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Coaching Week at Pôle Espoir

Heading for the Pôle Espoir Vol Libre in Font-Romeu

Finally, we found the right time and the means to organize a week’s intervention at the Pôle Espoir in Font-Romeu. The center is of course the antechamber of future champions, a place of education and training for pilots in the making. But it’s also a unique center, integrated with the Lycée Climatique, the Centre National d’Entrainement en Altitude and the CREPS, providing access to the latest techniques in sports preparation. In short, the ideal place to put the precepts of Aquilae – Performance Paragliding Academy into practice.

We start with a theoretical session on understanding instruments. The guiding principle is to create doubt and then build confidence. We become aware of the factors involved in choosing our navigation hardware and software, and of all the variables involved in calculating the various fields available. It soon becomes clear that a collective effort of understanding and sharing is needed to make the best use of these tools, so that data becomes information.

A practical session completes the previous one. As training and acquisition are based on repetition, each pilot has to validate in flight the functioning of the glide ratio to beacon and height to beacon fields. The more experienced pilots extend the work to the glide ratio to goal and height to goal fields, all in a fun way and with a timed option to vary the pleasures (and increase the pressure).

In the air and on the ground, adaptation is key

The practice is linked to weather conditions, even at Font-Romeu. Nevertheless, we’re not going to be held back by gusts to 60 kph. So we head back to the shelter for an indoor training session. We keep to the theme of instruments with the tactical preparation of tasks. After several rehearsals of the task entry, groups of different levels analyze what awaits them on this task and what they will have to produce, either to make a cross with turn-points, or to increase their average speed, or to win the task.

Lastly, it has to be said that not all skills are available everywhere, and some are even very rare in the region. Even in places where practice is good and frequent, the sheer volume of practitioners or professionals does not guarantee an exhaustive range of possible educational contributions. For this last session, we innovated with a videoconference masterfully led by Martin Morlet on the preparation of long-distance flying. The experience has been validated, both in terms of the technical aspects of such a session and the validity of its concept.

Progress through sharing

To make the most of our trip to Cerdagne, between two jogging sessions on the snow, we had a brainstorming session with the Pôle’s coaches. We talked at length about athlete monitoring tools, performance models and the formalization of training methods.

All in all, a great week, and we’re looking forward to going back for more!

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