Chrigel Maurer: How To Win At Hike & Fly


cool so I’ve got a treat for you guys.
today we’re here with somebody who perhaps knows a little bit about hike
and fly racing and he’s gonna give us some insight into how do you win at hike
and fly? so who are you and what do you know about it?
hey everybody I’m Christian ‘Chrigel’ Maurer from Switzerland
all the way to the UK, it’s a pleasure to meet you here and yeah I started flying in 98
then I did some competitions, I won the European Championship in 2004
the World Cup in 2005, six and seven and 2009 it was the change to the hike and fly
I set my goal for the Red Bull XALPS and I won 2009 to 2019, every addition. so
for me it’s a pleasure to explain about my experience in hike and fly
(or whatever you like). [GREG] so how do you win? Chrigel has won every event
basically that he entered so it’s not just the x-alps you know, there is Bornes
to Fly, there’s the XPYR, Vercofly Eigertour … lots of different hike and fly
events. clearly you’ve worked out the formula or are you just really really
good? is there something that you could say like if you’re going to sum up, how
do you win at hike and fly? Right maybe there are different
things I think about. one point of view is that generally and personally
I’m as a sportive guy so I really like to push myself to the limit to improve
in the preparation and to see in the competition how it’s working and I
really want to win so this is when I do running competitions or flying
competitions generally and also hike and flying. this is one part. the other part
is that I started flying very early so I was seven when I had a tandem flight, I
was nine when I tried the first time to inflate the glider and to fly a little and
when I started flying at sixteen I flew really a lot. so this
experience at a young age I think it gives me back a lot now after 21 years of flying.
then it was possible for me to work for Advance as a test pilot and as
a test pilot you fly in all conditions, on different wings, you go to the limit and
I made around 4 to 500 hours per year which gives a lot of experience of
feelings. then the competition, the PWC, it’s a very high level of pilots 120
pilots they’re pushing for the same goal and you have to push all the way or you are
slow, so this this style of really efficient flying pushing as long as
possible this brings to hike and fly also a good
quality and finally I draw on a different piece of experience: I
also do acro. in aerobatics you go to the limit, over the limit
sometimes and when I was learning to control a wing after stall or after I
learned this infinite tumbling with all the fails that gives a lot of experience
in uncontrolled situations and I think the hike and fly is a success for me because it is a summary of all this experience … and yeah finally I also was
lucky to start on a time where the sport was maybe not as developed as now. so 15 years ago there was no hike and fly competitions
at all there was only the XALPS for some stupid guys and if you look back to
last year the 9th edition of the XALPS there was 20-30 teams very very well
prepared and also in the other competitions and all hike and fly
competitions there the level is increasing is everybody’s well prepared,
the equipment, there are several manufacturers that do specific equipment
for the hike and fly sport this is a much higher level. so we have to adjust
to this level and I could believe that to start from a good level to the high
level of hike and fly it needs a lot of work and training. for me it was step by
step because it did not exist [GREG] But the other pilots that you are flying against
I mean some of them are brilliant pilots they’re hardcore dudes as well, they cross big mountains and climb up ice faces and they’re tough they can run up mountains really fast they fly
PWC’s. what do you think gives you the edge every time? what do you do, what are you doing differently that the other guys aren’t doing? [CHRIGEL] maybe there is one secret that
helps me a lot I really wanted to win the event XALPS
when I did it the first time 2009 yeah and I was able to win so the
pressure to win again it was away. it feels like I can do (win) but I don’t have to
win and every addition I did it was a gift and was a pleasure to see the Alps:
a new game with my team, to do it, to race. and often I was in a situation where I
don’t know if I have to go left or right so what the better position and
finally I thought let’s try one because if it’s not working, it doesn’t matter … I won already (before)! during a normal hike and fly there are
maybe 10 or 20 decisions and if you are free from pressure to just choose one
option and to try it’s some kind of interesting game of fun and sometimes it
gives me the possibility to have an even bigger advantage because
it was working brilliantly and maybe this helps. but also I was always thinking
what could be the best possibility, the best option. so the best option
paragliding it’s just to fly straight and have always lift. [GREG] which you seem to do to all the time. [CHRIGEL] It’s my dream to fly straight, fly fast and to be afterwards also honest (realistic) to say OK
now I have these possibilities ok let’s do this but if something
happens, if everything is perfect, I will fly straight. so this means if I
get the conditions to fly straight I’m prepared for this. otherwise if you
are scared about conditions if you are a bit unsure what to do and then you get good conditions, you’re not able to grab this until you (finally) realize
that it’s a good moment but then the conditions are over and you lose
this advantage. so maybe this gives me some meters of some extra advantage in
the race. [GREG] can we talk about fear a little bit
because the whole hike and fly racing at such a high level, the pilots
are having to push into conditions that nobody would fly in. I mean in the PWC
they would call ‘Level 3’ and everybody would be on the ground but you seem to be
able to be the last pilot in the sky or the first pilot in the sky when it’s
really difficult or Foehn conditions or something like that so there must be
moments where you were pushing right at the limit in the XALPS where
conditions are wild. do you feel fear? how do you manage that? how do you decide
where to go, how much to push and when to come off and not fly? [CHRIGEL] yeah this, especially in a long hike and fly competition the problem is that the
decision taking while I’m very tired and I know that I’m in a kind
of tunnel: I’m not realistic anymore, so I need my
team also to ask about my feeling about my topic and I know that it’s even it’s
already hard but it’s even more difficult in these situations and
generally pushing in a competition where you know that every meter it’s not
flyable you have to walk it’s a very bad situation. [GREG] the temptation is to fly all the time. [CHRIGEL] I know in the beginning or before that I am doing something which is
really dangerous but in the race I never feel danger or fear
because I’m really focused in this moment so I do not have anything else to to think about, to decide, and it gives me also the possibility to be more
comfortable. that sounds may be stupid, but in 2015 for example there
was a very windy week or a very difficult weather situation with the
Foehn and wind, it was south Foehn and west wind so it was very on the limit because
if it’s raining or cloudy or too much wind it’s clear that we are not flying but
when it’s nice weather and a bit windy then it’s hard to walk because others
go up and try to fly. and it was in my six editions, it was 2015 where this kind of weather was more than one
day so pushed us to these hard decisions and finally it was always a very shitty
decision to go up and to know that it can be very dangerous
but there was also clear on my checklist for example that the takeoff is only allowed
with a good feeling so I can walk up in strong wind and I do nothing wrong; I can
prepare my glider and I do nothing wrong; so I can have a decision when I’m ready
but then I can do a big mistake and the mistake is to inflate the glider in the
wrong time or with the bad feeling and once in the air for sure you have to
manage it as good as possible. once in 2013 there was a storm coming from the
West there was valley breeze from the West
and I flew against this, and the outflow from the thunderstorm plus the
valley breeze it was too much it was around fifty to sixty kilometres per
hour and I was above it, so I did not realize how strong it was and when I
recognised strong wind (because I saw the trees and dust) I realized I have to fly away. Which means backwards. but on this time for me it was clear that it’s more important that I can land safe instead of making some
extra meters. so there is in one direction I try to push the speed and the distance
and on the other side the safety. as long I feel that it’s safe I can push the
speed and as soon as I realize that it’s dangerous, always I got a bad feeling and then I have to change something that I get a good
feeling again. so I fly away. it was the same in 2017 when I flew in Italy in the direction of Monaco finally and then there was also a storm coming and I had to fly away from
airspace too so there was on one hand the wind and the safety and the other point on this corner was the airspace to not be disqualified.
so I had to fly away from the wind and away from the airspace and I flew 18
kilometers off course, away from the course. I knew this
20 minutes I flew for 20 minutes and I knew that I have
to walk back two and a half, three hours but for me it was clear I have to do
this because it’s safe. it’s the only way to do land safely. And
finally I was lucky in these six editions it’s around sixty days where I
did hike and fly competitions at a really high level, maybe 100 days in total,
and I was lucky to have only maybe three or four situations like this to
realize I went too far I pushed too much , so I have to
respect more and go for the safety yeah but I think to realize that it’s dangerous
it’s very important and then to accept this and to go for the plan B. I
know an option to escape. this is always very important. [GREG] are you looking
for those options while flying always? have you always got an escape? you’re not just driving ahead and then when
you feel danger you start looking? Like you’ve got this part of your
brain looking for the safety all the time? I feel that I make a plan but it’s the
efficient way so where’s the next thermal, where’s the good line …
and also Plan B, what I can do if it’s not working I mean a plan B for the
efficiency and also Plan B for the safety. if it becomes dangerous that I can escape.
the same in the mountains when there’s a glacier or in the flats when there are lots of
trees. so if it’s not working with the glide if it starts to be tricky or
headwind what will I do that’s still safe? at least a landing. so as long as I
have these two plans: one for the efficiency and one for the safety, I can
continue. so all the time I do new plans and one plan is for the efficiency
and one for the safety. and if there is a moment where I say okay now it’s not safe anymore
I don’t have to look for a plan for the safety, I already have
this in my mind, so I can switch to the other one. and I learned that it’s very
important once I go for the Plan B I have to follow it until I’m safe and not
until I feel now it’s becoming good and then switching back, because this switching back is an unserious decision. [GREG] so you choose a line and then you
stay on that line? right yeah make it work yeah make that
line work [CHRIGEL] sometimes it’s the same with the efficiency if you if you have an idea and you try this and then you
see another glider or a bird and then you switch away from your plan yeah
sometimes it’s a good option but normally its worse [GREG] yeah because you are between the two, then you look back at your other one and think I should have gone that way
and you are halfway exactly between two lines and this is the worst line [CHRIGEL] so to learn how
to find options but also to stick on this option, to follow your plan and to
bring it to the end, this gives you efficiency it’s sometimes difficult in competitions because there are many people around you some
they have better glide some they climb even better than you and you’re normally
focused on the better ones and not the ones who are worse. if you focus
also on the other ones that are not so lucky as you, you get a good
feeling because you’re on the ‘sunny side’ and to see all the others’ outcomes
is important, to have a good feeling because you’re not always
unlucky. sometimes when I was young for sure, I felt always unlucky the others always have better lift
and now I realized that luck is the same for everyone but you have
to try and you must also look at the others to have a good feeling. [GREG] let’s talk a little bit about
gear. ultralight string harness with a single skin glider, or full
racing setup in the pod harness? for something like X-Pyr or x-alps is
it something you’ve considered? have you thought about using ridiculously
light gear for the speed up mountains? which would you advise? [CHRIGEL] yeah I think today we
have so many possibilities in in equipment choosing so the main question
is what do I like to do? and how important is it? Is it more important to have less
weight because of walking or better performance or comfortable harness
because of the long flights and while we do some competitions where we have
to run up, fly down, run up, fly down, so to keep the weight low is very
important and the performance it’s not important, then the Advance Strapless with the Pi is very good equipment. sometimes also a single skin
would be good but normally it’s more slow, it’s not
possible to accelerate, so I lose also time to come down, so maybe it’s not
the best option. so think about your goals but also try
different equipment if possible and take the time and analyze where you can
win some seconds or some minutes. this is my way. and finally to think
about the next equipment maybe X-Alps 2029, in 10
years, what could be the best possible equipment? the
comfort of the harness does not have to be better because we are
comfortable for 10 hours and the days are not longer than 10 hours. But it’s
still 1.3 kilo so to reduce the weight instead of more comfort
is the way. then we have to respect the safety, this homologation so in
this way we are clear in position. so we have to deal also with this and by the
glider and harness we have to deal with this with the strength to keep the
weight to withstand the G-force, to be safe The glider could be more light with more performance and more speed and more stability so the dream is
quite open. Find out what you need or what’s
the best for you or for your goals: this is the first step and then the
second step to to try what is the limit of the team, I mean the team is me as a
pilot, my glider and my equipment and if I know this limit or this rule, I
can compete with a good feeling. I can push to the limit but not over
yeah and I for example, this is interesting, in training sometimes I
really like to have really light equipment like 1.5 kilo flying equipment
to run up with, it’s a very good feeling and then it’s possible to fly down but after
10 seconds of flying I realize shit there is no fun
there is no speed there is no performance there is a bad feeling
because no helmet no back protection and then I realize it’s not all about the
weight, it’s good to have this experience to realize what it gives you and what it
means but then generally this X-Alps equipment with good comfort good
performance 7 kilo equipment it makes me most happy because I
can do everything: I can walk up, I can run on the road, I can fly
for 10 hours or like Patrick von Kanel he did a 300 kilmoter FAI triangle with this
equipment! so it’s the only equipment which is all-in-one. even a
helicopter or a SAT spiral is possible [GREG] for when he gets to goal and he is doing the show over the boat. [CHRIGEL] Yeah, for the final flight. There is one dream for sure: If we can have a wing which is controllable in flat area, this means in speed also yeah that you can make it big to climb well in
thermals and once you’re at cloudbase or in the mountains you can make it very small to have a top speed of 100 and the glide ratio of one to one yeah
to really go down, also for the safety, if you go near cloud for example if
you go too close you can reduce the flat area and then if you have a high speed and it
makes much more fun. [GREG] have you experimented with anything like that? [CHRIGEL] In the past there were gliders with the zipper remember
something like this but we never had [GREG] there was that Bionic glider
with the keel to reduce the gliver in the middle… [CHRIGEL] sometimes it’s interesting to look back, thirty years ago they tried out so many things, many systems and gear
and everything and now we still have a glider with cloth, lines, some straps … but it is working well! [GREG] the whole hike and fly racing the amount of
competitions that you do does it take a toll on your family life is it
difficult to do this sort of racing which is risky and I know you’ve got
children. so how do you balance the risk and the time that you need for lots
of competition flying with trying to keep your family life. [CHRIGEL] yeah the balance is
always tricky and I remember before the family I really pushed all
the competitions, I was away from home for half of the year … twenty five weeks …
and it was good to see all the world and the competitions and then with the
family it was also good to be at home and to have fun with the boys and for
sure this balance is very difficult but I realized that it’s still
important to me to have the competition, the competitions or
especially the X-Alps is part of my life it’s part of my work and I really like
the focus of having a goal to prepare for I mean that the training and the
equipment, the development of everything. but also to have not only the
sport and focus on one part of life it’s good to have the change to the family also to a different work and the sport. I think
these three legs of stability gives me a good balance and finally in
the competition or in training while I have strange conditions it’s
good to focus on this and not to think about the others, especially the
family. sometimes I’m asked can you do something really dangerous
while you have a family and for sure it’s a good question. sometimes it forced me to think about stopping flying but then I think, what would I do next? because
sometimes it’s good to reduce, to focus on less, but then generally I
like to do what I like to do and what I am good at and
I feel good paragliding so why not compete? this is the way I work
at the moment and I hope to stay in shape I mean I practice a lot too to
know and understand what is possible and where are my limits and then to
focus only on this, to be serious, to be focused and then to hope that
it works! [GREG[] cool so you try to focus just on the competition when you’re
in the competition and then focus on your family when you’ve got family time,
focus on the work … that’s how you balance it is to have
much narrower focus on that activity rather than trying to think of your
family while you’re flying and your work. that keeps your attention focused
which probably improves the safety I suppose because you are not distracted,
you’re totally in the moment. To be with family and be thinking about your work, it’s not really focused on the family and to bring the family to a competition
then it’s not really focusing on the competition and it’s mixed. sometimes
it’s good but most of the time it’s more stressful and I miss the focus and
for me especially I think it’s the start of danger. [GREG] right well
this year we’ve got the X-Pyr and the entry-level was really high and it
was really difficult to get in so I got in … and Chrigel didn’t make the cut! [laughter] Chrigel is not doing the X-Pyr this year Does that mean the end of Chrigel Maurer? Are you never gonna fly Hike and Fly
again? what’s up with that? for now I think the X-Alps and X-Pyr, every year is maybe
the famous tours, the hardest races in – hike and fly. I did both races several times,
X-Pyr three times and for me it was a very interesting competition it was a
new experience … the Alps work a bit different than the Pyrenees.
but now I wanted to do different competitions and they are more and more
competitions I focus on the hike and fly competitions. It’s good to have recovery time afterwards, and there is a competition
after X-Pyr where I live that I really like to do and the recovery I think it’s not
enough so I have to be serious and make a decision: X-pyr or not, and there is the dolomite Superfly … I also like to compete once in
the Dolomites. so I yeah have to spread my time. for this year I was against doing the X-Pyr but it does not mean that I stopped. now I’m 37 and I feel in the best shape ever and I’m still motivated to train and to
develop news tactics, new material and for this I need the competition.
I saw the field, 45 athletes teams it’s a big competition already
so I was feeling that maybe I should go again … but yeah maybe 2022 [GREG] but we’ll be seeing you in the next X-Alps? [CHRIGEL] the selection is
soon yes I am prepared to make the inscription and then the training keeps
going and yeah X-Alps for me for the 7th edition is a good challenge and I hope they change the turn points a little so it’s a new
route for new weather and a new challenge anyway. [GREG] superb! so
we’ll be seeing Chrigel in the X-Alps Thanks a lot
for your time we really appreciate it, it’s really good getting some insight into
the mind of The Master of Hike and Fly racing and I wish you lots of success
for all the events that you do this year [CHRIGEL] thank you and you too
I mean for you the X-Pyr will also be a good challenge [GREG] thank you we’ll see I have lots
of inside tips now so watch out you guys see you in the X-PYR Who are you? Greg Hamerton. hooray, no more walking!

14 thoughts on “Chrigel Maurer: How To Win At Hike & Fly

  1. Chrigel and Greg in such a smart & cozy harmony :-))))))) to melt away, like good SWISS chocolate on the tongue..

  2. Awesome interview. I think i saw a relief on your face when Chrigel reassured that he is not participating in XPYR…..😬😉.
    My dream- development would be be sunglasses that make thermals vissible……

  3. "Who are you?" Well it seems you need to give your publicity more attention, Greg. Furthermore very nice documentary about someone I've been following since his first victory in the X-alps. Incredibe how he manages the race. Thanks for the video Flybubble!

  4. That was one nervous Mr. H. sitting next to the all time master of the game…. 😉 very well done, you asked the right questions! — And Chrigel is such a nice and humble person! Thank you Greg and Flybubble for this interview!

  5. As always, cool video Greg, I really enjoy watching and learn a lot from your videos!
    I read (and you also said it here) you'll be doing the X-Pyr 2020 this year again? all the best for it 🙂 and looking forward for your documentation on it as well as some more stuff to learn more on hike&fly and cross country flying and flying technique in general accompanying the gear tests 🙂

  6. Such a great guy. Very interesting interview. You can really see the amount of focus he has, the high level of planning and the determination to win.

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