The third iteration of Wales’ Premier Adventure Race, The Dragon Hike and Fly, is to be held on the weekend of 24 – 26 May 2019. There will be prizes and an end of event BBQ. The entry fee will be £55 and extra BBQ tickets will be available for £10 for supporters and friends. The event will be based out of the Crickhowell area and the nominal race distance will be approximately 100km. Pilots should be BHPA Pilot rated, and have BHPA membership or suitable alternative insurance cover. Any questions about the event can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org
This year’s race is kindly supported by Air Design who are providing some of our prizes and handy windsocks for some of the likely flying spots. Team Evol is the UK supplier of Air Design products, which include outstanding hike and fly wings including the EN B Rise 3, EN C Volt 3, and EN D Hero as well as the ground breaking Susi 3 mini wing, the smallest certified hike and fly wing in the world!
Here’s the write up from the 2017 Race:
” The South East Wales Hangliding and Paragliding Club hosted their inaugural “Dragon Hike and Fly Race” over the weekend of 12th and 13th of August. Fourteen pilots made it to the Friday evening briefing, with one becoming the race camera man once he’d seen the route. Pilots travelled from as far as Whitby, and South Africa (via Crawley) for an event celebrating what the area has long been known for by a handful of pilots. That is, the excellent hike and fly opportunities in a wide range of wind directions and weather conditions! The athletes were allowed to enter with or without a supporter. Those with, carried the minimum of flying gear and those without, whatever food and bivvy gear they wanted for a night out in the hills. The club sites officer also negotiated carte blanche access for the weekend with only Black Hill being ruled out as a no take off area.
The route was kept secret until the end of the briefing, when a 70km race to goal from Merthyr Tydfil Railway Station to Castle Meadows in Abergavenny was announced. The route included a turn point of 1km at the Blorenge, 50m radius Selfie Stop at The Bear Hotel – Crickhowell, 1km at Hay Bluff, and 200m at the Sugar Loaf. The route encompassed both the post industrial valleys and wilderness of the Black Mountains, almost the club’s entire flying area.
The start was fairly uneventful, with 11 lycra clad men and rucksacks standing outside a nearly open Tesco Extra at 8am. Shortly thereafter, the beauty of hike and fly racing unfolded with the differing tactics splitting the pack by several kilometres within the first hour. 5 pilots decided to find a flying site at the back of Pontlottyn and the remaining 8 either ran or hiked towards the Blorenge in what appeared to be almost unflyable and definitely not XC conditions early on a (just) post cold frontal morning.
Greg Hammerton took to the air first and led out for the other pilots with a short flight towards Abertysswg while Rob Houghton, Scot Thornhill and Nick Somerville led the foot race.
Greg then flew on towards the Blorenge with a nice 10km XC from Abertysswg as the day started to turn on.
Meanwhile, the leading pack waited on the Blorenge for a window to fly into the Usk valley and save a 500m hike down. When it finally appeared to arrive, Rob Houghton took off, only to go up, up and back, quite quickly! Flying at full speed with the ears on and tail tucked firmly between legs, he lost about 2km in distance, ending up downwind of where he’d intended to and having to make up even more ground on foot to the chasers who were now running down the footpath off the Blorenge, and going in the right direction! Those arriving later walked down the Blorenge, apart from Greg Hammerton, who already having had a charmed morning, managed to find a launchable window and push a few km into the strong wind and land between Crickhowell and Govilon.
Throughout the afternoon, the pilots made it on foot to The Bear, one or two having a pint before continuing to run towards Hay Bluff, having decided that the day was too windy to even consider another flight.
By the end of day one, there were five pilots in the Black Mountains, Greg having had another flight along the local milk run between Pen Carrig Calch and The Dragon’s Tail. The other four having arrived at Hay Bluff on foot.
Day two saw a 7am start. Hard to live track the athletes in the back country, Rob Houghton arrived with a Telegram ping on the Sugar Loaf at around 10am for his fly down to Castle Meadows and a well-earned, high calorie consumption, victory! A handful of supporters made it in time to see him in, still running despite his nearest competition being miles away. An hour or so later, Dan Starsmore, knowing that Greg was hot on his heels, had come from 5th overnight and had a lovely morning of hopping along the (probably) previously unflown Partishow ridge, making it to the Sugar Loaf for a celebratory TTB and second place by about 1130am. Another 15 minutes later and the man who’d had the most fun of everyone had launched at Hay Bluff NW face at 1045 and flown all the way to Abergavenny to land in goal by midday. Greg’s XC was a cheeky 24km, saved him 5 hours of hiking with his bivi gear, earned him goal and 3rd position.
Minutes later, the fantastic sky went grey all over the whole area. Nick Somerville, only a few km west of the Sugar Loaf had to abandon through injury, stuck on the A40 (banned for hiking in the rules) after a fly down from Pen Carrig Calch. This very unfortunate for Nick having hiked all the way back from Hay Bluff to fly from Pen Carrig on Sunday morning but did give him 4th position. Scot Thornhill, who’d been challenging for 1st on day one also abandoned, but took 5th. He’d missed the Hay Bluff TP on Saturday evening and had to go back to tag it before his body gave up a few km north of Sugar Loaf, having taken the road running option on Sunday morning as Dan and Greg flew overhead and Nick hiked along the high ridges to his west. Most of the chasing pack had made it to Crickhowell late in the day on Saturday and taken the prudent decision to stop and rest for the night, with a couple of malted recovery drinks, before assaulting the Magic mountain on Sunday. A two or three hour flyable window would have seen the rest of the route achievable for them, especially as they’d deliberately teamed up to gaggle fly. All of them looking fairly sore and some with niggling injuries, they were going to have to fly the rest of the route. The weak thermal cycles, slope landings and cruel hike ups were enough to take the last of their resolve, especially after a murder of crows climbed out unreachably far from the hill in the nil wind conditions. This was to be their final move as they then flew down to Crickhowell to pack up and make it to the prizegiving. Credit must go to Andy Smith, who’d had a challenging day on Saturday. He’d only made it to the Blorenge by stumps, but had a silky fly down on Sunday morning, pressing well up the Usk valley in the still air. He then hiked up Pen Carrig Calch and instead of top to bottoming into Crickhowell under the by now grey skies, turned north and flew deep into the Llanbedr Valley, continuing to hike towards Hay right up to the cut. This resolve earned him 6th.
The prize giving took place at The Bridge Inn, Llanfoist on the banks of the Usk and was celebrated with a fantastic BBQ. More photos can be found on Facebook and Instagram by searching for #dragonhikeandfly2017 If you have any questions about hike and fly in the area, contact Alistair Andrews – email@example.com”