Apr 01, 2016

Ajay Kumar wins Uttarakhand’s first international paragliding competition

Uttarakhand Tourism in collaboration with Paragliding Association of Uttarakhand had organized an international paragliding competition in Pithoragarh last month.


Melvin Michael

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Top Indian pilot Ajay Kumar won the competition.

Uttarakhand played gracious hosts to the first ever international paragliding competition in the Kumaon region of Pithoragarh. Uttarakhand Paragliding XC witnessed scores of pilots from almost ten countries across the globe.

Ajay Kumar, India’s top pilot clenched away the winner’s trophy at the end of three task days with a total of 1688 points. Frenchman Yann Martail and former world champion finished second with 1650 points. Krishna Bahadur Sunuwar followed in at third position 1501 points.


Ajay Kumar, who recently secured a second spot in the pre world cup held in Nepal, told The Outdoor Journal,”I am really excited to fly here in Pithoragarh, Even though it is my first here, the terrain and conditions for flying are pretty technical but that’s what you need for competitive flying.” said Ajay, who was also the meet director for the competition.

Wind technician fighting the wind to take off

The competition scheduled from 14th to 19th March was a proposed trial event to check the potential of Pithoragarh as a new international paragliding site in India. The competition was sponsored by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) in collaboration with Paragliding Association of Uttarakhand (PAU) and was organized by Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN).

“I have been flying in this region since ’93 and thought it was time to promote and take paragliding a step further in the state of Uttarakhand. We want to explore the region and offer other avenues as well in respect to paragliding in the state.Our main priority is the safety of the pilots and after flying ourselves and discussing with various leading pilots of the country we decide to hold the competition in Pithoragarh,” said Shanker Singh, secretary of Paragliding Association of Uttarakhand (PAU)

Pilots feeding the GPS coordinates before the race

Almost 60 experienced pilots from around the globe including pilots from the defence forces and Border Security Forces competed against each other in three tasks. The weather conditions weren’t apt for competitive flying in the early hours of the competition but as the days progressed  the conditions reached a near perfect status with soaring thermal strength of upto 5m and the pilots flying the typical South East to South west wind over the day.

The competition witnessed the top pilots giving stiff competition to each other in nail biting finishes every task day. Ajay Kumar and Yann Martail remained consistent throughout with a few seconds before or after each other. Seasoned pilots such as Arvind Paul, Robin Gurung Krishna Bahadur Sunuwar and Vijay Soni also finished in the Top 10.

Former world champion and part of the french national team- Yann Martail

“It was an exciting week of flying, the competition was tough and I tried to be consistent but the terrain and conditions at this time of the year can challenge the best of pilots. I am happy with my performance and can’t wait to come back and fly here again” said the former world champion and runner-up at the competition, Yann Martail.

Images © The Outdoor Journal/Anurag Dasgupta