The best competition I’ve ever been to

Getting an invite to compete in the World Air Games was a great achievement for me. These events only happen every 4 years and are the equivalent to the Olympic games for air sports.

With over 850 competitors from 55 countries competing in 23 different disciplines, which range from aero modelling to skydiving and from microlights to hot air balloons, I knew it would be a great event.

The paramotor competition was part standard slalom race around pylons but with added show elements to impress the big crowds that would be watching. The exciting part for me was that although I had flown in Dubai a couple of times previously it had always been out in the desert which is very different to the green fields of the UK but after 5 minutes there is nothing new to see. However this time the competition was to be held at the Dubai Marina drop zone which as you will see in the picture is right on the edge of the city with huge skyscrapers directly behind us. Also as this was going to be the first class 1 FAI paramotor event held entirely over water, we would be flying over the sea just off the beach. This meant automatic floatation devices were mandatory and it was a good idea to leave anything electronic that wasn’t waterproof behind!

Due to the size of the event and number of competitors we were having to share the airfield with Skydivers, aero modellers, microlights and Autogyros. This therefore limited our airtime available and allowed less tasks than we would normally have at a dedicated paramotor slalom event. This however did mean we got to experience most of the other disciplines at very close quarters, and until you’ve witnessed two full sized helicopters racing each other right in front of you then you haven’t lived!

We had displays from Al Fursan which is the UAE Air Force display team with their distinctive smoke generators. Then Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet the Dubai Jetmen flew in close formation with 3 fixed wing aircraft which was a real spectacle.

Anyhow – back to the competition! After a few lost days early on with logistical difficulties we were ready to go. In total there were 38 paramotor pilots from 17 countries which meant may different languages and sometimes a little miscommunication to overcome. Lucky for Mark and I the official language is English so we had no excuse for mistakes!

All our equipment was shipped out so I was using my Parajet Zenith with the awesomely powerful Polini Thor 250 combined with the latest 15 m Dudek Snake XX. This allows me to use maximum speed of the wing and have power to keep the turns really tight when banked at 90 degrees around the pylons.

After a rather short number of tasks and a few days of high winds we had run out of time and the results were in. I was in 15th place with mark 23rd but the Gold medal went to the previous WAG Gold medal winner Alex Mateos who flew a faultless event winning all but one task outright.

I would really like to thank everyone that helped me make this all possible, from Parajet with all their support, Dudek for creating such a great slalom wing, all the staff at Skydive Dubai for working tirelessly during the event and Dubai for hosting what was the best flying competition I have ever been to.

—Phil Jennings 2015.