Icarus Trophy - The Racecourse

The Icarus Trophy racecourse straddles three states - Washington, Oregon and California. This is a picture of the racecourse. You can follow the pilots on the course on our tracking map. 

Until then, this post is a breakdown of the kind of terrain they are facing. Any pilot ventuing into those blacked out areas may find himself disqualified.  The stars denote airports where it is possible to land. The rest of the course has been rated by Race Referee Shane Denherder with a traffic light system. It does come with his direst warnings - green is not easy: "This is terrain which an intermediate pilot taking all precautions is reasonably assured a safe landing area should he/she be forced to make an emergency landing. This will depend greatly on atmospheric conditions and should not be considered "easy" terrain." Orange is one stage harder, and red is "terrain that presents danger based on topographical or other information about the area."

Here is our breakdown of the route:

The Startline: Eatonville Airport

Our pilots will take off on Monday from Eatonville airport, just south of Seattle. From there, they fly south. They will brave enormous evergreen trees and the soggy weather of the Pacific Northwest while racing down the I-5 corridor into Western Oregon.  That's when it starts to get tricky. 

1. The approach to Portland

Our pilots will have to circumnavigate Portland’s complex airspace and decide how to proceed. The first of the 'red zones' because of the few safe landing spots, the pilots will face the difficult decision of when and how to proceed crossing the Cascade Mountain Range into Central Oregon. Jagged mountains, tall trees, and very few landing options await on pretty much every possible route through the Cascades. 

2. Central Oregon

Over the Cascades, the high desert of Central Oregon will provide a dry, warmer climate conducive to flying longer distances - but headwinds are more likely from this point on. This area is characterised by tall mountains and wide valleys which might make windy days extremely turbulent. There is also dense tree cover and lava flows making landing off-airport difficult. Moreover there are fewer airports, which means limited access to fuel. Our Pilots will have to land to search for fuel at service stations.

3. Southern Oregon

Next up, they'll hit the Klamath Falls area in Southern Oregon: a large lake and busy airspace system to navigate as a last challenge before crossing the border into Northern California. Shortly thereafter, they'll have to contend with radical mountain weather flows again as they cross back over the Cascade range into the windy valley below 14,179 foot-tall Mt. Shasta.

4. Northern California: towards Shasta Trinity National Forest

As a final test of will and flying skills, our twenty-four pioneers will continue south and cross the rugged terrain of the Shasta-Trinity national forest into the northern part of the Sacramento Valley.

The Central Valley will be about 150 miles flight over rural farm fields and small towns making way toward Sacramento. There’s a very good chance of encountering a seasonal weather phenomena known as the Santa Ana winds. Warm, dry downslope winds which originate from southern California east of the Sierra mountain range and blow offshore at speeds up to 40mph. Winds are redirected by the coastal mountain ranges and vectored north; turning the entire Central Valley into a veritable wind tunnel for days at a time in some cases.

From here, our pilots will circumnavigate Sacramento’s airspace while dashing to the finish line just outside a small town against the Sierra Nevada foothills known as Valley Springs.  Nestled in the heart of Gold Country sits the Blackhawk Paramotor Ranch - a small airstrip that is purpose-built for powered paragliding and features the perfect mix of excellent weather and beautiful terrain.  

This type of sustained flying; from a defined start to a defined finish, is way tougher than flying free distance. In free-distance (trying to break records) you are choosing your flight path (and time to fly) based on the winds and weather that will be most advantageous to you making long flights with ease. e.g. – winds are out of the south tomorrow so I’m gonna fly north as far as I can tomorrow. This type of flying is completely different, because we are saying that you have to fly from A to B starting October 11th, regardless of the weather.
— Shane Denherder

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