Julien Wirtz about the advantages and traps of the PG Worlds 2023 flying site
In a couple of weeks, the Test event of the 18th FAI World Paragliding Championships will take place in the Chamoux-sur-Gelon in France. We have spoken to Julien Wirtz a local pilot and n4 in World paragliding XC ranking* about the peculiarities of flying there.
The next PG Worlds will take place in Chamoux. How long have you been flying in this area?
More than 20 years. I lived for 17 years near Grenoble and worked in Saint Hilaire du Touvet, now I live between Annecy and La Clusaz. Chamoux is located between Grenoble and Annecy. The Beauges, which are between Annecy and Chamoux, are my daily playground.
Is it one flying area or an agglomeration of several flying sites?
There are many take-offs around the village of Chamoux, which allow you to fly in almost all possible aerological conditions, take-offs sheltered from the strong north wind, others at high altitude in case of stability in low layers, take-offs facing to the east if you need to take off early (in case of risk of thunderstorms), others facing west if you need to take off late (if morning rain). In the event of a strong southerly wind, you will have to move further, but there are still solutions…
The area lies between the high alpine mountain range and a multitude of smaller pre-alpine mountains which allow for varied routes and multiple possible options.
What are peculiarities of the flying there?
Most mountainous areas offer parallel ridgelines that allow rapid paths. Between these ridges, great areas of convergence can be found and the mountain ranges are separated by very large valleys and therefore very long transitions.
The area of Chamoux and the Vallée des Huiles, between the Grand Arc and Belledonne, is the heart of our playing field and also a tricky place. The relief is less high and the breezes are rather strong here, it is an area that can create big changes in rhythm and lead to a split between groups.
I heard that there are some specifics that cannot be found in any other flying site. What are they?
I believe that more than anywhere else, even with very good conditions, you can have different lines and significant changes in rhythm. It is important to choose the right navigation layers, sometimes the valley breezes are allies and you can fly very low ridge-soaring without wasting time to gain altitude, other times they become a trap and slow down the pace or worse make you land. Breezes and eventual low-level stability must be mastered to succeed here.
They say a newcomer has no chance there and it is absolutely necessary to have training flights in this area to be able to provide good results in the competition, do you agree?
I don't completely agree with that, because when flying here often, you pick up some routines and preconceived ideas of what works or not. I think that someone who does not or barely knows the area could well create a surprise, especially if the aerological conditions are unusual or weak.
On the other hand, if the conditions are rather classic and the pilot knows the area, it is possible to fly very quickly without the help of the group.
Which routes would you recommend flying?
Flying the Beauges, between Montlambert and Annecy, is useful because it can fly very fast here with various lines and the fastest pilots can create gaps.
Also Chamoux and the Vallée des Huiles between the Grand Arc massif and the Belledonne massif. There, on the opposite, you have to take the necessary time to place yourself in the right navigation layer depending on the conditions. One can easily get stuck in the low layer with stability and strong breezes and therefore loose a lot of time.
Ideally pilot needs to attend the test event, but you seem to be overbooked. What other training would you suggest for those who are not selected for the PreWorlds
Take a good look at a topographic map or google map and imagine the flow of valley breezes, to identify possible areas of convergence and wind acceleration due to venturi effects.
Fly and whatever happens, enjoy!
* WPRS ranking on the May 1, 2022 at the moment of the publication.