The inaugural Icarus X launched in a vapour trail of hope, trepidation and two-stroke exhaust fumes last Thursday at dawn. A 170 mile circuit, and three days to fly it. What could possibly go wrong? The weather was set for 'fair to appalling', adding a spicy strategic element to proceedings; not just where to fly, but whether to fly.
After a rousing briefing from our race committee at the Endless Footdrag on Wednesday afternoon, the field swelled to the tune of three casual 'walk in' entrants; the brothers Martin, Doran and Adriel, and Trent Almon.
If you followed the updates you know where they were going
You now want to know how they got on, yes? Allow us...This here post is the first in a week-long series following the flights and fortunes of our seven pioneering Short Formatteers
Trent hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has 4 years paramotoring experience and “isn’t into mornings.” He signed up on the spot for Adventure Class, the night before, with no prior knowledge of the adventure. And then turned up for the launch slightly hungover. Chapeau. It's as if he'd met The Adventurists in a previous life.
His 0615 launch was flawless, hangover be damned....and straight into one of the most challenging flights he has encountered. However he handled everything the Oklahoma sky threw at him.
Within yelling distance of the Poteau airfield though Trent’s thirsty engine ran out of juice and he had to land out west of his target in a parallel field. A 200 yard walk with a paramotor wouldn’t have been a problem....except there were two tall barbed wire fences, a railway track and a thick treeline between Trent and his destination. There was no obvious route round either.
‘It was agony - I could hear paramotorists landing and cheering on the other side of the fence and there was nothing I could do’.
Crawling under one fence, climbing another and making friends with a tortoise en-route, a slightly scratched and bruised Trent eventually made it to the fuel pump on Poteau over an hour later. That’s an eye-watering-and-then tear-drying-quite-easily 0.1 mph average speed. He duly grabbed a jerry can of fuel and then began the equally long hike back around to his stashed motor and wing.
He took off 3 hours and 10 minutes after his ordeal had started. Which is about 3 hours longer than he would have taken if he’d landed one field over. Sometimes, you're the dog. Others, you're the lamp post.
He remained stoical. ‘I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life.’
Taking the adventure route towards Red Oak, Trent hit the turbulent headwinds coming into Wister and decided to call time on the race until the weather turned around.
The weather eventually did let up on Saturday morning but the wet grass still led to 5 failed launches. Without time to finish the whole course Trent quite sensibly elected to cruise out backwards along part of the course and then turn around to get a delicious first taste, and some all-important photographic evidence, of the finish line.
We'll be back with more pilot tales of adventure in the coming days as we unravel the tangled lines of punditry from the tracking data, the commentary team and the splendid pilots themselves. Well done to all you Pioneers.
Read enough? Want a piece of short format airborne shenanigans to call your own? Apply for the UK edition, July 22-24, here