JAMES HOPE-LANG / ANDY READ
"As soon as I visited the Alps the taste for hike and fly adventure was found and since then I've participated in events like the Bordair Series and Bornes to Fly."
What is your greatest sporting success?
2018 9th overall in Austrian Hike and Fly championships, 16th overall in Bordair Series.
When and why did you start paragliding?
A fun day out with some friends doing a taster day in 2011 turned into a passion for paragliding. Early progress delayed a couple years as partner broke her back in a training accident. As soon as I visited the Alps the taste for hike and fly adventure was found and since then I've participated in events like the Bordair Series and Bornes to Fly.
What is your mountaineering experience?
Limited to hiking in the Aravis and Bornes ranges. However have climbed indoors for many years, even building my 5 year old son his own wall in his bedroom 2 years ago.
What does your typical training week consist of?
Training has to fit into a 60 hour work week. I try and do 1-2 hours yoga daily, 2 spin sessions a week and 15-30km cross country running. For the race I'll add in stair climbing to improve hill power (my office is on 26th floor of our building) and hike to launches on alpine training weekends. Flying will be limited to the weekends plus a few 3-4 day trips to the Alps.
What are your best and worst sporting memories?
My best sporting memory was landing early during the first flight of the 3rd round of the 2018 Bordair series and being called by a fellow competitor to be told I was 2nd overall. The feeling of elation, quickly followed by the burden of responsibility, and guilt for not packing fast enough was unforgettable. The worst memory was from when I raced the Cape Epic 7 day mountain bike race with my brother in law in 2014. I'd misjudged the hydration / nutrtion demands and blew up halfway through during an ardous day where temperattures reached 50 degrees. Despite an overnight stay in the medics tent on a saline drip I restarted the next day but had to retire halfway through, letting down my brother-in-law massively. Still feel bad about that and want another shot at the comp!
Why did you choose X-Pyr?
Having supported Greg Hamerton in the 2016 edition I'm drawn to the immense beauty and remoteness of the area, the challenge of the weather, and the potential epicness of the flying! What's there not to like!
Have you participated on X-Pyr before?
2016 Supporter to Greg Hamerton. An epic adventure camping out the back of a car, chasing my pilot all over the spine of the Pyrennes, dodging storms, sleeping in bear filled valleys, and juggling the logistics of food, drink, internet, showers and clean clothes.
Have you flown in the Pyrenees before?
In 2017 I got together 6 friends, a mix of pilots and supporters, to reconnoitre the potential 2018 route. We hiked to a lot of launches and even managed to fly from a few of them. We covered the central third of the race and managed to predict 2 of the waypoints.
What will your strategy be during the race?
Keep moving. Onward, relentless, progress. I'm very aware of my relatively light mountain experience compared to the favourites so we'll be warily watching the weather, looking at the favoured routes and try and continually head down the route line.
What excites you most about X-Pyr?
The possibilities of big flights in remote areas with long hikes if bombing early. The thought of potentially hours of hiking if the flying is not working motivates me. The wildness of the region, lack of civilisation and the necessary preparation is all the incentive we need.
What scares you the most about the event?
The Tramontane - having back in 2016 experienced first hand the sheer speed at which it can develop we're praying not to have to face it.
Why will he/she make a good assistant?
Andy Read is the most consistent, reliable friend you could want in any situation. Being a hike and fly pilot himself he fully understands the demands the race places on you, both physically and mentally. Andy's always ready with the right ingredient to hand, whether that be a water bottle, some peanuts or just a joke!
Anything else you like to comment?
Inigo knows how much I've wanted to be in this race. Not making the cut for 2018 drove me to hike and fly more that year and the results were encouraging. The news of my entry was perfectly timed as I found out the day after my father's funeral. My only regret is he didn't know I'd finally been selected.