Paraglider Melanie Heather back in Queenstown with the New
Zealand Women's Paragliding Champion Trophy and Leo Geary
Award. Photo supplied.
Melanie Heather, of Queenstown, has claimed victory in
New Zealand's national ''orienteering in the sky'' competition.
Ms Heather swiped the first place honour in the women's
section of the New Zealand Paragliding Open from Kussy Gomez,
also of Queenstown, who had held the title of national female
paragliding champion for the previous two years.
The competition, which was held over two weeks in Nelson and
Rotorua finishing last week, involved ''tasks'' set each day
to weather conditions and ''in each task you have to fly as
far as you can along the route that they set''.
About 60 pilots competed.
The Paragliding World Cup website describes cross-country
paragliding competitions as being similar to yacht racing
where boats race around a marked course.
Instead of buoys, paragliders use GPS-enabled flight
instruments with turn-points programmed in so the pilots fly
a virtual course.
Ms Heather was also awarded the Leo Geary Memorial Trophy
which is presented to up-and-coming pilots and was last year
given to Queenstown's Louis Tapper.
Wanaka's Grant Middendorf was second while Queenstown's Mark
Hardman was 4th.
Ms Heather hoped to use her achievements to promote the
sport, particularly among women.
Originally from Ireland, she began paragliding in Queenstown
two and a-half years ago.
Last year, she went with a team of 28 New Zealanders to
Manilla, Australia, to compete in the State of Origin
paragliding competition which attracted 183 pilots.
The New Zealand team came second with Ms Heather in the top
''That was my first introduction to competition flying and
obviously I learned a lot from that.''