Heaven-sent stunt pilots

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Queenstown’s Acrofest – celebrating extreme sports like paragliding and hang-gliding – continues to soar. 

The finals of the fifth annual Acrofest last Sunday above a packed Queenstown Bay attracted several thousand spectators. 

Not bad for an event with little advertising and no fixed date – organiser Craig Taylor just decides to run the finals when the weather’s decent. 

“It’s definitely growing,” Taylor says. 

“It shows how good the event is. It’s just word of mouth and people come and end up spending the whole day on the beach.” 

Along with finalists competing in the acrobatic paragliding competition, other extreme sports are showcased purely for entertainment. 

Paulie Wyatt and Simon Guthrie both did heart-stopping base jumps from paragliders, whilst the Jag Air stunt plane, a Pitt Special, also wowed the crowd. 

Taylor says another highlight was three paragliders doing a synchronised routine – something never seen at overseas competitions. 

“We don’t run out of European rules so allow it to happen.” 

Last month the qualifying rounds were held above Lake Wakatipu at Kingston, but Taylor says only the top eight paragliders fly the Queenstown Bay finals because of extra difficulty. 

“You have to be fairly precise where you set yourself up because of wind drift. If you do throw your reserve it’s pretty easy to wind drift off and land in buildings and thing like that so you’ve got to be really onto it. 

“We always bring the best pilots up to Queenstown to make sure we put on a really good show,” Taylor says.
Taylor made special mention of freestyle winner Steve Bramfitt. 

“He’s only been flying a year and a half and has progressed so much that he’s competing with guys who’ve been flying for five years or more.”