The 2022 British Open Paramotor Championships took place again at Wingland Airfield in Lincolnshire, in early July. The second time round at a venue is always a bit easier for a director, not only in terms of pre-comp planning, but also in reduced stress levels due to less uncertainty: I already know that we can have a great comp here – all I needed to worry about now was the weather.
This year’s competition was on a great footing before the event even started. After an upsurge in new energy last year, the committee and their supporting panel have been working hard throughout the year on a number of projects. Our new website was launched a couple of months earlier, bringing a fresh public face to the comps, and including embedded live tracking so those at home can follow the pilots live from the FlyEvent trackers that pilots carry, and that we use for scoring. We have made a big drive this year to revise the competition sponsorship packages, resulting in a higher level of sponsorship income than we’ve had in several years, certainly since I took up directing in 2017. My sincere thanks to all of our sponsors, in particular the lead sponsor Green Dragons Airsports, who hosted the main competition marquee. And we also had an updated scoring software, optimised for the live trackers, to ensure we could blast through the scores more quickly than ever before.
More sponsorship income enabled us to upspec various elements of competition infrastructure, with a bigger and more robust marquee (no drips during rainstorms!), provision of a both primary and backup live tracker/loggers to each pilot (rented from FlyEvent), and a return to printing official competition T-Shirts for all pilots and marshals, which really helped to tie the event together and make all participants look like part of a cohesive team. The Parajet Club Pilot class ran again this year with another two pilots from club level discovering competition flying for the first time.
Our marshals, expertly led again by Simon Pitchford and Lynne Orgovanyi, featured some welcome new faces as well as the regular ones. It’s a huge confidence booster to me as a director, to know how much collective experience there now is in that team; that they know their jobs so well. It leaves me free to concentrate on task-based decision making for the pilots rather than needing to micromanage the practical delivery of the comp, on the deck. As always, I cannot thank all of the marshals enough for the incredible work that they do, and also my co-director Andy Phillips.
I’m still developing my version of the FAI ‘Endurance’ format that I have been running UK comps to since 2018. This year, I wanted to add in some more low flying precision tasks, to challenge more pilot skills than simply spot and bowling landings, without increasing danger to pilots by encouraging slalom type low high-g turns. And also with a view to creating some more spectator-friendly elements in the event. Two tasks from the classic FAI catalogue (both originally invented and proposed by our venue host Mike Chilvers for the 2016 WPC that he directed) are perfect for this: flown in a straight line into wind, pilots activate their time by kicking an entry stick, then perform a “touch and go” type landing, running forwards through a slalom course of cones whilst still kiting the wing, before taking off again and passing through a gate to stop the clock. In the alternative version, they stop completely, ground the wing, then immediately reverse launch it again and take off. Both of these variants were run with great success on the second evening of the championship, and will stay in the task catalogue for next year.
After having to sit out the first morning of the championship due to wind, the pilots got cracking on Thursday afternoon with a 3 hour window for the open navigation tasks, and then returned for some precision landings in the evening. Friday was warmer, so after a 2 hour open navigation window in the morning, pilots came back to set up for a limited fuel pure economy task – classic thermalling on 4kg of fuel, and returning for the new precision tasks in the evening. Saturday followed very much the same format, 2 ½ hours navigation in the morning, with the afternoon’s precision task being the distance-eco FAI triangle, limited to 6kg of fuel – with another change this year in that I trialled allowing pilots to carry and use mobile phones for this task only. This was on the basis that the challenge of the task is more about testing strategic planning, knowledge of fuel burn rates at various trim speeds, and precision throttle control than it is about the kind of navigation that a mobile phone can help with; but carrying phones enables pilots to more easily upload their tracks to the online XContest to boost their own and the UKs ranking in this parallel event.
On the subject of the XContest, we introduced a new trophy this year too. Named in honour of a friend who sadly passed away last year, we will be awarding the Dan Burton UK Paramotor XContest Trophy each year at our awards ceremony, to the winner of the British leaderboard of the previous year’s XContest. This year, the inaugural conferment of that award went to Mike Page.
I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this comp all ways round. We had more pilots than any previous event I have directed, flying more airtime, more varied tasks, supported by more marshals, and more commercial sponsors. It is a particular pleasure to see the progression of the newly crowned British National Paramotor Champion, Daniel Jones, who first entered our championships under the Club Pilot class that we introduced in 2018, now proving the value of competition flying for pilot skill development by winning the top trophy. My sincere congratulations to him, and of course to all the other trophy winners as well.
Getting a format of competition right is a long term process, and I have plans for more improvements next year. But crucially, I am now confident that I have both the structure and the team behind me in place, to be able to deliver a great FAI World Championship, and I will be making a bid at the CIMA plenary this year for the UK to host this, under my direction, in 2024.
We will be confirming the dates for next year’s championship again soon, but you can expect it to be a week or two earlier – probably late June. We anticipate another jump in pilot numbers – particularly with foreign pilots after our bid is submitted for hosting a world championship the year after.
My sincere thanks again to all our marshals, sponsors, pilots, hosts, governing bodies (BHPA and BMAA), and my fellow Paramotor Competition Committee members, for all of the work and support to make this such a successful event. I am very much looking forward to the next couple of years, building on this success, working with you all, and taking British competitive paramotoring to new heights and international reputation.
Championship director and Paramotor Competitions Committee chair.
Official BOPC2022 Sponsors:
Green Dragons Airsports, Parajet, Cross Country, Miniplane UK, FlySpain, Northern Skies Paramotoring, Skybound Aviation, Dudek, Bulldog Paramotors, Ozone Power, Foot Flight Paramotors, and Custom Air Paramotors