He is the first Canadian to make goal, reaching Zell am See in 11 days and 7 hours – and unlike many other finishers, this was terrain he was flying for the first time! Below, James Elliott shares his high and low moments from the race, and why he’s not sure about a return in 2025.
My best moment was definitely celebrating on the raft in Zell am See with my team. After all the effort we put into the race, we needed a proper party! There were so many magic moments during the race, too many to list, that will be forever etched in my memory.
A key low point was landing short of the Lötschenpass hütte approaching Frutigen and having to hike through an area that I should have easily flown over. It was a big mistake that cost me dearly in terms of position and energy. It was also a big blow to my morale. I was able to make up some time by launching low on the Frutigen side of the pass, but it was an extremely rough, windy, and risky flight into the Kandersteg valley that could have been avoided.
What do you wish you knew at the start?
Everything! There's so much to prepare for going into this race that it's almost impossible to cover it all beforehand. However, in hindsight, I wish I focused on studying some of the more technical 'crux points' in the course in greater detail and gathered more local intel for a better strategic approach in some areas.
“I probably wasn't exactly a low-maintenance teammate.”
What would you do differently?
More time route scouting would be helpful, but this is a huge challenge for any non-European athlete given the travel time and expense involved. As a team, there are many small processes and tasks that we could optimize to make us faster and more efficient. An example would be prepping meals in advance and organizing all equipment the night before to avoid rushed mornings when we're all still half asleep – live and learn!
What did you do right?
Considering the hundreds of decisions made and tasks accomplished every day during the race, we got the vast majority of it right. Most of our route planning was strategically optimal, we focused on real-time improvement with a debrief each day, and for a first-time team operating in an unfamiliar environment, we performed very well overall.
How was your team?
To be sure, there were a few stressful moments, but I was amazed at how well everyone came together, adapted, and overcame a plethora of challenges. As a rookie flying over totally unfamiliar terrain, I probably wasn't exactly a low-maintenance teammate. I was constantly asking for routing decisions, weather updates, info on other competitors, etc, and they simply delivered everything they could. Cramming four volunteers into an RV, depriving them of sleep, and getting them to chase me around the Alps is a big ask! Yet somehow, they were always where they needed to be. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Would you do it again?
This is a very tough question for me. Unlike many athletes, my job isn't paragliding related and I have two very young children so finding the time to train was very challenging. However, I'm obsessed with paragliding and love hike and fly racing, it's just that my life stage for the next few years makes this a question not just for me, but for the other people in my life this affects as well. I'm leaving this question open-ended for now... TBD! However, I have offered any of my supporters my support if they decided to compete in 2025, which is a commitment that would be much more manageable in the near term.
What are your upcoming projects?
I hope to compete at the X-RedRocks in Utah this fall and would like to break the Canadian FAI triangle record on my Advance Omega ULS!
Relive the moment James finishes here.
Top image © zooom / Vitek Ludvik