X Sky Paragliding just finished its 11th El Nido Fly-in last weekend, and though forecasts showed less than ideal conditions for paragliding, the weather held out for most of the event.
“We had good flights on Friday and Saturday, then Sunday was a rainy day so we cancelled that one, but we had two good days,” said Willy Rens, owner of X Sky Paragliding.
“Fifteen pilots came up, which is about 60 per cent of what we normally have. A lot of pilots stayed away because the forecast didn’t look so good. The event is weather dependent, but now they regret it because I’m getting emails after they saw the pictures of the weekend.”
Rens added pilots were able to glide past Avola, reaching about 61 km in the air, with the highest flights clocking in at 2,700 metres above the ground.
People came from as far as Smithers, some from Vancouver as well as the Vernon-Okanagan area and Osoyoos to participate in the fly-in.
Of all the flying sites in B.C. the Clearwater area is particularly attractive to pilots due to the views one can see from the sky, added Rens.
“People are always really impressed with the view we have because we have the beautiful North Thompson River and North Thompson Valley,” he said.
“The peaks you see, once you get above the Mount MacLennan ridge, you can look at the Trophies, you can look south toward Dunn Peak, you can see the Monashees, and you even see glaciers in the distance and the snowy peaks. It’s quite impressive.”
For those who might not know, Rens previously explained paragliding is an adventure sport of flying paragliders, which use lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched gliders with no rigid structure.
The pilot sits in a harness, suspended below a fabric wing, with the wing shape maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of the air entering the vents in front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.
Despite not using an engine, paraglider flights can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometres, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometres are more common.
By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters.
The El Nido Fly-in got its name from a climbing trip Rens and his wife, Sigrid Vermeulen, took to Bolivia, where the base camp was named El Nido del Condor, or Nest of the Condor in English.
“We fly big birds,” Rens said of the paragliders. “Hence the name; so we shortened it to El Nido, the nest.”
As for the 11th run of the El Nido Fly-in, Rens said it was a great event with good take-offs, flights, and smooth landings.
“It seems more and more pilots know about the site and come up to fly it on a regular basis, which is great,” Rens added.
“That’s why we have the El Nido Fly-in, to share it with other pilots and also to give everybody more choices when they go flying.”