It’s official, my brother and I have been selected for the X-Pyr 2014 paragliding competition. The X-Pyr is an extreme event which aims to have its competitors cross the Pyrenees, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, using nothing more than a paraglider and/or walking (running for the diehards is also an option) in the shortest time possible. It’s a grueling cross country (XC) expedition which, in addition to airmanship, will test the strength of body, mind and spirit. Play the teaser video below and check out the team bio at X-Pyr Team Radzikowski.
I’m entering the competition as an assistant rather than the main pilot, and my brother will take on the brunt of this particular event. I’ve a long way to go before I can match his skills in the air and be able to consistently execute long-distance cross country (XC) flights in alpine-like conditions. The pilot moves forward as much as possible using a paraglider or hikes, while the assistant, always within radio’s reach, moves along the closest possible road in a support vehicle as close as possible to the pilot and waypoints.
My task may seem trivial, but there is still a lot that’s required of the assistant. Depending on where my brother lands, or bombs out, I will be required to hike up to meet him to deliver water, food, spares, clothes, medical supplies, charged batteries and cook food. In general, anything that will get him in shape for the following day — this includes being a doctor and masseuse.
There are plenty of rules within the X-Pyr to ensure our and the general public’s safety. Some rules will add to the difficulty of the competition but overall I think they are a good balance to allow for healthy competition without compromising on safety.
Where possible, I will try to fly so as to cut down on my own hiking times, but this will largely depend on the availability of safe take-off and landing sites as well as distance to the van. We still need to clarify a couple of rules with the organizers, such as rule “5.4 The assistant will be able to use any means of transport, but will not be able to fly anywhere near his/her team mate.” What does X-Pyr consider to be “near”?
Each day has a compulsory cut-off time for resting between 22:30h and 5:30h, at which point the pilot can’t move outside an imaginary 250m circle. Since both pilot and assistant are monitored using live GPS trackers, much like a criminal’s ankle bracelet, the competition’s organizers can easily apply time penalties if the rules aren’t followed or if any of the 28 teams in the X-Pyr 2014 are seen making headway during mandatory periods of rest.
The aim is to get to each waypoint as quickly as possible by paragliding, weather permitting. On days where flying won’t be possible because of bad weather, keeping the pilot supplied with water, food and plenty of morale will be a task in itself. A fully loaded paraglider and any supporting equipment can weigh anywhere up to 20kg — covering the terrain (at altitude) and distance on foot will be taxing on the knees and lungs.
Obviously, tactics will play a vital role in this expedition but I’m not going to discuss these before the competition. As an assistant, my primary role is to help Stan reach the next waypoint/goal in as short a time as possible while helping conserve as much energy for the next day. Let’s hope there aren’t too many un-flyable days.
The X-Pyr competition starts on the 13th of July in Hondarribia. We should arrive at the finish line in Port de la Selva some two weeks later. Wish us luck.
These types of events require a lot of planning, training, and specialized equipment. If you would like to play a part in this event, albeit vicariously, we’re still on the lookout for sponsors :)