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 a 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 xc 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. It was incredibly interesting seeing the differences in approach and while most of the topics centered on the uniqueness of flying in North America the takeaways would apply to pilots anywhere. The results were gold. We recorded the talk in an open park during a rain storm so it was hardly a good venue for capturing clean audio, but stick with it- there’s a ton of valuable information here!
Matt Warren is a keen pilot and has been a long-time journalist for Cross Country Magazine and is also a veteran science writer. He and his co-author Miriam Frankel have just released their incredible book “Are you Thinking Clearly, 29 reasons you aren’t, and what to do about it.” 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. Matt paints a pretty clear picture that nearly all humans have psychological traits which in the flying environment can be deadly, but there’s good news- we can improve how we think. Matt articulates what’s going on upstairs incredibly well and we had a blast with this talk. Get the book and start making better decisions in life, and 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 last 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. Hours, hours and more hours. He ground handled for years as a child before he took his first solo flight. Baptiste is a member of the French team, is an Ozone team pilot, is currently ranked 3rd in the world and is one of those guys sending 300+ km FAI triangles with guys like his good friend Maxime Pinot on a regular basis. We dug deep into the art of winning and what it takes to beat the best in the world in this show. The mental game, using your instruments vs your gut, strong vs weak positions, little things that add up (and don’t), not falling prey to “rash” decisions, trimming your glider, physical training and diet, how closely XC skills and comp skills are related and a lot more. I deeply enjoyed this conversation and hope you do to!
This week we are diverting from free flight and just going to tell a good yarn. In 2009 your host was about half way through a second circumnavigation when he was suddenly confronted with a rather daunting task- sailing a large catamaran 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. Imagine sailing for 10 days alone getting only minutes of sleep at a time, sick with a nasty staph infection, autopilot on the glitch, and wicked storms that batter the boat and an increasingly unstable mind. Not much flying in this one, but it’s a pretty wild (and 100% true!) story. Hope you enjoy. To read the blog (and see some pics) post in its original format from back in 2009 go here.
Manu Bonte returns to the Mayhem to take us into the French team of Pierre Rémy. Pierre is of course one of the most accomplished competition pilots in the world (he’s currently ranked 6th in the WPRS) but this was his first foray into the craziness of hike and fly racing. 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. Manu’s description of that final day and what went down in the X-Pyr and how Chrigel continues to outflank the best in the world is absolutely gripping. Enjoy!
- Manu recounts Pierre’s background
- Manu discusses the extremes the top athletes are willing to fly in
- We discuss Pierre’s “magic” move on day 6 to take the lead and one of Chrigel’s rare mistakes
- Making your own decisions
- The super-human ground game required
- Manu discusses the team and the dynamics
- Things they got right, things they got wrong
- Luck vs skill
- The gear- Niviuk Klimber 2P, Kortel Kolibri Pro
- Are the X-Alps next?
- The training required
- Giving advice where you don’t pay the mistake yourself. The stress of the risk
- Maintaining the position vs making risky moves. Strategy…
- The Team’s philosophy.
- The crazy last day where Chrigel won and how it went down
Mentioned in this episode:
Chrigel Maurer, Simon Oberauner, Maxime Pinot, XCSkies, Niviuk, Nick Neynens, Ben Abruzzo
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, and then two days later went even bigger and went 312 km! This is Aaron’s remarkable story. Hold on tight.
Watch a short film of Aaron’s remarkable 312 km FAI flight and footage of one of his fly/ski “combos”:
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!
Leandro’s website: https://hikeandfly.com.br
Mentioned in this show: Rafael Saladini
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. Andy was in quarantine with Covid when we spoke several months ago but is now on day 6 of his project “Transalps, flying for equality”, a bivy trip he was only dreaming of at the time to raise awareness of discrimination. Follow the project here, it looks like they are having a blast!:
And watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOBdV4R7OgKmBB0QVm_ZHFA
Daniel Tyrkas is no stranger performing at a high level. He took a passion for gymnastics onto the slopes and soon after competed for Germany in snowboarding in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after nearly qualifying for Nagano in 98′ (while going to engineering school!). He sends huge airs in kiteboarding, but his true passion for the last couple decades has been paragliding. He’s commonly ranked in the top 15 in the world, regularly represents Germany on their national team, and very often can be found at the top of XContest on big days in the Alps (in fact he just broke the site record from near his home in Kossen just after we had our talk). In this episode we dig into his comp success, going big in XC, the most critical maneuvers to have down to be safe, striking the right balance between attacking and control, how to fly the best lines, and doing it all while having a real job and real family! “The journey of becoming a better bird never ends.” Enjoy!
Topics we discuss on the show:
- Daniel discusses his 2002 winter olympics in Salt Lake City and how his body awareness helped him learn to fly quickly
- A non-standard progression
- Learning SIV very early on
- Getting into XC and putting things together
- Optimizing. Is it engineering, flow, approach, training…or something else
- Competitions- how to succeed
- Monarca, Colombia, and the comp scene
- Controlling the wing when the shit hits the fan
- Fly the wing you are comfortable with
- One job- angle of attack!
- A lifetime accident free
- Macready dictates bar use
- Striking the right balance
- You can only try to improve yourself
- Becoming a better bird
- Don’t be dumb- pretty easy!
- The importance of having quick-outs
- Passive safety- where it matters
- Carry a hook knife!
- Honorin- how?
Mentioned in this show:
Will Gadd, Aaron Durogati, Thomas Theirillat, Honorin Hamard, Luc Armont, Russ Ogden, Charles Cazaux, Ulrich Prinz
I’m not sure if I introduce Benjamin with “film maker” or “pilot” as he does both in spades. Benjamin makes amazing films about his flying and bivvy adventures in New Zealand and takes the viewer directly into his cockpit, talking the audience through his decision making with some of the most infectious stoke on flying I’ve ever witnessed. Come along for the ride with Benjamin as he takes us into the clouds to surf the possibilities. Enjoy this super fun talk with Benjamin Kellett!
Prepare to get sucked in on Benjamin’s YouTube channel.