Up to 100 of the country’s best paragliders will be seen over North East skies during the next week as they vie for national honours.
The Bright Open Australian Nationals, a seven-day XC paragliding competition that has been running for about 20 years, will be based around Bright’s Mystic Flight Park from Saturday, January 12, until Friday, January 18.
Pre-event organiser Brian Webb said Friday morning 85 pilots had entered so far, predominantly Australians.
“We get a lot of internationals, a lot from China this year, it really excites me to have so many people coming in from China,” he said.
Each day races are launched from a sloping hill, usually at Bright but occasionally from sites around Gundowring or the Buckland Ridge.
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Mr Webb said a typical route might be a 70 to 80 kilometre triangle, with pilots in the air for three to four hours.
“If we start at Bright we might perhaps go up to Myrtleford, across to Dederang is pretty popular, and then drop down into Mount Beauty, the air strip there, or perhaps back to Bright,” he said.
“Sometimes the conditions are tough and nobody gets around to goal and so then it’s whoever’s done the most distance around the course.”
Weather conditions dictate the races, with light winds preferred and cancellations if necessary.
“We’re guaranteed to bring rain, we know that as soon as we run a competition,” Mr Webb said with a laugh.
“What we will do is not entirely risk-free so we need to manage the risk of the environment that we’re flying in as capably as we can.
“You can’t sit at 2000 metres or 6000 feet above terra firma under what looks like a bit of silk and a few gossamer thin lines without feeling a little bit vulnerable.
“We train carefully and we train hard and we do risk management with everything that we do so we make it better rather than worse.”
A paraglider for 30 years, Mr Webb said the focus it required helped him “keep balance in the world”.
“For anybody who’s ever dreamed or felt that they wanted to step into the air and not fall over but just keep on going, then that’s what paragliding helps you to achieve,” he said.
“Pop the glider up, turn and if all is feeling good, take a couple of steps and you’re just soaring away.”
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