many established teams have already registered, but the overall aim is to welcome a new breed of paramotor pilots to this dynamic endurance format. 

Event Director Barney Townsend sheds some light on the background behind the 1st FAI World Endurance Paramotor Championships:

The great thing about the new Endurance format is that it gives more airtime.” he explains, “Pilots who are travelling a long way to compete want to spend less time at the airfield and longer in the air.

WHAT IS Endurance Paramotor?

The idea for this alternative paramotor discipline was first touted by Estonian pilot Paap Kolar around 2010. Townsend came across the concept and decided the idea had wings, as a championship format with extended airtime for competing pilots and a focus on strategic piloting. Having competed in the World Paramotor Championships in 2012, 2014 and 2016, Townsend recognised that the classic format was limiting pilots' desire to spend more time in flight. 

Explaining why the new Endurance format appeals, he remarks: “With the longer flight window, wider competition area and less pressure at take-off, it is attractive to a broader audience. Those who have flown it, have loved it.

After building a solid foundation in the discipline from the first British Open Endurance Paramotor Championships in 2018, Townsend has overseen the development of the sport to international level. He has worked with the FAI Microlight and Paramotor Commission (CIMA), where he is also a Bureau Member, to create the inaugural FAI World Paramotor Endurance Championship this summer.

It has been a bit nerve-wracking,” he admits, “but I really feel this is where the future of paramotor competition lies.

Barney Townsend and British National Paramotor Champion Daniel Jones
2023 British Open Paramotor Champion Daniel Jones (left) shakes hands with Event Director Barney Townsend (right). Image: Suzanne Lee

Key features of the paramotor endurance format:

  • Large competition area with minimal restrictions and no fly zones.
  • Many hours flying over spectacular and varied terrain.
  • A strong focus on personal flight planning, airborne decisions and practical paramotoring and piloting skills.
  • Free choice of flight windows up to a maximum (specified) limit of airtime hours per day, within a larger task window that utilises the majority of daylight hours.
  • Principle task points available for precision navigation by flying prescribed routes. Some of these may also require pre-declared speed elements.
  • Bonus task points available for collecting turn points en-route to and from precision tasks, and performing precision landings in designated areas.
  • Minimum of briefings and penalties.
  • Simple and fast scoring.

Registration now open

Registration is now open and has already yielded entries from Poland, Australia, Slovakia, India, Japan, Iceland, Belgium and Spain, plus a strong team of pilots from the UK, who have already competed in the discipline at national level. Townsend expects that more experienced teams, for example from Qatar, Italy and Germany, will compete alongside a new wave of less experienced pilots who are keen to try out the new format. The team from Qatar is particularly strong in Slalom, as is the French team so it will be interesting to see how the slalom pilots adapt to the Endurance tasks.

As Townsend points out, “I think that the format appeals to newer competitors because it is so varied and more fun.

Paramotor pilot GBR 2023 championships
Pilot competes in the 2023 British National Paramotor Championships. 

About Endurance Tasks

The range of task types fall into the categories of Navigation, Precision, and Economy, some of which are new, with others borrowed from the classic format. Pilots have a long flight window with a maximum airtime of five hours per day and are able to return to refuel between flights.

Example tasks:

  • Precision navigation: following prescribed routes accurately in both positional and speed control
  • “Collecting” turn points en route to and from other tasks
  • Flying economically, through choice of equipment, throttle management and/or use of thermic air
  • Precision wing control in accurate landing or ground-based tasks.

Competitors will also be able to monitor the weather and choose the best time to complete the tasks. The general idea is to focus on the navigational and strategic elements, over the huge area of around 3000km2: “Pretty much the whole of Kent, plus a bit!” Townsend jokes. (Kent is one of Britain’s largest counties – Ed.) Live tracking means audiences will be able to follow the pilots as they progress through the tasks.

British National Paramotor Championships 2023
Pilot Daniel Jones celebrates becoming British National Paramotor Champion in 2023. Image Suzanne Lee

Organising a World Championships

After requesting feedback from British competitors at the national events, and during CIMA plenary meetings, Townsend is confident that the new format will take off after this initial FAI World Championship event. Having built up a strong team with Co-Director Andy Phillips, alongside a number of experienced marshals, preparations are well underway for the August competition. This year’s British Open Paramotor Championships – an open event – in June will also provide opportunity for pilots to come and experience the format in advance. The team, used to running parallel scoring,  will also host the German national championships during the same event.

How easy has it been to attract sponsors in a new type of competition? “We decided to run with the idea of fewer, larger sponsors, to make things easier to manage and reduce the risk of dilution.” Townsend reveals, “Two major sponsors have already committed: Liberty Paramotors as our Frame sponsor and Vittorazi Motors as the Engine Sponsor. We’re just looking for a Wing Sponsor now.

Whilst being as economical with fuel as possible will be a task for the competitors, Townsend doesn’t believe in withholding fuel allowance when it comes to volunteers: “We make sure all our helpers get three square meals a day,” he says with a grin, “keeping them fuelled and ensuring it’s a fun week has always been our ethos!

Townsend has clearly put heart and soul into pushing forward this compelling new discipline. And whilst he may not be putting himself forward to compete in this strategic paramotor format, he evidently has the skills to plot his course through the various checkpoints on the way to delivering a world championships.

As an academic in design engineering, he squeezes in time between lectures for the administration of competitions, something that takes a lot of energy. Townsend reveals that, after the August event, having reached his objective, he will step back from Competition Director, to allow the sport to gather momentum and move forward into the future. Might we see him return to competition in his much-loved Endurance discipline? It certainly seems as though he will navigate full circle back to the airfield: "Yes, I think I may well go back to competing after this year. It would be nice to have a go in the competition format that I have spent so much time developing!"  

FIND OUT More about Endurance Paramotor

Header image by Daniel Brice