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Chrigel Maurer, European Champion 2004 - PWC Champion 2005

He is only 23 years old and has already been a pilot for 7 years. Chrigel is one of the youngest and most talented paraglider pilots in the world; and he's got a clear idea of how things must be done to be on the top. Clue words in his life are motivation and dedication, as he devotes most of his time to paragliding in as many ways as he can, and enjoys them all: flying cross country, competing, practicing acro, testing proto gliders for Advance or working on the design of their competition harness. Above all, in 2005 he managed to win most of the paragliding comps in which he flew, from the World Cup tour to the Online Contest, and the Challenge of La Palma (Spain) that awarded him an impressive 12,000 euros for being 1st. Still, he thinks he is “only a person flying in the air” so his best tool to stay safe is to know his glider well and have the risks controlled even when racing at full speed bar, as he is used to.

His goal for next year: To be on the podium of the Europeans!

[Interview © Ojovolador.com, November 2005. All rights reserved.]

Photo © Zebensui Pérez Molina

Chrigel in a winner's mood in La Palma: he took the big prize of 12,000 euros! Photo: © Zebensui Pérez Molina.

Chrigel aboard his Omega proto,
a glider "very stable in turbulent air" that allows him to fly fast. "One of the best gliders we've developed" he says.

With his Acro partner Peter going radical at Vertigo. Photo: Denis Balibouse © Red Bull - www.redbull-vertigo.com

Photo © Advance

Christian "Chrigel" Maurer

Born in Adelboden (Bernese Oberland), Switzerland, Chrigel first saw paragliding at the age of 9 –his father started paragliding when he was 14, and he took a course as soon as he had the legal age to do so: 16.

One year later Chrigel was competing in national competitions, and ended 35th in the Swiss Championship. In 2001, at 19, he flew his first PWC in Simmental (Switzerland) and the following year he was number 6 in the World ranking! During the Worlds in Portugal in 2003 Chrigel was a member of the winner Swiss team (Gold medal), and was also ranked in the Top Ten of the PWC ranking. 2004 was a good year for the young Swiss pilot who became European Champion (Greece), broke the continental distance record (323km with 5 turnpoints), and also ended 2nd in the Acro championship Vertigo (Syncro) with his team mate Peter Neuchswander (UP). This year Chrigel was on the podium of most of the competitions where he flew, including Online Contest (1st ), PWC tour (1st overall) and Swiss Championship (3rd ). He also broke the Swiss record of FAI triangle over 226km.

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Chrigel, was 2005 your best year as a competition pilot?

It started last year, 2004. I could win the first PWC in Italy, after that I was European Champion in Greece, and Swiss champion. I did the European record flight, 323 km. I was 5th again in PWC; before that I was 5th, 7th and 5th. So, for this year my goal was to win or to be on the podium of the PWC. It's always difficult in the end, if you have a little bit more luck you win and if you have a little bit of bad luck you don't. I also went to the World Championship in Brazil, and ended 8th. In the Swiss championship I was 3rd… Yeah, I had a very beautiful season!

What kind of training do you follow to have such good results?ts?

Ah, that's top secret…! (laughs) At the moment we have a good team at Advance. I work for Advance as a test pilot, I work on the harnesses to do the competition harness 'Impress'; I fly a lot so that's a lot of training and also the whole team, with Kari (Eisenhut, ex European and PWC champion) as team-coach and also my girlfriend, Karin Appenzeller (3rd in PWC 2005) in it, we have a big motivation and we have a lot of fun together. This is very, very important to fly well. Also this year I think I had one of the best gliders. In the Advance team we always have the gliders from the beginning of the season to the end, sometimes for 2 seasons. I am now the leading pilot and I have every year a new glider, so my old one can be used by another guy. It's a good change for having the best glider.

What can you tell us about the glider you fly, your proto?

In the last 2 years we made a new concept: more aspect ratio, more round (arched); you can see the difference between my glider and other gliders. This year I got a new one that works very well, I think it's one of the best we've developed and I'm very happy about it.

Is it a glider made for competitions or are you going to develop a new model from it, like a new Omega 7?

In Advance we always have serial gliders, Omega 6 this year, next year Omega 7; and only for our competition team (that's only 10 pilots) we have special prototypes. We try to have more performance but they're a bit more difficult to fly, not so nice to fly sometimes. More aggressive in collapses but with good performance. This glider is also very big so we have good climb, but for Acro is not so nice. The turn is good for thermals; sure, because –you know– before you fly straight you need to be high!

What makes your glider so fast?

We tried to make the glider very stable in turbulent air so when we fly with speed our goal is to make the glider stable, then we can fly faster. But when you fly a lot with your glider you know exactly what its reactions are, then you can fly faster I think.

Do you push the speedbar all the time?

Yes, all the time. Well, not in thermals but when you fly straight, all the time. When you cross a thermal you let go and then push again. You're all the time working with your legs.

I saw you competing in Vertigo, what's your relation with Acro?

I fly a lot with the competition glider; I fly competitions, cross country... so it's very good for me when I can train Acro. I have a lot of fun with Peter Neuchswander, my Acro partner, and also I learn glider control which is good for competition flying. When you have a problem with a competition glider and you are trained in Acro you have a better feeling for reopening. It's safer. And when you know that and have more feeling you can also take a bit more risks. I know I can have a big collapse too and have no chance; I'm only a person flying in the air. I try to have the risks controlled all the time.

Are you doing many acro competitions?

No, I like cross country competitions much better. In Acro you spend the whole day and do maybe one flight, or 2 flights. Here, we fly 3 hours! You have more tactical ways, because acro is more… well, you have to train a lot and then is only: you can, or you cannot. Also you have to fly with a very good glider. In XC competition is more tactical, you think more, it's like a game. Acro is very important for changing, for doing something different for me. So I fly a lot with Peter or alone for training. Competitions, I only fly in Vertigo. I've competed in Vertigo five times and it's always fascinating to see how I can fly acro, to compare with the other guys. Last year (2004) we made a 2nd place, but this year the people trained a lot and we were 7th. It's very interesting to see, in 3-4 days we learned a lot, more tricks…

Do you do all the tricks, even tumbling and the most radical ones?

Well, I do the tumbling, but this year Antoine Montant and others were doing this new rhythmic sat with tumbling, to Infinite tumbling, and we don't do that. The gliders are not perfect and they're important for this maneuver. A lot of other pilots, like Mike Küng and others, could not fly this maneuver, because the glider is more important in it.

What glider did you fly in Vertigo?

We had special prototypes for acro. I had one of 20 square meters for 110 kg. In competition I have a 29 m2 for the same weight so it's a big difference. We need speed for the dynamics to make the maneuvers. The top acro guys fly acro all day and I fly cross country, competitions… more things.

Are you happy with your work in Advance?

Yes, very happy. I've worked in the Sigma 6 and now in the Epsilon 5; and every year, in the competition gliders for the team. Next year looks good; we'll make a new Omega 7 and new harnesses for the main pilots. I'm happy because I can fly when there's good weather and when there's bad weather I can change something in the house, in the 'atelier' (workshop). When it's good I can test again and when there's a competition I fly competition… It's a dream job!

A highly motivated Advance Team at the Challenge of La Palma

So, what do you do when you're not flying?!

I'm sleeping… or eating…!! (laughs) No, I do some other sports too, in winter snowboarding, things like that. The girlfriend also needs a lot of time!

Finally, a bit of history: when and how did you start paragliding?

In Switzerland the minimum age to start paragliding is 16 years. My father started when I was 14, he was flying all the time so at 16 I started with paragliding. One year later, in 1999, I went to the first competition, the Swiss championship, and I ended 35 from 120. It was good but I would go forward. I flew competitions because you learn very fast to fly well and in the comps you can ask the best pilots ‘why you fly there' or ‘what you do in a thermal'. And about safety, in competition I learned much better and much faster than if I had flown alone. When I was 19 years old I went to Mexico for a Pre World Cup; that was very big for me. Then I followed the World Cups in Japan, Korea, everywhere.

What's your goal for the next season?

Next season… I'll continue the PWC with a new glider. Also with the Advance Team, so I can push the young pilots and help them. It's very interesting to help other pilots to be better. And there's the European Championship in Morzine and it's my goal to be again on the podium. And to always have fun in the air; and fly safe, without accidents!

*This interview was done during the Final phase of the Isla de la Palma Challenge 2005. Read a full report of the event in this link.

**Read some of Chrigel's secrets for XC flying and learn more about his work, in the Advance website: www.advance.ch

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