World Hang Gliding Championship – Class II

This weekend the 20th FAI World Hang Gliding Class 2 Championships wrapped up with some exciting conditions and thrilling action. This year, the World Hang Gliding Championships Class 2 was held from July 24th – August 6th at Aspres-sur-Buech in the Hautes-Alpes, in the south of France. Accomplished pilot Manfred Ruhmer took the gold.

Class 2 hang gliding is unique, and a World Championship is an extra special event. These ultra light gliders weigh less than 485lbs (220kgs). It must be able to take off and land under the power of the pilot, but they use control surfaces to control the wing. Often, especially in championship events, the gliders are lifted with the assistance of ultra light trikes or aerotow. The stall speed of these gliders is about 22mph (35kph), with a maximum speed of 76mph (120kph). Ultralight gliders offer near-instant lift and the pilot can truly feel airspeed changes, acceleration, rises, and dips. The pilot feels connected to the glider, making flying an incredible experience. This world championship event had stunning views for the pilots to enjoy, with dynamic scenery including mountains and valleys. These gliders have access to all thermals since they can fly at lower speeds and have a short turn radius. Class 2 hang gliders are versatile, allowing them to easily fly shorter or longer distances, needing only clear weather and accessible thermals.

Fans of hang gliding always look forward to seeing legendary pilot Manfred Ruhmer fly. He was the favorite to take the win. His remarkable accomplishments include winning the Pre-World in 2010 and 2016, the World Hang Gliding Championships in 2003 and 2013, the World Hand Gliding Championships Class 2 in 2010, setting a world record traveling 430 miles in 2001, winning the World Air Games in 2001, and helping to design Icaro 2000’s hang glide pit-trike. He will be adding another accomplishment to that list as he has officially won gold in this year’s competition.

The championship started off a little rough. Practice did not start on time as pilots were prevented from flying until Thursday, July 27th, by strong winds. Luckily the days had been designated for training only. On Thursday the pilots were able to experience the 102 mile (165km) course, which took them between Aspres, Col St Jean and Tromas. Friday was the first day of competition, with Manfred immediately taking the lead. The longer 112 mile (181KM) course included Grand Morgon. On Saturday the second task was a 146 mile (236KM) course, with Ruhmer taking first place again. The pilots got a stunning tour of the Hautes-Alpes on Sunday, flying through La Longeagne to Querel, Col de Cabre, Tourette, Chabanon and the Col de Pomero. On Monday, Ruhmer won the fourth task despite strong winds, which made two pilots land early. The competition continued throughout the week with Ruhmer dominating.

On the final day of competition, August 6th, 2017, the excitement continued. The day began with intense thermal gusts and dust devils on the airfield. Half of the pilots launched in turbulent conditions, with two deciding not to fly until conditions calmed. Strong winds continued throughout the day, particularly in the valleys. Manfred reported flying against a 30 mph (50kph) wind. Love for the thrill of flying and trust in his Class 2 hang glider led Manfred Ruhmer to victory.

This was an exciting event with exceptional pilots and breathtaking scenery. It was a great end to the 2017 Championship season.