It's been quite a day. This is the inaugural race report from the first day of the inaugural Icarus Trophy.
Our pilots have to get themselves from Eatonville, Washington to Valley Springs, California. Using paramotors. By the 24th October. It's going to be a goodun.
Our hopes were raised first thing by a relatively positive report from our Weather Guru: "The weather gods are smiling on the race." He even dared so far as to make a prediction: "The first day is almost certain to scatter the group based on willingness to push the weather envelope. The interesting part is that the further south you push, the better the weather gets."
He has not been proved wrong. This is our breakdown of the day.
First off the ground was David Wainwright, Byron Leisek and Ryan Southwell. They were closely followed by Bryan West and after a ropey but successful takeoff Bobby Frankham got up too. That meant that by 8.15PST all the Race Class were off the ground leaving the runway clear for the Adventure Class: a bigger task .
Surrounded by tall trees, Eatonville is a tricky airport to launch from. The early birds lucked into smooth air: Ed and Harry, as Team Below Us The States, got up without a hitch, as did Kristan, James and Mr Tom.
The arrival of some stronger winds meant that as the morning progressed several pilots struggled.
Don managed to get airborne but when the air got bumpy decided to call it a test flight, and return to Eatonville. He'll be joined on the road in search of more favourable conditions by his entourage of driver and chef as well as fellow pilot Hans Sprecher.
After having his first engine fail on him yesterday at 3200ft and a second develop a carburettor issue Cayle Royce did manage to get fly again. However the landing after his test flight bent the fork on his trike so he's landbound for the time being. Cayle, along with brother Seth and SkySchool's Kester have been working frantically to get him back into the air and are at this moment confident that tomorrow will be the day.
Also on the ground was Claire Mackay after she rolled in her trike. She remained cheerful though: "Always better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than being in the air wishing you were on the ground." She headed off towards Chehalis Airport to have another attempt.
They join Ky Ahmad who is waiting for his paramotor to be released from the clutches of UPS, Marcus who has yet to test fly on his late-arriving wing, Toby and Jamie who are holding out for easier conditions and Jason, who is down two of his three props.
Meanwhile in Race Class, two different strategies played out: David and Bryan flew low through the valley whilst Ryan and Byron flew high. Ultimately, this gave David and Bryan the edge as they headed south whilst Ryan and Byron drifted west and eventually came in for a landing after hitting a pretty nasty weather front. According to Shane: "For a while they were just stuck in one spot, fighting the wind. Byron, he was at 8000ft, going full speed at idle but still going up." Byron himself was characteristically low key about the incident:
Luckily they landed on a soccer field right near a petrol station where they spent a few hours making friends with the locals and waiting for the weather to improve.
Meanwhile, further south Bryan West hit some trouble. He was flying neck and neck with David, when his throttle cable went slack and he had to perform an engine out landing. Once on the ground he lugged his rig to the street to search for tools and is now trying to work out a solution.
David spent the rest of the day gradually closing on Fisch who managed to catch the perfect line and headed almost a straight line south towards Portland so slipping past all the members of the race class. Whilst successful, this was a risky strategy. If he'd been forced to land, he would have had to hike out for several days.
Fisch has opted into the Adventure Class but, even whilst not in contention for the racing trophy, he's displaying some exemplary flying skills.
At the end of the first day our thoughts are with Bryan and Ky. It looks like Bryan is headed into Portland to try and find a fix for his broken throttle and Ky is still at the startline doing battle with the couriers.
Most of the Adventure Class have congregated at Chehalis Golf Course hoping for decent weather tomorrow. Meanwhile in Race Class, David Wainwright has covered a massive 422kms in the first day and so has set himself up as the one to beat.