Paragliding is an air sport like no other. With the bare minimum of equipment – a glider and harness that all fits into a backpack -you can soar like a bird for hours on end in the right conditions. Launching can be from a hill or cliff, by winch or tow from flat ground, or even using a backpack motor (Para motoring). All you need to do is lay out the wing, connect the harness, check conditions and in as little as 3 minutes you can be up in the sky.
Para gliders can cruise along coastal hills and cliffs ridding the sea breeze or onshore winds, or launch from an inland hill and catch a thermal up to the clouds just like eagles do ! By linking a series of climbs in thermals and glides, cross country flights are possible allowing skilled pilots to fly many hundreds of kilometers with just the power of the sun. It is this latter part of the sport that is the test for competition pilots in these events.
Modern high performance gliders have glide angles of around 10:1 at 40km/h (ie: for 1000m above the ground of height they can glide 10kms in nil wind) and can race along at up to 60 km/h airspeed. The maximum legal limit for altitude in Australia is 10,000ft (300m) above sea level. On good days thermal climb rates can be in excess of 8 meters per second (25km/h or 1600ft per minute).