Wanaka Hike and Fly 2024 - Race Report by Kinga Masztalerz

Wanaka Hike and Fly 2024 - Race Report by Kinga Masztalerz

Wanaka Hike and Fly 2024 was blessed with great weather with all three days flyable.

Wanka Hike & Fly 2024, group picture

The event took place 16-18 February 2024 in Wanaka, New Zealand. It saw more overseas pilots than in any of the previous 3 editions, and a handful of locals exploring the spectacular backcountry of the Southern Alps. Pilots must bag as many turnpoints as possible over three days.The race is focused on adventure and challenging yourself, no matter the pilot's level, so the athletes can choose which turnpoints from the official list they cross and in which order. Easily accessible turnpoints give an athlete 1 point, further or more tricky ones 2 points or more. The athletes can stay close by or go for those far turnpoints but they need to be careful; there is a 10-point penalty if they don’t arrive at the finish line before the end of the race.

To increase the fun factor and camaraderie, and to encourage pilots to go for adventures, there are two Night Turnpoints (5 points bonus for spending a night there) and this year's new Bivvy Bonus with Social Twist (1 point for camping, and extra point if doing so with another athlete).

Due to the nature of the terrain around Wanaka and lack of roads there are some areas where pilots have to continue unsupported, creating a very unique format where bivvy flying becomes a competition.

Hike & Fly paragliding, New Zealand

Day 1 started inverted but then developed into a stunning fast flying with light westerly and cloudbase up to almost 9000feet. Most of the pilots headed toward Harris Range, Shotover and Richardson Mountains, as far as Lochnagar, Rob Roy Glacier and East Matukituki. Some of them flew deeper into the mountains and further than ever before! At the end of the day, the Hidden Lakes Night Turnpoint gathered 7 happy campers and stories of 'unreal flying' and 'one of the best flying days ever'.

Pilot positioning at the end of the first day proved to be important as the following day was shaping up to be a bit more windy in Shotover but great more to the east. Hence, most of the pilots flew around Matukituki and Mt Maude, to spend a night in another Night Turnpoint Pakituhi Hut.

The last day was flyable until early afternoon when the wind finally came in, with nearly everyone in goal, most taking a more conservative line ensuring to make it in before the 5pm deadline.

Johannes Marburger, the youngest pilot in the race, at the age of only 21 (however, he started flying in Achental in Germany, close to where he grew up when he was only 15!) came on the top of the scoreboard with 45 points. Johannes flew a great and very smart line on his first day, he was the only pilot to tag Rob Roy Glacier turnpoint as well as both Night Turnpoints which gave him 1st place.

Charles de Beaufort from France flew boldly and consistently during the whole race, putting himself deep, hiking like a machine and relentlessly pushing forward. He was the first airborne athlete, led the front gaggle on the first day, landed deep in Devil's Creek, managed to fly out of there, using east faces at 6pm (?!) and made it all the way to Hawea Flats. From here he hiked like a beast and flew a few wild flights, thermalling, landing, hiking and relaunching all the way to Mt Saint Mary and back to Grand View. His adventurous and unapologetic flying was very impressive to follow on live tracking and earned him both the second place and Best Flying Award.

Emlyn Revell-Nash a Kiwi pilot living on the North Island, so only visiting the Southern Alps, came to Wanaka a few weeks earlier, flew in the area and did a good reckon. He had a good strategy of tagging high value turnpoints without the risk of not making it to the Night turnpoint, which paid off giving him third place in the race.

The traditional 'Adventure of the Year' award went to Jakub Rott who landed at the very end of Shotover valley and spent another day getting out of there, finding his way out through the thick bush, deep gorges, boulders, rivers and waterfalls. Welcome to New Zealand backcountry, Jakub!

MT Outdoors Mad Hiker title was awarded to Chris Adams who finished his last flight of the second day late in the afternoon, 33km and +1000m away from the Pakituhi Night turnpoint and still made it to the hut, only 3 minutes before the night cut off time!

All in all, Wanaka Hike & Fly has developed into an exceptional event providing complex support for some newer pilots who want to bivouac flying and racing a go, but also an interesting race for more seasoned pilots. As a Race Director, I can only wish that we'll have some female pilots participating next year.

Let's finish this report with the words from Josef Kral, one of our lower airtime pilots and Wanaka Hike & Fly first timer who won our Sportsmanship Award for showing others the healthy safety margin and deciding when NOT to fly. His message to other pilots out there: "Join the race and enjoy the ride no matter how many hours you have flown or what gear you have. Make the Night turnpoint your goal for the end of the day, they are so much fun and so worth it! You will have lots of fun and adventure, learn something about yourself, experience something new and unique, meet like-minded people and create great stories with them."

Southern Alps, New Zealand

The winners of 4th edition of Wanaka Hike & Fly:
1. Johannes Marburger @johannes.marburger
2. Charles de Beaufort @charles_de_beaufort
3. Emlyn Revell-Nash @the_gremlyn

Best Flying : Charles de Beaufort
Adventure of the Year: Jakub Rott @jakub.rott
MT Outdoors Mad Hiker: Chris Adams @chrisadams988
Sportsmanship Award: Josef Kral @josefkral_
Mitre 10 Mega Wanaka Selfie TP: Lawrie Jeavons @everydayescapade
Best Supporters: Sanae Noguchi and Megan Carter

Thanks to our awesome team:
Race Director: Kinga Masztalerz @kingamaszta
Safety Officer: Kylie Parkes @kyliejoy81
Admin and Scorer: Gustavo Iglesias
Technical Officer: Doug Patterson

Best regards,
Kinga Masztalerz
Race Director

Kinga Masztalerz, New Zealand

Wanaka Hike & Fly
16-19 February 2024


Wanaka Hike & Fly 2024, price ceremony

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