Le Grand Bornand 2022

Report on the 33rd British and Dutch Championship by Steve Senior

“The window is open”… finally, after a very long, Covid-delayed wait, the British and Dutch Paragliding Championship 2022 launched in Le Grand Bornand on the 25th of June. The local flying club, Les Ailes de Grand Bornand, did most of the advance organizing and provided great support and retrieve driver team. Living locally, I was asked to Meet Direct and Brett Janaway did a great job of scoring and providing live-tracking through, Airtribune.

The British Championships video

The task-setting team of Ulrich Prinz, Andy McNicol and Clement Cruciani was selected by the pilots at the main Safety Briefing and Phil Clark took on the role of Safety Officer.

What was evident was the very mixed bag of weather predicted for the competition week and therefore the need to be patient, but ready to fly whenever possible. The organising team also prepared a number of non-flying activities – indoor climbing, via ferrata, golf and others, which were taken up by many pilots.

Grand Bornand is an excellent place to host a competition due to the ease of access to takeoff on Mt. Lachat (by gondola and then chairlift) so pilots can time their arrival on launch to suit; the local infrastructure, bars, restaurants and close proximity to everything needed.

The first task (Sun 26th June) was a tricky 53kms, criss-crossing the local area and requiring good judgement on the height needed to make certain transitions and critically, on final glide.  This task was won by Russ Ogden (current World Champion), with Sarah Castellarnau (Fra) top woman. Only 14 made goal but David Willis won the prize of a helicopter ride down from the tree where he’d landed.

The next two days were not taskable but Russ gave an excellent ‘Competition-Flying’ talk to a fully packed audience on the Tuesday evening – a very memorable event.

Wed June 29th promised to be the best day of the week so an 80kms task was set, the route taking pilots along the Aravis mountain chain and back before heading all the way to Lake Annecy, then goal at Grand Bornand. Judging by the huge smiles on most faces, this was a very good task and congrats to the setters.  54 made goal and many more came close. Ulli Prinz and Karlien Engelen were the male and female task winners.

Andrew Kruszynski chose (not really) a tree landing but the ability to zoom in on live-tracking meant the retrieve team were able to call him and direct him to the waiting minibus.  In both tree-landing cases the pilots were uninjured and the gliders were recovered by the local specialist, Julien, allowing the pilots to fly the next tasks.

A special part of the competition for me was seeing the mix of highly experienced and much younger pilots, with lots of friendly banter and mutual support. The father and son duo of Richard and Jacob Butterworth caused much laughter when it was announced they had their own private competition going; who won each task, who won the mountain biking, karting etc… you’d better ask them who was the eventual winner!

Needing a final task to optimise ranking points and studying the live weather forecasting intently, we believed there would be a chance of a late task on the final competition day.  Under grey skies and low cloud base the pilots sat it out at a mountain restaurant until mid-afternoon, with one of the organisers going regularly up to launch and back to check conditions.  Finally, the sky started to break and everyone got themselves ready.  A task had been preset presuming the weather would cooperate, was tweaked, then announced to the pilots. The window opened at 16.40 for a racy 35km task with multiple turnpoints. An amazing 74 pilots made goal with the winners being Clement Cruciani and Sarah Castellarnau.

The prizegiving was held just outside the comp HQ (bar des Deux Guides) and thanks were given to the Mayor and local community, all the super volunteers and helpers, and the pilots for making it a great competition – no injuries or reserves thrown.  Special tree-like bouquets were given to David and Andrew for their too-close encounters then the main prizes were awarded: locally made and engraved cowbells – totally appropriate for the region.

Overall competition winners were:

1st        Ulli Prinz (De)

2nd          Ronnie Geijsen (also Dutch Champion)

3rd       Andy McNicol

1st Woman     Karlien Engelen

British Championship

British Champion   Andy McNicol

2nd                               Jacob Butterworth

3rd                               Dougie Swanson-Low

4th                                Craig Morgan

5th                                Lawrie Noctor

British Lady Winner          Agnieszka Zaborowska

British Serial Class

1st        Dougie Swanson-Low

2nd       Mark Hayman

3rd       Oliver Sherratt

British Sports Class

1st        Mark Hayman

2nd       Alan McNab

3rd       Andy Smart

U25 Class – great to see Jacob ‘Butty 2’ and Dylan Mansley doing so well in the under 25 class, preparing for the forthcoming World Junior PG Championship.

Full details of all the task and competition results are available at Airtribune.com

Thanks to everyone involved for making it a great event and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Steve Senior