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Paragliding Association receives funds to meet junior rate start up costs

17 March 2016
Paraglider Andy Claxton soars over the Turquoise coast of southwestern Turkey – one of a number of spectacular locations the Royal Navy officer has visited in pursuit of his sport.

“In my opinion there is no other method of free flight that closely relates to flying naturally like a bird as paragliding,” said Lt Cdr Claxton. “It’s just you and a harness suspended below a flexible wing.

“This means you are completely reliant on rising air currents to soar or thermal. Every flight is different, be it soaring 200-300ft above a coastal site, flying cross country at 5,000-6,000ft using the wind and thermals to travel great distances or learning acrobatic moves to get the adrenaline flowing.”

Lt Cdr Claxton took up the sport in 2006 and, thanks to the association, achieved his aim of learning to fly without costing him anything.

“One day, whilst in Cornwall, I was fortunate to see someone flying a paraglider above the cliffs.  It looked amazing especially given the tranquillity of the scenery. 

“I went back to work and checked to see if paragliding was a recognised Joint Services Adventurous Training Scheme (JSAT) activity … it was.”

Over the next year Lt Cdr Claxton completed the Elementary Pilot and Club Pilot courses offered by the Joint Services Paragliding Centre in Crickhowell and qualified to fly unsupervised through a training scheme registered under the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.

 “Having been assigned to RNAS Culdrose in 2008 I soon found myself at the same cliffs, that I’d seen a few years before, only this time it was me looking down!”

As well as paragliding over Oludeniz, the Turkish resort where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean, Lt Cdr Claxton has paraglided over the Annapurna foothills of Nepal, Australia, the Moroccan Atlas mountains, Bavaria and the French Alps.

And now many more Service personnel will have the opportunity to take part as the Royal Navy Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association has secured funding for a number of junior rates to obtain flying equipment.

On average, a wing, harness and reserve parachute costs around £4,000 to buy new. Thanks to a donation from Service charities and the RN/RM Sports Lottery, the association can provide the equipment. The cost to students will be the service charge of around £10 per month and their own paragliding helmet, which costs around £80.

The UK Armed Forces Paragliding Association and individual Service associations offer numerous subsidised training exercises and overseas expeditions throughout the year and annually all three Services meet to battle it out over the South Wales skies as they compete for the Inter-Services Championship trophy.  

Lt Cdr Claxton added: “For me, paragliding is best summed by Leonardo da Vinci, who said: ‘Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will long to return’.”

Any Able Seamen, Leading Hands or Royal Marines equivalent interested in taking part in the sport should visit https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/sports/adventurous-training/paragliding 

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