Peter’s Paragliding Nomadness
Coupe Icare 2007
September 16, 2007
The ferry from Dover to Boulogne brought me back to France for the autumn flying season. My last camping site in May was at Equihen Plage, which also happens to be a coastal flying site, so I headed straight here from the ferry docks. It's only a ten minute drive.
Unfortunately, as in May, the wind was offshore and there was no flying. I started my morning with my ritual cup of hot chocolate and began my journey south towards St-Hilaire and La Coupe Icare.
I prefer to drive on the smaller roads, so I avoided the easy autoroutes and plotted a path through Picardy, staying the first night at a delightful little municipal campground by a small lake in Ailly-sur-Noye. Being out of season, and Sunday night, there was nobody to collect any payment, so I stayed free and enjoyed the hot showers and conveniences. It was also a great place to air my wing and give it a thorough inspection after being packed tight all summer.
The drive through Burgundy was spectacular as the unsettled weather produced great cloud formations over the rolling green countryside. The small villages surrounded by vinyards were immaculate and there were picnic areas and wild camping sites everywhere. It looks like a great place to come back to.
From Thursday morning until Monday, I was camped in the center of the action. The Acro took place directly overhead. The costumed pilots all landed directly in front of me.
I shouldered my pack, and headed to the bus stop to take the free bus to the take-off.
I spent most of Thursday in the air, riding the breezes that flow from the plain up the steep slopes from Lumbin to St-Hilaire. Friday morning, I flew in the still air of early morning, as balloons rose from the plain, but as the crowds began to arrive for La Coupe Icare, it became a bit of a zoo, especially around the landing field where pilots were approaching from all angles. At one point I counted 10 wings landing in the space of a minute with perhaps a hundred pilots folding their wings on the ground at the same time.
Coming close to another wing in the air is scary. Watching the Renegades Acro team come together and lock themselves into flying formations was unbelievable. And then, the pilots manoevred their wings apart such that one of them was flying his paraglider upside-down. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it possible.
It was no surprise that Raoul and Felix Rodriguez put on an incredible acrobatic show.
Dropping from a helicopter, barely visible at maximum altitude, they executed synchronized tumbles and spirals opposite each other with smoke streaming to mark their trail in the sky.
Earlier, a French pilot, Antoine Montant, wiped out Raoul's world record for consecutive tumbles by a wide margin as he revolved over his wing 130 times without pause.
Of course, La Coupe Icare is known for its costumes and this year was no exception. Dozens of pilots donned costumes and elaborate makeup to entertain the huge crowd.
A huge flying dragon was created by extending the lines between the cage (a particularly French method of paragliding) and the pilot. Unfortunately, he found himself landing short. Fortunately, he landed in a tree, just short of the busy road beside the LZ.
All good things must come to an end. This year the weather was perfect for all three days of La Coupe Icare. There was plenty of time to chat with manufacturers and dealers at the exposition, lots of great flying, and an outstanding show. The only disappointment was that Nova didn't show up with the new Mentor. They are still quoting 7 weeks to availability, just as they were 7 weeks ago.
There are more pictures in the Photo Album