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X-Ceara 1999: Searing Ceará at the Cross Country Classic

Saturday 15 April, 2000


A decade on and paragliding in Quixada, Brazil goes off every season in November and December

Chico Santos reports from the Cross Country XCeara Classic 1999

Early in December 1999, northern Brazil went off.

Fifty of the world’’s best pilots were there to fly in Cross Country magazine’’s first ever title event, the Cross Country XCeará Classic. They were duly rewarded with huge distance flying, between them flying over 18,000 km in seven days.

Ceará state is an incredibly arid land with temperatures often above 40 C. Late in the year, trade easterly winds sweep a sea of cumulus clouds from the Atlantic ocean, over the dry land to the Amazonian rainforest in the west. Rocky monoliths punch up from the semi-desert floor, standing firm against winds of up to 50 km/h, offering perfect launchpads for pilots to hook into Brazil’s power.

During the contest, Canada’s Chris Muller set a new South American paragliding record with 242 km, and Brazilian André Fleury made 214 km to break the FAI tandem paragliding record, a distance that was reset at 232 km just one month later by Godfrey Wenness (AUS) in Manilla. World hang gliding champion Manfred Ruhmer added yet another cup to his trophy cabinet, and Ceará was firmly placed on the map as one of the top record-breaking sites of the planet.

The competition was simple. Open distance flying for paraglider pilots, and big race to gaols for the hang gliders. Event organiser Chico Santos had eleven retrieve trucks scouring the bush for downed pilots during the night hours, and the stories from landings were as entertaining as the flying tales.

Peter Brinkeby tells his: ‘The retrieves were full-on 4WD experiences. Each day, we landed at 5:00 pm and got back to the hotel at 2:00 am. Once I got blown backwards on a ridge – it wasn’t steep enough to lift me, so I just hung suspended, watching the trees creep behind me.

I landed with my glider rigid in the trees and crashed around trying to pull it out. It wasn’t long till I heard voices: two kids and an older man walked berefoot up to see me. We got down to where they worked in the forest with their two horses.

One was a healthy looking beast, the other was decidely nervous. The kids were beckoning me to get on this skittish creature, so I hopped on and it went bananas. Not only did I have to walk fo rthe next couple of hours but I also had to suffer getting the piss ripped out of me by a pair of 10 year-olds!’

$10,000 in cash prizes was offered for daily results and overall scores, with $400 for the winning distance of each day. Those on serial class paragliders did best out of the prize fund, as there were additional prizes for those flying in the class. Andrew Smith, Peter Brinkeby and Carlo Borsatino were very happy with this…

With the long flights and even longer retrieves, the overall scoring allowed pilots to discard two of their seven days’ flying so they could get some rest. This worked well for André Fleury. After a very long flying day he rested the next one and the day after he broke the world record.

The potential of Ceará was first brought to the world’s attention by Austrian pilot Dittmar Karg, who launched several XC expeditions in the site following PWC events in Venezuela and Brazil. Chico Santos has organised three Ceará events, each one pushing the South American records ever higher.

Paragliding Results
In the Paragliding Open Class Othar Lawrance (USA) totalised 799 km to finish second. Brazilian pilot Frank Brown put Brazil’s name at the podium, flying 812 km and getting third. But the one who flew hardest was Chris Muller, who flew no less than 879 km, got 1st place and took home US$ 1900 to his Mom in Canada.

In serial class, Peter Brinkeby from Sweden was first, flying 741 km. Peter was also the official DJ from the competition, with a good selection of acid jazz, trip hop and house music. Of course, the ‘Forró’ typical Brazilian music wasn’t neglected.

In second came Carlo Borsatino from South Africa, making consistently good flights with a total of 783 km. But the sensation was André Fleury, who, flying a tandem Apco Futura, still kept up with the Open class gliders to finish third.

Hang Gliding Results
Straight-line races of between 180 and 230 km were set for the hang gliders pilots, as it just wouldn’t have been practical to launch retrieves of 400 km plus. Larry Tudor was allowed to sleep safe in the knowledge that his record would remain unchallenged.

There were only a few rigid wings in the contest, but Josef Steelbauer from Flight Design, Germany, showed that his new “Ghostbuster” came to frighten all the spirits on the way, making goal every sday to win first place. In second came Brazilian pilot Didi, flying an Exxtasy.

In Class 1, the speed fight was between Manfred Ruhmer (Austria) and Joel Rebbechi (Australia). The window for the hang gliders was usually held for one and a half hours after the opening of the paragliding window. When take-off was opened, it was like releasing dogs for hunting. This way the races were run at warp speed with paragliders acting as thermal markers scattered down route.

One day Manfred got an incredible avarage of 68.5 km/h in a 178 km task! Joel Rebbechi, one of the ‘new names on the block’, was very impressed withCeará; ‘It’s incredible, every day is a good day’ he said.

Manfred and Joel had a tight competition, but it was Manfred who emerged victor to take home US$ 1,650 to his account in Austria.

Newsbites:
* No accidents
* U$ 10.000 in cash prizes
* Total accumalative distance flown: 18,342 km
* 100% of valid tasks (beat that, FAI!)
* 80% of pilots broke their own personal best records

RECORDMAN
Paulo Pinto profiles André Fleury
Our main goal in organising the first ever Cross Country Classic was to break world records, and the credit and honour for this acheivement goes to a Brazilian. André Fleury smashed the World paragliding distance record on the fifth contest day aboard his Apco Futura tandem.

A 33-year-old, André lives in Brasilia and flew for the Brazilian team at the 99 world champs. Because of the strong wind conditions in his hometown, there are very few paraglider pilots in the area so André is well known for his lone flying style. Normally he only competes in two or three rounds of the Brazilian Nationals, but when the subject is flying XC in tough conditions and strong winds, he is the man. And at Ceará, he was right at home.

To fly downwind over 200 km, you have to fly over the Serra da Ibiapaba mountain plateau which has a magnetic atraction for paragliders. André’s 214 km ended at the village of Poranga right on top of the plateau.

It wasn’t long before Australian record-monger Godfrey Wenness, current world paragliding record holder, launched his bid for the tandem record. In January, he flew 232 km from his home site of Manilla, New South Wales, to rewrite the record books.

In the 1998 XCeará pre-Cross Country Classic, André, flying an Apco Tigra, notched up 1100 km in ten consecutive flights, establishing a South American XC Open Distance Record of 227 km in one of them.

Paragliding Open Class
1 Chris Muller Can Gin
2 Othar Lawrence USA Firebird
3 Frank Brown Brazil Nova
4 Peter Brinkeby SWE Edel
5 Carlo Borsantino SA Apco

Paragliding Serial Class
1 Peter Brinkeby SWE Edel
2 Carlo Borsantino SA Apco
3 Andre Fleury BRA Apco
4 Gabriel Canada SPA Windtech
5 Andrew Smith SA Apco

Hang Gliding Class 1
1 Manfred Ruhmer AUT Laminar MR
2 Joel Rebbechi AUS Litespeed
3 Josef Zwechmayr AUS Laminar MR
4 Dalio Braga BRA
5 Betunho Schmitz BRA Topless

Hang Gliding Class 2
1 Josef Stellbauer GER Ghostbuster

Massive thanks to organiser Chico Santos. The search for world records continues: our next Cross Country Classic will be hosted by Manilla, Australia, this December.

• Got news? Send it to us at news@xccontent.local

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