Don’t worry, you not going mad if you think you’ve seen men flying through the sky over the last few days. This weekend saw the year’s second edition of the world’s most exciting adventure race series, The Icarus X Series, take to the skies above South Africa for the first time and, as the event organisers promised, it didn’t disappoint…
The Icarus X Series, which was created on the back of the popularity of the Icarus Trophy, the world’s longest paramotor race, is a global paramotoring race series which features four shorter-format stand-alone race events across four continents (one in the US, one in the UK, one in Australia and now one in South Africa) and last weekend saw it visit South Africa for the first time
For those not in the know, paramotoring is effectively flying with a motor tied to your back and a paragliding wing above your head and is growing rapidly as a sport.
Last Friday, the 30th of March, 13 eager contestants took off from Bill Harrop's Balloon Safaris, 90 km north of Johannesburg. Following a stunning 340km two-day (ABC-A) course, the pilots flew over some of the area’s best nature reserves and parks, giving them a unique view of the local landscapes and wildlife. Stopping at 4 checkpoints en route, including the Vaalkop and Buffelspoort dams, before heading back to the start/finish line, the course was a properly epic & diverse route which showcased South Africa at its best.
Whilst, thankfully, none of the pilots had any close encounters with the local wildlife, not wanting to be overshadowed by previous Icarus X races, the first Icarus X South Africa smashed all expectations.
Stormy weather and showers on day one meant the pilots had to adjust their carefully planned routes and even forced one or two of them in for early landings with rain weighing down their wings.
Then there were the inevitable mechanical failures, which over the weekend included broken props, a missing exhaust, which put the early race leader out of contention for the trophy, and, a first for the Icarus X Series, flat tyres, as the challenge at hand took its toll on the first ever trike entry into the race. Weather and breakdowns aside, however, the field battled on and with Nic out of the race, South Africans Alard Hufner and Bruce Askham took over the lead, with Eugene Cussons close on their heels.
Day two saw more of the unpredictable weather, this time it was gusty winds, which slowed many of the competitors down. Bruce took a nasty fall whilst taking off putting him out of the Icarus X race completely and en route to the hospital to get his chin fixed up. Alard used this opportunity to take a commanding lead. Missing the worst of the weather, Alard eventually crossed the finish line first on Saturday afternoon, securing the trophy, bragging rights and bagging himself a spot in the Icarus Trophy proper which takes the last week of July. Eugene, also taking advantage of Bruce’s misfortune, finished up in second place.
Whilst some of the remaining pilots managed to cross the line on Saturday, the strong winds meant others had to sit out the rest of the day and wait until Sunday to finish.
Despite the challenges, most pilots had an incredible time, resulting in a fantastic race above some of South Africa’s most iconic landscapes and the organisers are now planning the second Icarus X South Africa race for 2019.
If you want to learn more about the Icarus X Series or its big brother, The Icarus Trophy, head over to www.icarustrophy.com