European paragliding speed record by Veronika Stampfl
FAI has ratified the record by Veronika Štampfl (Slovenia) on Jun 19, 2022 she broke the European record speed over a triangular course of 50 km. On her Ozone Rush 6, she achieved a speed of 30,46 km/h thus superseding the previous record made by Nicole Fedele (Italy) in 2010 by over 8 km/h. We have spoken to Veronika to learn more about her sports life and record-breaking conditions.
How long have you been doing free-flight sports?
I got my flying license in 2017. For the first two years I was determined I will never fly XC and only wanted to do hike & fly. I think I did my first proper flight, in length, in 2019.
What made you begin?
I was doing quite a lot of hiking at the time. On one of the hikes, everyone flew off and I had to get back down the mountain through some really unpleasant bushes, rocks, and with possible snake encounters. That afternoon I started ground handling. So, for practical reasons. :)
Where did you learn to fly?
I did my license with Nice clouds paragliding school, run by Gašper Prevc and Aleš Žumer. They really made sure we grew to be safe pilots and took us to so many different to get different experiences. Later on, I was, and still am, lucky to be surrounded by the best Slovenian pilots. I can say I learned how to fly XC and comps from them.
Who were the people that inspired you in your life and sport?
There are so many, depending on the topic. But in paragliding, I would say it is a combination of many people, each of them having a quality I look up to. The most apparent three are probably Miha Vovk for being committed and precise in everything he does, Primož Suša for setting new goals every time he reaches the first one, and Tilen Ceglar for always trying to be one step further than everyone else. And there is also Nouria Newman, the kayaker, and her way of dealing with fear.
What are your achievements before breaking a record?
Definitely none of this scale. I did win a couple of weekend competitions in women’s selection, but usually, there weren’t that many competitors :) But otherwise, I am proud of some flights, for different reasons.
Why did you decide to break that very record in that very place?
In late 2021 I finally started to fly more XC. I went to some competitions to progress a bit faster and focused on individual elements of the flight. I am a person that needs the challenge to progress, apparently, Tilen Ceglar saw that and came up with a list of “flying missions” for me. One of them was this record. I selected it from the list since it held every element of flight that I considered was not my strength. I figured that even if I don’t succeed, I would strongly benefit from the whole thing.
The former record was done here and in 2021 Primož Suša did the very same World record here. So, the location was rather a no-brainer for me, since it is close to my home, I know the area and I had the opportunity to talk it over with Primož and other great pilots.
What is the previous record and where?
It was done by Nicole Fedele in 2010. She flew in the same area, only taking off from another launch (Kobariški Stol), which also made the order of the turnpoints a bit different.
What flying conditions make your record different from the previous one?
I gather that the weather was quite different. I had great conditions, although it didn’t seem like that at first. There was a lot more wind than forecasted and based on experience in the area it might mean that I would have to fly into the wind or in the lee on places I found the most difficult. But it turned out it was a great day, with a high cloud base, with the valley getting more and more lifty, even up to the point I came into the goal way too high. I didn’t closely study the weather Nicole had, since I knew the area, but I think she even had to flee from some approaching storm.
How long have you been flying in this area?
My first flights from Kobala were in paragliding school. We visit the area every summer after that, either for competitions, vacations, or a prolonged weekend.
How long did the preparation take?
It took 6 months before I decided to give it a go. In the meantime, I was analyzing the tracks, trying to come up with a better route, and observing what was going on in the air whenever I flew there. Mostly I had to deal with the state of my mind since the task went over some regions I was quite scared of. Either from experience or some notorious tale. A week before I flew the record, I attended a competition in the same region. Those 4 tasks were my in-air preparation. The next day I decided that that should be my first take.
How many failed attempts have you made before you set this record?
I flew it in the first go.
Who worked with you during preparation?
Tilen Ceglar planted the first seed of confidence, that I can actually do it. Miha Vovk supported me throughout the whole thing and was there for my most basic questions and doubts. Primož Suša helped me a lot with the task setting, analyzing the sections, sharing information about his flight, and ultimately saying “Just go for it!”, while Sergej Čujec gave me a lot of confidence in the best route.
Have you launched alone or in a company? How far have your companions managed to fly?
I launched and flew the task with Miha Vovk. We both finished the task.
Tell us about the flight, launch method, your speed, wind speed, thermal strength (from-to), lowest point, highest point. If possible provide a link to live tracking replay or xc-contest.
It was quite windy at the take-off and the hills behind it. Later on, it died out a bit and the ridges were working really well, so the conditions were really great to fly fast. There was no need to stay in thermals long. Towards the end of the task, there was more southwest wind, helping me to be on goal a bit faster.
What was the most tricky thing in breaking this record?
The second turn point since you start from the ridge height and must fly out and back. I had a really good line and was able to keep all the height, which was really important since I was on an EN-B glider. Some pilots before me even managed to get a proper lift from the cloud base nearby, I was just a bit too late for that.
What was the most difficult part of the flight?
Crossing from Stol ridge to Polovnik ridge. With thermals and wind, it was a lot of lee.
Was there a moment when you were ready to give up?
During task no. I almost gave up after the launch, when I saw how much wind there is.
Was there something unexpected? Any unusual happening?
It was unexpected for me to be that fast on the first leg already. And it only kept getting better.
What were you eating and drinking in flight (if you were)?
Just some water.
How did you celebrate the record? Who was the first to congratulate you?
The first to congratulate was Miha, over the radio already. There was no extra celebration, but we did stay at the campsite bar till quite late :)
What is your next goal to achieve?
To fly better than I did the day before. (A quote from Rok Kaver.)
Any advice to pilots, interesting notice, or some share of experience that you gained while breaking this record?
Don’t be afraid to set high goals. Even if you don’t reach them, you will learn from it.