Marcelo Prieto, Rafael Saladini and Rafael de Moraes Barros set a new open distance paragliding world record on 10 October 2019, with a massive flight of 588.27km.
They launched from tow near the town of Tacima in Brazil’s north east, and spent 11 hours in the air. In classic Brazilian record-hunting style the three pilots flew as a team – racing across the Brazilian outback at an average speed of 53.5km/h. They landed together as a team just after sunset to claim the record.
They beat the previous world record by about 24km. Set almost three years ago to the day, that record was flown by Samuel Nascimento, Rafael Saladini and Donizete Lemos on 13 October 2016. The three pilots had foot-launched from Tacima and flew 564km.
Since then the approach to record-hunting in Brazil has changed radically, with a move away from foot-launching to tow-launching.
Towing has made the launch phase of the flight safer and easier, and has attracted pilots from across the world to try to go for the record.
This year several serious teams have been in the area towing, trying to set world records and beat the magic 600km mark.
The 500km season started with a flight by Swiss pilot Michael Sigel (Gin Boomerang 11), who flew 501km on 1 October. On 9 October Alex Loyarte (MX, Ozone Zeno), foot-launched from Patu at 6.30am and flew 510km (OLC distance).
The same day Michael Kuffer (CH, Gin Boomerang 11) tow-launchd from Caico and flew 535km. He had declared a goal at 505.6km, and has claimed for an FAI world record for straight distance to a declared goal. The current record is 478.6km by Jouni Makonen in 2018.
Then on 10 October four pilots broke the 500km mark – three of them for the world record at 588km.
Rafael Barros was lying an Icepeak Evox, Rafael Saladini and Marcelo Prieto were flying Ozone Enzo 3s.
Their flight saw them launch at 6.30am, and land just after sunset at 5.45pm. They were in the air for more than 11 hours. As base rose in the afternoon they reached cloudbase at 3,000m.
Flatland distance flying in the Brazilian northeast depends on early starts and sunset-finishes. The unique conditions in the region, which is just south of the Equator, sometimes create thermic conditions almost as soon as the sun is up. Coupled with a consistent trade wind that sets up at this time of year, record conditions can result.
Samuel Milani (BR, Ozone Enzo 3) also flew 522km on the same day, having foot-launched from Tacima.
And Glauco Pinto (BR, Icaro 2000 Laminar) set a new South American hang gliding record of 631.83km. He foot launched from Tacima and was in the air for just over 10 hours. He beat his own personal best of 612km. The hang gliding world record stands at 761km, set in 2012 in Texas.
The day after the world record, the Swiss team in the region had a big day. Michael Küffer, Patrick von Kanel (CH, Gin Boomerang 11), Peter Kleimann (CH, Ozone Enzo 3) tow launched from Caico for 556km, 555km and 541km respectively.
Manuel Quintanilla (MX, Gin Boomerang 11) also flew 503km on 11 October.
The Swiss team had another huge day on 12 October. Five Swiss pilots and France’s Clement Latour tow-launched together and all broke the 500km mark.
Michael Sigel (Gin Boomerang 11), Pascal Bissig (Ozone Enzo 3), Seb Benz (Flow Spectra), Yael Margelisch (Ozone Enzo 3), Reynald Mumenthaler (Ozone Enzo 3) and Clement Latour (Ozone Enzo 3) all flew between 542km and 554km.
Yael Margelisch became the first woman to break the 500km mark, and claimed a new women’s paragliding world record.
Her flight of 552.82km (online contest score) is 532km straight-line distance. She had already beaten the women’s world record once, but had then watched Seiko Fukuoka Naville beat it again with a flight of 460k. The 552km/531km flight was Yael’s last in the region before she flew home.
The season in Brazil is still very much on – more records might fall.