The Wanaka Hike and Fly was blessed with the best weather that the event has seen since it began in 2021 with all three days flyable, with light winds and good thermals.
The event saw plenty of locals out and for the first time plus a handful of overseas pilots exploring the spectacular backcountry of the Southern Alps.
Pilots must bag as many turnpoints as possible over three days. The further the turnpoints are from Wanaka the more they’re worth, with bonus points for top landing in certain spots. There is also a penalty for not arriving back at the start before 5pm on the final day.
Due to the nature of the terrain around Wanaka and lack of roads there are some areas where pilots have to continue unsupported, creating a somewhat unique format where bivvy flying becomes a competition.
Day 1 was fast flying from Queenstown to Wanaka with a gaggle of 10 or so top landing on the way, bagging points as quickly as possible before the sky eventually over-developed shading everywhere out.
Pilot positioning at the end of the first day proved to be important as the following day was shaping up to be a cracker. The second day was the best flying day: with 9,000ft cloudbase and light winds pilots could afford to fly deep lines knowing they still had the final day as a reserve day to make it back to Wanaka to avoid the 10-point penalty for not making it back.
The last day was also exceptional flying with nearly everyone in goal, most taking a more conservative line ensuring to make it in before the 5pm deadline.
All in all, an exceptional event providing support for some newer pilots giving bivouac flying a go but also an interesting race for more seasoned pilots.
1st Ben Kellett (UK)
2nd Bradley Franks (NZ)
3rd Mark Simpson (NZ)
1st woman: Jessica Schofield
Report by Ben Kellett