A galaxy of world’s top Paragliders will descend onto India for the AAI Paragliding World Cup, the first-ever event of the World Cup Tour to be held in India. The week-long event, which will see a veritable feast of Aero Sports at one of the most natural locations for the sport at Bir Billing, about 40 km from Kangra, will see three of the four World’s top-ranked pilots besides the Top-3 from Oceania-Asia and Top-2 from Africa and one of the most successful woman pilots in a field that has 130 Pilots from over 35 countries.The event sponsored by Airports Authority of India, which has taken upon itself to promote and push Adventure Sports in India also has a host of other sponsors. The AAI Paragliding World Cup will be held at Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh from October 23 to 31, 2015 with actual competition beginning on October 24.The venue Bir-Billing often referred to as a “Paradise for Paragliders” is considered one of best launch sites for the sport in the world.
While announcing the participation of the world’s best 130 pilots, including an Indian team of seven pilots, the Organisers also unveiled the customized AAI Paragliding World Cup Trophy and the mascot, which is the Snow Leopard, the state animal of HP.A range of colourful merchandise to be worn by the Indian national team and also to be sold at the event was also released on Monday.Mr. R K Srivastava, Chairman, Airports Authority of India, said, “We are extremely pleased to be associated with the Paragliding World Cup. For quite some time we were looking for a sport that was in sync with our specialization, which is aviation. And Paragliding fits perfectly with that. Also Adventure Sports has become hugely popular among youth. We plan to start with Paragliding and take Adventure Sports in India to a new level.”He added, “The AAI has been supporting hundreds of sportspersons in various disciplines ranging from Badminton to table tennis and chess and much else. Many of our sportspersons, under various schemes like Scholarship schemes and contract schemes have been representing their states and also India and have also won medals at the International competitions. At the Asian Gamesour badminton stars got a bronze medal and in chess our stars include National Champions like Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout. In recent past, D Harika won the World Juniors and Parimarjan Negi was part of the first-ever Indian team to win a medal at Chess Olympiad. Both were supported at various points by AAI. Now we wish to add Adventure Sports to our portfolio.”
Sudhir Sharma, President of Billing Paragliidng Association, and the Minister of Housing, Urban Development and Town & Country Planning, Himachal Pradesh, said, “It will be the first-ever World Cup of Paragliding in India and we want to make it a Festival of Aero Sports with a lot of activities planned around it. Apart from the competitive element there should also be fun elements to attract those who are not tuned to something like Paragliding.”He added, “The state government has developed world-class infrastructure in and around Bir-Billing by re-doing the take-off and landing sites and ensuring state-of-the-art facilities for the paragliders, officials and spectators," he said. “This is because we feel that an event like this can be used to promote Tourism and also boost the local economy. When you have such large numbers of foreign visitors and also Indians, the local are going to benefit from this.”Mr. Rajesh Srivastava, Sr. Vice President of BPA, added, “This is a very attractive sport to watch and follow but it also requires a high degree of planning to ensure safety for all pilots. So, there will be rescue reams in Control Room for back-up and each team has six members and stretcher carriers. Each Rescue Team consists of four Mountaineering Instructors, two trained Marshals, one Paramedic and one policeman. And, each Retrieval Team consists of two trained Marshals, one policeman equipped with radio Set and mobile communication and each Rescue team is equipped with full mountain climb/rescue gear equipment and hard stretchers.”
Supported by action film hero Akshay Kumar and other film personalities like John Abraham, Preity Zinta, Mahesh Bhatt and cricket superstar Yuvraj Singh, the AAI Paragliding World Cup also aims to take the sport across India and promote Tourism through Adventure Sports.During the course of the week, the Organisers have also planned daily festivals to showcase Tourism and history and culture of Himachal Pradesh and India. Food festivals, information on those wishing to learn and pursue Paragliding will also be made available as the sport grows in Himachal and India.One of the highlights of the week will also be Tandem Flights for Children with Special Needs. They will be taken into the skies by experienced pilots and given a unique “Once-in-a-Lifetime” experience to empower them and help enjoy a sport that adds to the sense of freedom for all those who follow it.
World Class field
The field at the AAI Paragliding World Cup will be one of the strongest on the Tour. With three of the world’s top four , including one of the all-time greats, Julien Wirtz of France, who has been No. 1 in the world for 20 of the last 25 months. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, one behind Vidic Jurij of Slovenia, who unseated Wirtz from No. 1 in spot in July before losing it himself.Vidic Jurij (Slovenia), Julien Wirtz (France) and Torsten Siegel (Germany) hold the spots from second to fourth in the world and also in Europe. Another big name in the field is Frenchman Maxime Pinot, winner of the 2014 Super Cup in Turkey, who is now No. 8 in the latest world rankings.The top Paragliders from Africa, both from South Africa are also confirmed. They are Andre Rainsford and Chris Noord.The field also has the 3 from Oceania-Asia Zone. The leader is Japan’s Yoshiki Kuremoto with fellow countryman Yoshiaki Hirakawa right behind him. Iran’s Sohel Barikani is No. 3 in Oceania-Asia.Klaudia Bulgakow, a well-known name in India, who won the women’s honours in 2013 Pre-World Cup in Bir Billing is back for another taste of Paragliding in India and leads the women’s contingent of about a dozen pilots.
The Indian challenge
Ajay Kumar, one of the most experienced Indian pilots will lead the home challenge. The Indian team will comprise Ajay Kumar, Gurpreet Dhindsa, Jyoti Thakur, Arvind Pal, Prakash Chand, Gautam Nath and Sanjay Kumar.The Indian team includes five pilots who hail from Himachal Pradesh and will therefore have the advantage of knowing local conditions, having trained and practiced in the region.
Structure of the World of Paragliding:
The Paragliding World Cup is one of the elite events in aero sports. Only a handful are scheduled each year, though there are other smaller events. In 2015, only five World Cup events have been held.The first four were held in Baixu Guandu, Brazil (April); Montalegre, Portugal (July); Disentis, Switzerland (August) and Ager, Spain (August). The last World Cup in the series for the year will be held in Bir-Billing, Himachal Pradesh, India from October 23 to 31, 2015.The World Cups are followed by an annual Super Cup, which will be held in January, 2016 in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.
How is the competition held?
Over the seven days of competition, a specially designated Task Committee sets a ‘Task’ which the pilots are required to complete. The course decided upon is referred to as the 'task' and the task is to fly around the entire course and arrive at the end (the goal) in the fastest time. Points are awarded for various tasks over the period and cumulative points determine the winner.
Billing Paragliding Association
The Billing Paragliding Association has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the AAI Paragliding World Cup with the help of the Paragliding World Cup’s apex body based in France. The BPA is affiliated to the Aero Club of India, which in turn is recognized by Federation Aeronatique International (FAI), the world body which was set up in 1905.Though Paragliding as a sport has been held in the region for some time, the Billing Paragliding Association was formed in 2006 and since then has organised local events and its biggest International was the Pre World Cup in 2013.The successful conduct of the Pre World Cup enabled India get the World Cup for the first time this year. Each year the Paragliding World Cup Tour has about select five events which form the Paragliding World Tour and that ends with the World Cup Superfinal. In the coming seasons, the BPA hopes to add more National events and also bid for the World Cup Superfinal, which is held worldwide only once a year.
Bir Billing has been a Paradise for Paragliding and Hang Gliding since 1984, when the first Hang Gliding event was held here. The then Rural Development Minister, Pandit Sant Ram, who helped start the event, set the ball rolling as things began slowly and then gained momentum. Now Bir Billing is world renowned for Paragliding and Adventure Sports.Bir and Billing are separated by 14 kilometres in Himachal Pradesh. Bir is a Village 14 km to the south of Billing and offers accommodations for tourists and gilders and others. It is also a noted centre for ecotourism, spiritual studies and meditation. Bir is also home to a large Tibetan population and has Buddhist monasteries and a large stupa and the area is also well known for Mcleodganj and Dharamshala.One of the best ways to reach Kangra (Gaggal Airport) is by flight.
There are daily flights to Kangra, which is 40 km away from Bir. Other modes to reach the venue are by road and trains. Palampur is 29 km from Bir and Baijnath is 13 km from Bir. Bir Billing is 499 km from Delhi.While pilots’ and visitors accommodation is at Bir and the village of Chowgan, where there are hotels besides special luxury tents that will be put up. The take-off for the Pilots will be from Billing, which is 14 km away and is roughly at 2400m, about 1000m above Bir. The pilots are taken from Bir to Billing in a little under 45 minutes and they take-off from Billing, the natural launching pad.The site, Bir-Billing is almost naturally suited for the sport and makes for spectacular views and provides for pilots an area that offers as much as a 200 km expanse for flying in the mountains for heights of as much as 4,500 metres.