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Aconcagua Speed Flying

22 March 2008

1. How old are you, where do you live, what is your job?
I’m 35 years old, I live in a little village close to Les Arcs, France.

2. How did you get in to flying and what was your career route that bought you to speed flying?
I started flying in Mieussy in 1986.I did XC comps until 96, but I always liked acro. I did comps from 2000 to 2005. I won in Argentina in 2004. I’m involved in the FAI acro group since the start.I teached paragliding from 1989 to 2000, then I went to work with Michel Leblanc brands, and since 2,5 years with Gin Seok Song. I’m R&D pilot. I started to fly mini gliders in 2004, modifying 11m2 kites with Michel Leblanc. In winter I joined Franck Coupat, David Eyraud and Antoine Montant, we rided with Skydiving canopies. I descended the “Mt Blanc du Tacul” with a Leblanc’s 9m2 in July 2005. I was not satisfied with Skydive canopies for practicing speed riding, and Gin has been very motivated to create a dedicated glider. We did the Nano.

3. Do you do a lot of paragliding now or is it mainly speed flying?
I fly a bit less paragliding than before, but I still work on paragliding R&D with GIN.

4. On Aconcagua where you part of a climbing expedition / who was with you?
There is companies that provide the guide, food, and mules for gear to the base camp. Easy to concentrate only on the ascent and the descent..

5. How was the change from climbing to flying, how was swapping gear over and did you carry your climbing gear down with you?
The guide and the cook took down the tents and my climbing stuff to the base camp. Then mules… I met back my guide 2 days after, at the approach camp, the one I went after the descent. I climbed with the glider, the helmet-cam, the skis and the minimum stuff.

6. What equipment did you use for your descent, was it modified at all?
I went there with a Nano 10, serial one.

7. How did you psych up for the descent and what were your greatest worries?
I prepared this descent since monthes ago, looking at all pictures of the face, checking the maps, the weather foracast, reading a lot. I have been in contact by radio at the base camp with the logistic base, deciding the meteo window. The forecast is not very efficient in this area… I was needing a soft wind and visibility. I was ready to go down by the west face if the conditions were not ok in the south one, or to walk down if nothing could be done…

8. Had you been able to plan your route down beforehand?
Before to go to the base camp, I went to the bottom of the south face to check the itinary. I did almost the one checked.

9. Did you have much contact with the face on the way down?
I touched several times, but the visibility was very bad (“jour blanc” in french), and the speed was so high.. add the tire of 11 hours walking to reach the summit on the last day, and the danger to “stop and stay” in the face… Nobody is going to rescue you there… So I didn’t “ride” the face..

10. Describe the flight, what special moments were there?
It’s something like an other reality… High altitude maybe... I staid very focused on the decisions for the take off, the wind conditions, the clouds... Then after the start, the main thing has been: “Wow that’s so fast!!” The air pressure… I didn’t have this feeling at Mont Blanc. The snow areas were “eaten” so fast, and I was falling down along the cliffs. My trajectories were so vertical, so unusual.. But the piloting has been finaly… HUGE!!!

11. Can you describe the feeling when you got to the bottom?
Full of adrenalin, of course! Time to feed back all the descent, all parts… The heart druming, and… Oxygen! Feeling the oxygen in my brain.. I was enjoying this moment, after 15 days travel. During the 4,5 hours walk to the approach camp, I was floating on the track down in the night with the moonlight, it was really sweet..

12. What’s next for you in speed flying or other adventures?
Other practicing places to discover, promote and develop the minigliders fields of use…

13. What is possible in speed flying and where is the sport going?
Mountainers can go down mountains quickly, that’s a safety aspect. At the elite, the riders level is going up and we see some enormous runs in great mountains and in comps. The practice is more and more known and discussed with authorities, practicing rules are there, thanks to FFVL. Other countries are organising the practice too. In France, dedicated areas exist in Ski resorts, dedicated schools are teaching with specific instructor qualification. The very good thing is that you get pleasure in speedriding in every place, at every level.
This activity is attracting lots of people who are not coming from the paragliding background. We see now mostly skiers… (www.speedriding-school.com) With some time it will be a real part of the free flight world.

14. With most of the manufacturers making speed wings, are we going to see an explosion in the sport?
At the moment, all manufacturers who make speed wings are not really aware of the matters of the activity. It will come… Speed riding and Speed flying are a natural evolution in air sports. Let’s use our background and knowledge to let this grow without mistakes. It’s a rare opportunity to make the free flight community bigger.

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