Chandigarh, Oct 16 (IANS) Three of the four top-ranked paragliding pilots of the world will fly in India’s first AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015, the last World Cup in the series for this year, to be held in Himachal Pradesh’s Bir-Billing from October 23, the organisers said here on Friday.
A French contingent with 13 pilots, including many who have won World Cups and Super Cups and have been ranked World No. 1, will figure in the event, Sudhir Sharma, president of the Billing Paragliding Association, the event organising club, told reporters here. The French team also includes the current World No.1. Bir-Billing is considered one of the most natural locations for paragliding and is about 40 km from Kangra town in Himachal Pradesh.
The top-ranking pilots who have confirmed their participation in the event are Julien Wirtz of France, who has been ranked World No. 1, Vidic Jurij of Slovenia and Torsten Siegel of Germany. Jurij, Wirtz and Siegel held the second, third and fourth spots, respectively, in the world and also in Europe. Andreas Malecki of Germany, who held the World No.1 rank from September 2011 to February 2012, and Maxine Pinot of France, World No. 8 and winner of 2014 Super Cup in Turkey, are also among the top participants.
Sharma, who is also the state urban development minister in Himachal Pradesh, said a total of 130 paragliders from 35 countries have confirmed their participation. Eights pilots are from India. They include Ajay Kumar and Gurpreet Dhindsa — the best pilots in the country. The paragliders also includes about 12 women, including former World No. 1 Klaudia Bulgakow of Poland, who also won the 2013 Pre-World Cup at Bir-Billing.
While the state government and the Billing Paragliding Association would jointly organise the event from October 23 to 31, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) would be the title sponsors. The take-off site at Billing, situated at an altitude of 2,325 metres, has been refurbished to enable 15 to 50 gliders to take off simultaneously.
The landing site at Bir, located at 1,360 metres, has also been expanded for safe landing, said Sharma. “We will soon set up a national institute to promote aero sports in Bir-Billing,” he added. The AAI Paragliding World Cup would have the highly endangered snow leopard as the mascot. The first four Paragliding World Cup this year were held in Baixu Guandu in Brazil (April); Montalegre in Portugal (July); Disentis in Switzerland (August) and Ager in Spain (August).
The World Cups are followed by an annual Super Cup, which will be held in January next year in Valle de Bravo in Mexico. The Billing Paragliding Association has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the World Cup with the help of the Paragliding World Cup’s apex body based in France.
The association is affiliated to the Aero Club of India, which is recognized by Federation Aeronatique International, the world body which was set up in 1905. Bir-Billing has been a paradise for paragliding and hang gliding since 1984, when the first hang gliding event was held there. Bir and Billing, located in the Dhauladhar mountain range, are separated by 14 km in Kangra district, some 275 km from Chandigarh. The world record of an out-and-return flight of 132.5 km was set in Bir-Billing in 1992.