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Living the Icarus dream

Living the Icarus dream
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It’s THE rendezvous of international free flying. The Icarus Cup takes place this weekend in Saint Hilaire du Touvet, not far from Grenoble in the French Alps.

The festival presents the perfect opportunity to discover all the latest innovations in paragliding, delta and sail-planing and not forgetting the impressive the wingsuit. Often referred to as the birdman suit or squirrel suit.

Fred Fugen,three-times Free Fly world champion explained ‘‘It’s as if we turned our bodies into aeroplanes. There is no engine, we simply use gravity. It reduces our normal rate of fall. If we didn’t have a wingsuit, we would fall at about 200 km/h, with the suit we are falling in a vertical drop at almost 80 km/h, so over half the speed. We can reach horizontal speeds of around 150 km/h.

One ever-developing trend in the world of free flight is the mini-camera. Not only used to immortalize the jumpers exploits but also to analyze and improve the sport. There are some real technological gems out there at the moment and you can get your hands on some for less than 300 euros.

Director of CamSports Christophe Mondière said ‘‘It weighs only 85 grams, it has HD image, a 90-minute battery life, it plugs into a computer like a USB key and you can recover the images on your Mac or PC “

Materials have become a lot lighter also, in particular the famous mini-sail which has crept onto the free flying scene in recent years. Half the size of a normal paraglider, it allows a lot more manoeuvrability, speed and comfort.

‘‘They have completely different sails that really let you go fast! And they only weigh 2 kilos. It’s amazing to see a sport that matures and develops in completely new and exciting ways.’‘ according to paragliding specialist Jean-Paul Budillon.

The practice of free flight is constantly evolving. This is certainly the case with acrobatic and long-distance flying, which allows some paragliders to stay in the air for up to a staggering 9 hours.

Long distance specialist Jean-François Larvoire said ‘‘There was a time when reaching a distance of 100 km was exceptional, but nowdays more and more people achieve that. Today, the best divers in the region go 200 km.”

One of the stars of this edition of the Icarus Cup is the first ever Archaeopteryx. At 56 kilos it’s the worlds lightest sail plane.

Philippe Bernard insisted ‘‘It’s just like free flying, because we set off from a mountain, you land in small fields like you would delta-planing. You use thermals like a glider and you can really travel some distance like a full-size sail-plane. It’s amazing!”

The 37th edition of the Icarus Cup takes place until Sunday in Saint Hilaire du Touvet. It’s the perfect place to discover all the latest free flying innovations, watch exceptional demonstrations, and dive, yourself, into the fabulous dream of Icarus.