From early experiments with kites and speed boats in the 1960s, Hang Gliding and Paragliding have evolved into world-class competitive sports.
Today, more than 3500 thrill-seekers and their clubs come together regularly to compete and improve their skills while setting a benchmark for themselves experiencing confidence and ultimate enjoyment.
What are the benefits of competitions?
These adventure sports create champions from novices and what sets them apart is their skillset. A skillset can be improved by frequent practice, learning new techniques through observation and daring to be different. You develop as a pilot by participating in competitions.
Some of the benefits of participating in competitions include increased performance, better aerodynamics, improved aerobatic techniques, greater stability and equilibrium among others.
Competitive flying not only allows you to assess your level of flying by comparing yourself against others and expand your skillset by learning other pilots' techniques.
Not only will your flight improve, but also your sense of enjoyment as rivals become mates and your friendship circle expands when you compete in a sporting legacy which stretches back 50 years.
Can beginners compete?
Yes, and who knows where competition flying can take you – perhaps even to the World Air Sports Games?
If you've just got your license, don't worry – there are lots of different kinds of competition. You won't be asked to fly against world champions the same week you finish your beginner's course.
Many clubs hold basic challenges which absolutely anybody can enter and win, while also providing an insight into how competitions are run and how to learn from other more experienced pilots. At the other end of the scale, top class pilots earn their living from being professional competition pilots and travel the world doing what they love best while being paid for it – what a life!
Get airborne and watch your confidence grow in leaps and bounds as you join other aviation enthusiasts to achieve personal milestones. Fly-in at your own speed or maybe fly straight to the top. The sky is the limit.
What do competitions involve?
Competition flying usually positions pilots to complete a set route or task. This is either a straight line to a set destination or to complete a circuit of several points which have to be visited in order. Points are gained by getting there first, by being more accurate flying over the turning points than the other pilots, or by flying further if that is what the task demands. Generally, competitions are held over several days to allow fluke wins and tricky weather conditions to be evened out over time. Therefore, skill will always come out on top.
Tasks are checked or validated by using GPS waypoint marking. Once the pilot has done well enough by participating in a number of local competitions, they may be selected to represent Australia, fly overseas and enter in International competitions.
Club and social competitions are generally less demanding and often include things like spot landing accuracy, glide distance attempts and even fancy dress too. Some bigger clubs hold competitions against each other - these are a good stepping stone to the more serious events if you fancy mixing it with the top gun flyers but don't want to enter a top-level competition.
For most competitions, you will need a current model wing, a GPS and a vario. Many also stipulate a reserve parachute and a UHF radio, and some require you to have a retrieve driver and car as well to fetch you from wherever you end up.
For end of the day talk, and by hearing endless stories of narrow escapes and amazing flying feats (sometimes imaginary, sometimes real) there is nothing like a competition. Give one a try and see how much your flying improves.