Bir Billing (Himachal Pradesh): After being plagued by bad weather for the past two days that led to the cancelation of tasks, crisp blue skies, strong thermals and consistent wind greeted the pilots in the AAI Paragliding World Cup here on Tuesday.
The first task of the AAI Paragliding World Cup threw the pilots into the deep end. Today's flight path covered a total distance of 97.73 km from the launch site at Billing, which included a turnaround at Kangra.
A total of 118 pilots attempted the first task of the event. Out of those who took to the skies, 22 pilots failed to complete the assigned task for the day.
The high cloud-base allowed most of the pilots who completed the task fly well above 3,500 metres. Though, the conditions were a bit bumpy initially at that height, but it eased out as the thermals became stronger.
At the top of the leaderboard there is not much to separate the top 10 in terms of time taken to complete the day's task. Maxime Pinot of France justified his top seeding to move at the top of the leaderboard. Pinot took a total time of 3hr: 1min: 50sec. But hot on his wing tips was Jurij Vidic of Slovenia (world no. 2), who completed the run of the course a mere six seconds behind Pinot with a total time of 3hr: 1min: 56sec.
"The conditions were really good today. At the start it was a bit bumpy, so it was important to avoid any mistakes. I did not take too many risks. But after the turnaround I started pushing and built up a good speed. Once I broke free of the pack, I managed to remain ahead," said Pinot.
Spain's Xevi Bonet Dalmau came home in third place with a total time of 3hr:02min 10sec, while Torsten Siegel of Germany and Louis Gerin-Jean from France posted identical times of 3hr:02min 16sec to complete the top five.
Among the Indians, Ajay Kumar returned the best result by finishing in 47th place. He covered the distance of 97.73km in 3hr:23min:42sec, while Vijay Soni finished in 50thth place. Soni took a total time of 03hr:24min:27sec. India's one of the most experienced pilots, Gurpreet Dhindsa, completed the task in 3hr:28min:19sec to finish in 52nd place.
Dhindsa had to dig deep into his experience as he broke one string of glider just before take-off. Being forced to eschew all risks, Dhindsa fell back once the leading group of pilots picked up speed after the turnaround. Kumar, Soni and Dhindsa were the only Indian three pilots out of the eight in the competition who managed to complete the task for the day.
"My objective for the day was to finish the day's task. As such, I did not want to take any risk. Today's task was quite technical. I am very pleased with my performance. I would like to build on the good start for the rest of the championship," said Soni.