There is a skill to making launches look easy
Today has been a day of many launches. Athletes have hiked up, launched, flown a little, landed, hiked up, launched again. In this way they stitch together the kilometres and cover distance.
In the Red Bull X-Alps athletes will often need to launch many times a day, and usually from a mountainside where people don’t usually launch from.
That means their launching skills have to be perfect. You can’t afford for something to go wrong when you are launching from somewhere like Turnpoint 7 Titlis, for example.
So what do pilots need for the perfect launch?
1. Athletes must launch into wind. This is the number one rule. So they must find a slope that faces the wind.
2. If the wind is light, or there is no wind, or if there is even a light wind from behind, then you will see athletes execute what is called a ‘forward launch’ or ‘Alpine launch’. This is where the athlete faces forwards, with the glider laid out behind them. They run forwards, the glider comes up above their head, and they keep running until they take off.
3. If the wind is stronger – say more than 5-8km/h - then athletes will carry out a ‘reverse launch’. This is where they turn to face the glider, and then inflate the wing a little on the ground. They pull the glider above their head until it is stabilised, then they turn and run off the hill.
In all cases athletes must think about the wind, the glider, the terrain, other air traffic, potential hazards in their way (trees, power lines, cows, traffic) and themselves.
Only when all the elements come together will an athlete launch. It may be hurried, it may be from an incredible looking location, and it may look heart-stopping at times. But Red Bull X-Alps athletes have excellent launching skills, and they know what they are doing and how to do it.
Check out the social media clips and the daily highlight videos, and see if you can spot how an athlete is launching. And keep following all the action on Live Tracking!