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Eagle Paragliding's chief Instructor Rob Sporrer received USHPA's Instructor of the Year Award in 2002. Every year USHPA issues the award to the person making the biggest contributions to our sport in the United States.

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The 2006 Cusco Open

By Rob Sporrer for Paragliding Magazine

Cusco Open 2006 Final Results



1. Everton R. Secco Brazil Boomerang 4
2. Frank Brown Brazil Sol Tracer
3. Gerard Ameseder Austria Airwave FR3
4. Daniel Vallejo Columbia Boomerang 4
5. Nick Greece USA UP Trango 2
6. Michael Wachter Venezuela UP Targa 3
7. Mathieu Vermeil France U3 Air Cross
8. Rob Sporrer
USA UP Summit 3
9. Richard Pethigal USA Omega 7
10. Bob Drury France Airwave Magic 4

I had many invites from my good friend Rich Pethigal to come down and visit him in Cusco Peru over the years. Rich and I have spent time in Brazil together flying over the years, but I never managed to get down to meet with him in Peru. I always had an excuse why I couldn’t make it down. I finally committed to the trip when Rich sent me an email informing me he had organized a competition through his sponsor Breitling watches with prize money and plenty of good flying. Breitling stepped up huge and put on a great competition, and treated us all like gold. I had always wanted to visit Peru after hearing stories from my brother and friends who have traveled there. I dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu, and had heard wonderful things about Cusco as well.

Rich Pethigal is an American who has been living in South America for the last 14 years. He lives most of the year in Brazil, and actually took 5th place in the Xceara paragliding competition this year in Brazil. He spends five months a year in Cusco doing tandem paragliding flights, and working as a river guide. Be sure to give Rich a call if you are headed to Brazil or Peru for some adventure. He sets up tours and guides people through his company Cloudwalker Paragliding.

Rich has some amazing stories about his travels in South America. He once ran a stretch of the Mantaro River which had never been attempted. He was ecstatic after successfully running the gauntlet only to find himself captured by members of the Shining Path. The Shining Path is a Maoist guerrilla organization in Peru that launched the internal conflict in Peru in 1980. Rich was blindfolded and taken to their headquarters. He managed to tell them he was a reporter, and that he would do a story on them in the news. He quickly got his story and they let him go, but decided they would keep most of his gear. Another time, Rich was on one of his bus trips from Cusco south to Brazil for the season, and the bus was stopped because the town’s people were blocking the streets in protest of the corrupt mayor. He hired kids to help him carry all his gear around the perimeter of town for hours until he found transportation on the other side. The town’s people got their hands on the mayor, and they put a noose around his neck in the morning. Peru was not a safe country to visit in the 90’s, but things have really changed making it a safe place to travel.

I was ready to make the trip and my friends Nick Greece and Magic Mike hopped a plane with me to Lima and caught a connecting flight to Cusco, and were greeted by Richard who was sipping Yerba Mate in his alpaca poncho. It sure is nice to roll into a foreign country and have somebody to take care of transport accommodations when you’re jetlagged at just over 11,000 feet. “Drink lots of water, and don’t eat, boys”. We took Rich’s advice and hydrated and got some sleep.

We woke up feeling rested the next morning. Richard picked us up at the hotel and took us to get some breakfast before heading in to the sacred valley of the Incas for our first day of flying in Peru. The food in Cusco was amazing. We went to a handful of restaurants for dinners which served exceptional food. We would eat quinoa (keen-wah) soup every day. Quinoa has a very high protein content (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete foodstuff. Quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights. We hoped this would help us get to goal.

We arrived at launch after enjoying our nutritious breakfast. The 30 minute drive from Cusco put us on the edge of a plateau looking into the sacred valley. The sun was shining, and the landscape was amazing. The snow covered Chicon Glacier was directly in front of launch reaching to 18,700 feet with the Amazon jungle only 40 kilometers away on the other side. This is the same range that leads to Machu Picchu. The Sacred Valley of the Incas was below us as we looked down from launch, and we could see the Urubamba River weaving its way through the valley below.

We were excited to get into the air and the cycles were coming straight in at launch. Once in the air, we all managed to connect and get established. The views were spectacular, and the thermals were ripping. I was happy to be on a DHV 2 wing. The thermals were ripping as we climbed to 17,000 feet. The air was active, but once you were into a nice core the climbs were sweet. Rich and Nick managed to fly back to Cusco while Magic Mike and I landed on the plateau on the way to Cusco.

The six days before the competition were wonderful. We enjoyed excellent flying conditions most of the days leading to the event. We enjoyed the nightlife and restaurants Cusco had to offer in the evenings with Rich sharing the local hang outs with his American friends.

Unfortunately, the weather got very unstable the day before the competition was to start, and we had rain and wind for the first three days of the competition with no tasks. The folks at Breitling put together some wonderful meals, and Franz had us all over to his ranch for a wonderful meal. We met some really nice pilots from Venezuela, and had some laughs with them while we waited for the weather to clear.

The sun finally broke through on the 4th and final day of the comp and we were able to fly a task. The day was brilliant and the sky was littered with Q’s. It was wonderful for the local Peruvian people to see so many gliders in the air at one time. This is what they had been waiting for all week.

The last task was a 54 kilometer triangle with a final glide to goal next to a body of water, which always makes for and interesting final leg. Six pilots made goal including our very own Nick Greece. Frank Brown took second and ended up landing in the lake on the way to goal. He was still able to get a track log from his Garmin 76s. Everton Secco from Brazil won the day and the competition. The awards party was a great time, and Magic Mike wowed the crowd with some of his crazy slight of hand.

I went to Machu Picchu after the competition with Magic Mike. We spent a couple days up there in amazement of what the Incas had created so many years ago. I had been taking so many pictures with my feet in them all week from cloud base I figured I would try one more while sitting on a wall looking over Machu Picchu. I added my speed bar in Photoshop, and it looked fairly realistic. I posted it to the local discussion board back home and fooled a few of my friends into thinking I had gone XC to Machu Picchu.

I’ll be back in Peru for flying again. I want to give a big thanks to the entire team from Breitling. These guys put on a wonderful competition, and are stepping up by offering great prizes to pilot.

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