September sees the third edition of the world’s only long distance paramotor race taking to the skies
If you’ve ever fancied the idea of paramotoring – flying with an engine and propeller on your back and dangling from a ‘flying wing’ type of parachute – then the Icarus Trophy is the perfect place to be for you. Started in 2015, the first race took place between Seattle and Sacramento, where pilots soared above some of America’s most iconic landscapes.
While the term pilot might be a little misleading for laymen as the aircraft they fly aren’t regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and are flown with a powered paraglider, also called a paramotor. It is one of the cheapest and most basic ways to fly. To most, seeing one for the first time, it may certainly be an adrenaline rush.
For glory & leisure
The event is split into two divisions – one for the more experienced pilots, who are racing for glory and must only advance forward by means of flight, and an Adventure Division, for the less seasoned racer who wants to take things at a more ‘leisurely pace’ and may choose alternative travel for any sections they do not fancy flying.
The 2016 version of the race started in Polson and ran 1,100 miles through five states before ending near Las Vegas. This course was 300 miles longer than the previous year’s. “During one flight, I experienced hail, snow, rain and turbulence. I had never dealt with those conditions before and I got to deal with them all at once,” Dean Kelly, adventure division 2016 competitor, said about the experience.
The 2017 race, which starts on September 23, takes the same route as the 2016 course, with the organisers expecting larger numbers of entrants in both divisions, following the popularity of the X Series, a number of worldwide weekend-based races launched in 2016.
“Probably the key part of any adventure is setting out into the world and fending for yourself. With thoughts like ‘where will I sleep?’ or ‘what do I do now as I’ve run out of fuel?’, the whole excitement dies and it ends up into any other guided tour,” says the organisers, The Adventurists.
Injuries during Icarus are common for all. In 2016, seven pilots flew. Out of these, only one finished. A German pilot even landed among thick desert shrubbery and had face grave difficulties after getting caught in a bush of thorns. The 2015 race featured 33 pilots, many of which were injured, including a severely sprained ankle and a broken wrist. “It’s part of the experience and adventure,” Kelly said after his failed attempt to launch on the first day. “Where’s the fun if everything goes right?” he exclaimed.
by: Elizabeth McGraw