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L>R: Michel Cervellin, Honorin Hamard, Jonathan Marin, Julien Garcia, Tim Alongi and Maxime Pinot. Photo: Maxime Pinot
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Six pilots set new French paragliding record

Thursday 25 April, 2024

Six pilots will share the new French national paragliding record after they all flew 457km straight-line across France on Tuesday 23 April.

Honorin Hamard, Jonathan Marin, Maxime Pinot, Michel Cervellin, Tim Alongi and Julien Garcia all launched from a small site northwest of Paris and flew almost due south, landing close to the town of Bergerac.

The flight set a new French paragliding record, beating the previous one by more than 30km. The previous record was 421km, flown on 12 May 2019 by Fred Delbos.

The 464km tracklog. Credit: XContest.org

Speaking after their record flight French team leader Julien Garcia said that team flying had been key to flying so far, and that after more than 10 hours in the air it was recent Paragliding World Cup Superfinal winner Honorin Hamard who suggested they all land together. “Honorin proposed it. He was a bit higher, maybe 100m, but he said ‘Ok, if we are 100 metres difference, there is no point going a bit further. We land all together’.”

The result was the team all landed in the same spot, with a straight-line distance of 457.5km – meaning they can claim the new record as a team.

The day had started early at the small site of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, also known as Jeufosse. Seventeen pilots from Pôle France, France’s top training squad, had converged on the site from across the country. Two minibuses were organised to bring pilots up from the Alps, while one or two even flew in to Paris from the south.

The site, which is small and can only see two paragliders launch at a time, was the busiest it’s ever been with dozens of pilots on take-off. “The news spread that the big kids were in town, so suddenly everybody came and tried their luck!” Julien said. “There were 55 gliders or something.”

The pilots had set several goals, including a new FAI European Declared Goal at 350km and an FAI Juniors European Declared Goal (overall and women) at 250km. The idea of flying more than 400km and breaking the French record was not on the cards at the start, Julien said.

“We knew it was a good day. But we never had it in mind that we would do a record. Because it’s April, we just didn’t think that it was possible to go over 400k. So, what we had in mind was to do a big training in the flatlands with all the team, the squad, and maybe we could reach 350k. The first plan was to break the European declared record, which was at 321km.”

However, after excellent conditions at the start, which saw the lead gaggle average 50km/h for the first two hours, it was clear that the day was a truly special one.

By the time it came to commit to making the turnpoint at 350km some of the lead pilots had already set their sights on 400km.

Team-France-Set-New-Paragliding-Record-457km-Michel Cervelli

Photo: Michel Cervellin

“Basically, what happened is that it was hard to find the right axis to make this turnpoint. When we got near, suddenly it was clear that it would be possible to do 400k. The leaders knew that drifting [to make the turnpoint] would cost them some precious kilometres in the end. So some of them were not interested in going to the turnpoint.”

In the end just two pilots – Jonathan Marin and Remi Bourdelle – did go for the declared goal. Both made it and will claim the new FAI European Declared Goal record. Remi landed at the 350km goal while Jonathan managed to catch the lead gaggle and land with them at the end.

Hippolyte Melo, 19, flew 250km to claim the FAI World and European Declared Goal records in the new Juniors category.

The idea of a team record is not without precedent and is something the Brazilian’s pioneered when they were setting world records in the northeast of the country in the 2010s.

The European Free Distance paragliding record stands at 500.86km. It was set in Finland on 11 June 2021 by Jouni Makkonen and is the only 500km flight flown to date in Europe. The current FAI Paragliding World Record stands at 609.9km and was set on 20 June 2021 by Sebastian Kayrouz in Texas, USA.

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