With the 2023 Red Bull X-Alps quickly approaching I thought it would be fun to sit down with Chrigel “The Eagle” Maurer to take a walk back through his 7 winning campaigns. No one in our sport has been and continues to be more dominant than Chrigel. He won his first X-Alps in 2009 and hasn’t lost since (2023 will be his 8th campaign). He’s won everything (many at least 3 times)- Bornes to Fly, X-Pyr, Dolomiti Superfly, EigerTour, Dolomitiman, VercoFly (which he won flying tandem too!), and of course dominated for several years on the world cup, is a test pilot for Advance, heads up the X-Alps Academy and is without rival as the best mountain pilot on Earth.
Tim Rochas is a long-time Niviuk Test pilot (he did his first testing for Niviuk at the age of 12!), wing and harness designer, French team member and veteran World Cup pilot. Tim has has recently gotten into hike and fly racing not only for his own pursuits but to become a Red Bull X-Alps supporter of Tanguy-Renoud Goud in the 23′ race this summer.
During a weather day of the Red Rocks Wide Open this week, a US Nationals and Pre- PWC race to goal competition in southern Utah we held an panel discussion with some of our most veteran competition pilots- Evan Bouchier, Matt Beechinor, Josh Cohn, Bill Belcourt and Reavis Sutphin-Gray. Between the five they have 119 years of experience. The opening topic was competition strategy but the talk wandered into all kinds of fascinating areas including strategies for dealing with gust fronts, team flying, planning for going huge and a lot more.
In a line, it explores the science behind why you might not be in the driver’s seat of your own brain – and everything you can do to change that… It investigates everything from genetics, personality and intuition to habits, what you eat, social media, attention and bias – and how these factors influence and manipulate the way we think. We learn in the podcast that all KINDS of things get in the way of thinking clearly, which obviously isn’t very good when we’re in the air.
In the Macedonia PWC this July, which had a pilot level similar to a Superfinal Baptiste Lambert was 1st or 2nd in 5 of 7 days of racing. He didn’t even need to fly the last day to win the competition! Baptiste also won the PWC in Brazil and the PWC in China this year. But Baptiste does not consider himself a professional pilot, flying is not how he makes a living. He’s not a test pilot. Until literally the day we recorded this podcast he’s been a math teacher (he’s just taken a new job with Ozone designing harnesses). How does he do it? The short answer? There is no secret.
In 2009 your host was about half way through a second circumnavigation when he was suddenly confronted with a rather daunting task- sailing from Bali to Langkawi, Malaysia (1500 nautical miles) across the two busiest shipping lanes on Earth (the Java Sea and the Malacca Straits) solo. This is an area of the world that is not only like a freeway on the ocean with enormous ships and fishing vessels moving at high speed it’s also famous for the worst electrical storms on the planet.
The 2022 X-Pyr was substantially longer than any of the previous races with a big tweak to the route, and the weather this year was downright brutal. You had to be an animal on the ground, but it was in the air, and often in really scary air that we saw the true aviators make their moves. Manu was Pierre’s weather and route-strategy ace and not only did their team hold in up at the front for the entire race, Pierre was the only bird in the sky late on day 6 (when the forecast called for winds in excess of 70 km/hr) when he took a commanding lead. But once again Chrigel pulled his magic and nipped both Pierre and Maxime, who looked like he had the win in the bag right at the last moment.
Aaron Durogati is no stranger to thinking and doing big, but this time he pulled off what can only be described as outrageous. He and a few friends spent 40 days in the Himalaya in Pakistan to pursue mountaineering “combos”. They used their paragliders to take off from lower elevations, put their touring gear (ie skis) on in the air, stuff it in somewhere high, often above 5,000 meters and then ski and fly down. They spent many nights at altitude acclimatizing; they got stuck with heinous walks out on dangerous glaciers; Aaron had a frightening crash; he got so sick he thought he was going to die…and then he somehow managed to fly at 285 km FAI triangle across the biggest terrain in the world…
Most pilots who think of flying in Brazil think of chasing records across the Sertão or racing in the land of the lost terrain in famous sites like Governador Valadares and Baixo Guandu. But Brazil is massive and the flying possibilities and potential is as big as the smiles that adorn the welcoming people. Leandro Estevam Montoya and a fast-growing group of pilots at all levels in Brazil have been exploring the countries’ vol-biv potential for the past few years and their discoveries are tantalizing. Come along for a fun ride and pack your bags for Brazil!
Andy Baumelt is a Swiss pilot who reached out to me because he loved the show and said that while he would probably never be one of the top ranked pilots or do something big and wild in the sport he loved to fly, was firmly in the throws of intermediate syndrome and had made some mistakes that many pilots make in their journey. Andy’s story is probably one that most pilots can relate to and we had a lot of fun just talking flying- and life.