Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Paragliding Technology Has Changed

How paragliding technology has changed

Lighter, faster, better? How paragliding technology has changed dramatically during the 5 editions of the Red Bull X-Alps

Rating: ****

The alpine hiking and paragliding adventure race is a very fast paced event that requires critical thinking and plenty of precise moves. In this 864km event many paragliders gather in the Alps for the Red-Bull X-Alps competition. The goal is to get from start to finish as quickly as possible while only hiking and paragliding. This race can last up to 12 days but the difference of coming first or second can be decided by the difference of only a few minutes. This is why it’s important for the paragliders to make precise landings to avoid hiking up mountains as much as possible. However, carrying a small hiking pack can mean everything and that’s why it’s so important for the gliders to hike with as little weight as possible so that they can make their hike up the mountain effortlessly.

Most competitors of this event use gliders that are specially designed for this race. Some of the racer's packs weigh as little as seven kilograms. The way that this is possible is through advances in design. For example the lines of the gliders are currently made of a stronger and lighter material than before and measure only about two millimeters in width, which is 75% smaller than the original glider models. In order to make the main canopy, lightweight ripstop nylon is used and the lines are made of Kevlar. These materials are incredibly light and also strong enough to safely support the paragliders. It is important for the paragliders' equipment to be light enough to carry with them on foot, but also well designed enough to help them move more quickly through the air. Although the equipment in this race is crucial and can be very helpful, the racers can’t win the race with equipment alone; they also need to be a prime glider, and athlete to win the race. As mentioned, before the racers can finish as close as minutes behind each other, so obviously every moment counts. "The competition will be won by the athlete with the best strategy, fitness, and skill but the most advanced equipment is vital to stay on a level with the pack." (Red Bull, paragraph 13)

I found that this article was very informative and very interesting. It gave many quotes from different people and companies to show different points of view. It did an exceptional job at explaining what the event was like and how exciting it in fact is. I wish that it had of talked more about the materials that were being used before, but it was still very informative. Before reading this article I never knew that this event even existed, but after reading the article, I became very interested and looked up footage of the competition.

Red Bull "How paragliding technology has changed" Explore Canada's Outdoor Magazine http://explore-mag.com/article/gear/how-paragliding-technology-has-changed/ (October 25th, 2011)

For more information on the competition


Curtis Strong

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