The Icarus X Series is currently seeing it's final event of 2017 unfold in Gloucester - New South Wales (that's in Australia in case you hadn't guessed). Here's the latest from the folks on the ground about how things are panning out thus far...
Our gallant airmen took to the air this afternoon orchestrated by two-time Icarus Trophy champion - the legendary Dave Wainwright. They hit the sky from Gloucester Airfield at 16:00 Aussie time.
Race class pilots took off in a 15-knot sea-breeze that built steadily through the day but with gusts causing problems the Adventure Class were held back. Conditions were apparently "not suitable for adventure".
Challenging stuff for the less-competitive pilots, with the wind causing turbulence howling through the valley. Lack of experience with the extra weight of long distance fuel plus the lack of flat land in a mountain range ahead towards the first Checkpoint meant that caution had to take precedence.
Most of our slightly unhinged Race Class virtuosos have made it past the first checkpoint at Walcha Airfield at the end of Day 1. Mitch Williams had second thoughts and returned to the start line, citing spicy air as an excuse to practice his landings. Navigating using Google maps as his only compass may also have contributed to him not knowing where he was going. That Mr Google can be a real git sometimes.
Far out in a carefree lead, Casey Butler is currently looking like the man who could take it all. He powered past Walcha and then had to land as too many people were calling his phone to tell him his tracking wasn’t working (he was but a glitch meant he wasn't showing up on the public live tracking map). Nothing suspicious to see here.
He spent a comfortable few hours watching telly and drinking tea with a farmer, out of whom he cadged 5 litres of fuel to add to the 5 he has left. A whimsical 10 litres of fuel to see him through to the second checkpoint at Wauchope.
Taking off again he maintains an almost horrific lead, comfortably sitting at 4000ft in a generous 4 degrees of warmth. Lonely at the top he is now wrapped up all snuggly in his sleeping bag somewhere near the Yarrowitch river.
The main man expected to give stiff opposition was Fabian Fabbro who took himself out of the competition in Walcha where he landed to refuel. He is reportedly fairly miffed at breaking his pull start as he was in with a real chance of taking the lead from Casey.
Other contenders still in with a shot at overtaking the leader include Richard Oakey who has the fastest wing and could potentially make up the 40km lead.
Icarus Trophy legend Dean Kelly is also in with a shot if he can make up time by staying aloft if turbulence forces the leaders down.
“The only thing that can stop Casey now is Casey”. If the wind does force him to lose his underpants then reportedly fearless Dean may be in with a shot of snatching the lead with some serious balls out action.
Fielding Smith who was a serious contender took off with his harness configured arse about face, made a not so elegant crash landing and buggered his prop to the tune of $1000 AUS. Ouch. He has now repaired himself and re-launched enthusiastically making up as much time as possible but without serious hope of overtaking the leaders.
With unpredictable winds, lots of turbulence and local conditions that vary massively along the racecourse, everything is still to play for. Tomorrow’s aerial wizardry should be even more interesting to see if Casey oversleeps his alarm and if Dean or Richard pull something magical out of their derrieres and make a good show of it.
Until tomorrow then.