The Icarus Trophy is the world's first unsupported long distance paramotor race and it launches on Monday.
We've got twenty-four pilots in the running to be the Pioneer Icarus Champion. To nab the trophy, they'll have to fly about 1,300km in 13 days down the west coast of America. And make it there before anyone else does.
That winning pilot is going to have to be bloody good. We asked Race Referee Alex Ledger: "They'll need to know where they can can take off, where they can land, where they can refuel. And then it's going to be a matter of maintaining your equipment and obviously, flying in the right conditions." Sounds a doddle.
This race is unsupported. If our pilots get lost, they've got to get themselves unlost. They also need to refuel their motors.
These little machines are a treat to fly but they take more of the strong stuff than an alcoholic at an open bar. Landing in the wrong place on an empty tank will cost hours of precious time.
Unsupported also means our pilots will have to carry everything they need to survive strapped to their bodies. There are no checkpoints and no cosy hotel stays on this route. Anything they need but can't carry, they will have to barter for with credit and the souls of their firstborn.
But if it was just about who finishes first, that would be bloody boring. Those who come in last always have the best stories. That's why we've got two Classes.
Some of these pilots have been flying for as long as it takes for a good Whisky to mature. Others have only clocked enough time in the air for Sloe Gin to infuse. All of them will have to undergo a rigorous inspection from our Race Team at the launch to determine whether they qualify for Race Class or Adventure Class. Yup, we've got two trophies for one Adventure. Guess which one's bigger.
Registration opens tomorrow and all of our twenty-four pilots are now zeroing in on the startline. It would be stupid to even consider making predictions. Anything could happen and since this is a pioneer adventure there are even more unknowns than usual.
But fuck it, these are the pilots we're most curious to see in action:
She was a novice a year ago but has since been trained up by fellow Icarus Pilot David Wainwright, owner of High Adventure Paragliding. This summer she drove 10,000 miles in a red Bedford Rascal on the Mongol Rally. Now she's going for the Icarus. She claims she struggles to lift the motor when it's full of petrol, so she's opted for a trike to help her through. Great if she can find nice open airfields to land in. Bit shit if she can't.
Ryan Southwell and Byron Leisek
Byron is co-owner of Team Fly Halo. He's from a family of aviators and soloed in the sport of hangliding aged 13. He coined the term 'para-camping' so we reckon he'll have no trouble with sleeping rough. He's teaming up with paramotoring friend Ryan Southwell, a videographer by trade and man who claims his love for adventure cannot be understated. Judging by their profile pictures, they've got eyewear covered.
They have the advantage of being familiar with the area too, since they hail from Oregon and California. If this all sounds too easy, Shane Denherder, race referee and Team Fly Halo co-owner rates their chances fairly highly, although he qualifies: "they, like everyone, are going to be very surprised by their capabilities." He would know. He scoped the route earlier this year.
He's been described as "the Energiser Bunny that just won't say die" and in true Aussie fashion likes to say "too easy" when faced with a challenge. He's not about to let the Icarus overcome him.
A veteran of the Pioneer Ice Run, as well as the Mototaxi Junket as well as a ski instructor, diving instructor, skydiver helicopter pilot and wilderness first responder. Yup. Just listing the things he's done makes me want a cup of tea and a lie down.
To add to his adventure credentials, he's got the backing of Ryan Shaw, champion PPG pilot and owner of Paradrenalin. Kristan's been out in the States for a month already, getting in some flying practice in Arizona and along the East Coast so should be raring to go from the start line.
This is the chap who bought a Reliant Robin, dolled it up to look like Del Boy's from Only Fools and Horses and then tacked a motor and some wings on it to make it fly. And it worked.
He's also got a one-man air ballon, is into flyboarding and has successfully charmed another Robin into going amphibious. We definitely want to see how he'll do.
"He's good at getting himself into situations and charming his way out of them." So says Alex Anderson of Foot Flights. Sounds like the Icarus Trophy was made for him.
Cayle has rowed the Atlantic once already and is going again in December: "a 3000 mile unsupported row broken up into 2 hour on and 2 hour off shifts, pelted by horrendous weather and waves of truly gargantuan proportions, salt sores and a diet of dehydrated goo bags for 48 days. It was one of the most uncomfortable and relentless environments I have ever worked in, but the rum punch in Antigua was epic."
His adventure appetite still not satiated, last year he did a long distance paramotor trip up the rift valley with Alex Ledger of SkySchool and 8 wounded servicemen.
Also, he's got no legs after "stepping on an oversized party popper" while serving in Afghanistan. He's being supported by Help for Heroes and is hoping to "encourage others who are having a bit of a hard time to not quit just yet."
These are only six of our twenty-four brilliant Pilot Pioneers. You can meet the rest of them here.