Elemental Development logo
Bleriot Cup 2005 Report: There is no 'I' in team
Neil Roberts reports on the Bleriot Cup:

The Bleriot Cup has been fought out between UK and France for the past 26 years. Obviously it began between Hang Gliders but in the mid eighties it expanded to include a team of Paragliders as well. We have only won the Bleriot Cup on French soil twice in its entire history and only once since paragliders have been involved.

Moreover, the French had totally controlled the Bleriot Cup for the whole of this millennium. That is until I got dumped this hot potato, and I ate it with relish. I had a plan and in 2004 built a group of Paragliders that agreed to work as team. Nobody was to be a prima-Donna, no egos massaged and all would aim for UK success. In 2004 the British team took the Bleriot Cup back from the French at Long Mynd UK.

In 2005 we had to take it back to France and compete on their soil, with their tasks, using their scoring systems on their terms. I heard chuckles and whispers "he'll never repeat it". "the French are too strong" and "they are an Alpine nation, we've got no chance". One thing those doubters forgot to consider was Team Work.

The curse of the Bleriot began to bite in Piedrahita, John Ellison and Pete Taylor were injured under reserves during the British Open. Burkitt Rudd took a big hit too and was doubtful till the first day. Reserves had to be brought in, back ups moved across Europe and then even manager Calvo had to pull out at the last minute. Boy was I up against it!

Then on Thursday 11 August our group assembled. From all corners of Europe they travelled to meet in the Southern Alps with one intention, To Beat the French!! Mark Graham and Nicky Moss travelled from Spain to fill in as Team Management, breaking down the French scoring formulae given to us only in French. Mark Hayman came from Portugal to cover if Burkitt Rudd got stuck in Scotland. Kelly Farina drove in from Austria. Craig Morgan from Devon, Alex Coltman from Bristol, Steve Etherington from Cumbria and me Neil Roberts the Captain from Wolverhampton.

I drafted in Bob Drury to show us the terrain and help us with any tricks they might play on us. Ulric Jessop was our local brains having lived here for years he knew his way around. The weather was fickle but we flew every day. Two days before the comp, we met the French. On a windy Gourdon Steve and Craig took off with all the French team. We watched as wave bars built in the Greoliers valley. Steve went for it; quickly chased by JC (the French Team leader) Craig dived in too and got sucked up into strong wave cloud. Big ears and speed bar and race for Greoliers, JC wasn't quick enough and got caught over Cipiers, took a rotoring and crashed in to get a broken leg.

So a local hot shot was drafted into the French team! Russell Ogden told us this new guy was very good. We'd have to watch him. Final practise day and we made our statement, Bob and Ulric decided we'd go straight back off Col de Blaine. Real hard man country, deep cut valleys, zero landing options, tough retrieves and so we went. The French were amazed we'd gone in such rotary conditions. It told them we weren't scared, so they never set real scary tasks on us. Thank god that plan worked.

Day 1 Task 1:
click for a larger image Based in St André.

A 58.5k race around four turn points and into goal. They gave us the task very late and had their entire team air borne before we’d sorted the course, the sneaky devils!!

We raced into the sky and climbed like demons to catch them at start gate just in time. The usual route over was slow so Kelly and Craig raced back down the ridge to try alternatives. The rest of us stayed and marked the French as they tried to cross. Kelly’s route paid off with Craig they raced to turn point two and back en route to three. Our job was now to slow the French down, let them lead, climb slowly and mark them to the ground. Our team work was brilliant, even at goal; Kelly slowed and waited for Craig to cross the line together. This was an extra 150 point move and with us slowing the field another 200 points had been earned.

GB: para 3231; hg 3392
FR: para 2874; hg 2917

Day 2 Task 2:
click for a larger imageBased in St André.

They couldn’t beat our speed so maybe endurance was their key! They set a 75k race to goal. The sky was blue, the thermals were few and cirrus cloud bands threatened to deck us at any time. We had the lead so we marked them man for man. The French Targa Boy was in a racing mood, we assigned Kelly as his shadow. Craig and Neil took on their two Avax boys while Steve Etherington marked out the local hot shot on his Mantra. Mark Hayman, team reserve was always on hand to help the Brits or hinder the French. Alex and Kitt were covering the rear but got caught by cirrus clouds and downed on course. Four Brits in goal with only three French, we went home delighted only to hear later that two more French made goal hours later to beat us by 24 points. Dam!!

GB: para 3447; hg 3880
FR: para 3471; hg 1948

Day 3 Task 3:
35.4km race to goal based in Gourdon.

A tricky cat’s cradle that the local hot shot knew well. We marked them out through half the course, then when we understood the conditions, let rip on the speed bars. Like a Para troopers assault manoeuvre we thrashed the course and all raced into goal within a few minutes of each other. Six Brits and only three French in goal we beat them by 1592

GB: para 5138; hg no task
FR: para 3546; hg no task

Day 4 Task 4:
Based in Col de Bleyne.

Local French hotshots appeared to talk their team around a cunning 57.2k race to goal.

Tricky ridges to race along then drop back to race again. The difficulty was spotting convergence lines to cross forward over ridge after ridge. Every French move was covered by a British shadow. Even when I lead out into incredible convergence, Kitt was sent away to cover the French. It paid off as I got hammered Kitt out glided the French to take the last point. Alex stayed back while we tested the ground and used our knowledge to win the day for Team UK. Another 1450 points earned mainly by team discipline.

GB: para 3992; hg 3886
FR: para 2524; hg 3360

Day 5 Task 5:
Based in Gourdon.

The French had dreamed up a dicey 40k race in turbulent conditions. Had they forgot how hard we were? The Brits just went for it, leading out, racing fast. Half of us did it high the other tried the ridges. Either way we had the French on the run. The lower guys relaying information, the higher guys taking the lead. Even upon landing short, our guys were still working for the team radioing what’s working and what’s not. Steve Etherington sailed into goal followed by yours truly landing next on course. Another thrashing of 1487 points and a total win of 4882 the largest paragliding win in Bleriot history.

GB: para 3891; hg 4399
FR: para 2404; hg 1854

Did you notice a different British winner almost every day!!

This was a win based on absolute team work, communication and belief in your mates.

This, I believe can be used to great effect in the European and World Championships.

Our aim should be to put TEAM UK on the pedestal.

Report by Neil Roberts Bleriot Captain and Squad developer

Final Result

GB: para 19713; hg 15568; Total 35281
FR: para 14830; hg 10092; Total 24922