I’m sure you have heard our very exciting news at the Free Flight Academy by now but if not I am again very excited to announce the formidable partnership that has been formed with Jack Pimblett and the Free Flight team.
In this blog I will go a little more in depth as to what this partnership is all about and what we hope to achieve in the coming season and more.
But before we get to the nitty gritty lets just take stock of what led up to this partnership and we are going to go WAY back for this.
Lee flying out for another Acro run in Oludeniz
From the very first moment I discovered Paragliding, Acro was the part of it that set me on fire. I watched Never Ending thermal (which at the time was a fairly new paragliding video) and although the going round in circles in thermals was ok, when they met up with the SAT team and filmed the sequence from the Acro comp being able to have this type of glider control became an obsession.
During my progression through the ranks of paragliding and instructing, Acro never left my mind. As my experience and confidence grew I started playing with the glider. There were not many YouTube “teach yourself” videos back then, you really did kind of have to teach yourself. Of course that was never going to go well and so having spun a few attempted SATs and given myself plenty of cascades I embarked on my first SIV.
This was a game changer for me as now I actually understood what the glider was doing. It was the platform for me to go head first into it and chase that perfect level of glider control.
I was lucky enough to have the chance to do some Balloon roll overs and D-Bags and I was loving slowly getting myself into this world as a UK Acro pilot of which at the time sadly there were very few.
Lee performing a tandem D-Bag with Female Spanish Legend Beatrice Garcia in 2014
The world of Acro did not exist or have any credibility around the UK flying scene at the time. It was just an area of the sport that sparked no interest and in fact felt to me a large part of the time to even be frowned upon.
It would never deter me and I kept posting my silly Acro vids and noticed that actually there were many people in the UK that liked this Acro stuff and would like and comment on vids with a real interest and enthusiasm.
Lets fast-forward a few years. From what seemed like nowhere in 2015 there was this sudden outpour of videos with UK Acro pilots making infinite and stall exits to helicos and spin connections. Despite me living deep inside the sport I had no idea these acro pilots were out there training and getting to this level.
What really hit home when I had a quiet moment to think about it was, these guys are not glory boys, they are not posting all over social media every time they get their glider into a wobble copter, they are getting on with it and then letting you know about it when it was clean and tidy. They were serious and they were aiming to bring the UK Acro scene to the Big Boys in Europe and beyond.
This is when I first noticed Jack Pimblett. He was only 17 years old at that stage but was already way ahead of any of us UK Acro boys. He was flying at an incredible level and what amazed me the most is how well he understood the technical side of the manoeuvres and how to trim gliders to make them work better in each manoeuvre. Again bear in mind he was just 17 years old at this time. After watching him fly in Olu Deniz Turkey there was no doubt he was going to go on and compete at the highest level.
It soon turned out that he was not the only young gun coming through the ranks in Acro paragliding. France and Holland were also producing phenomenal talents and the bar was suddenly raised by young pilots that weren’t even old enough to celebrate a good run with a beer.
For me the first true test for Jack came at the Olu Deniz airgames where the newly formed BAPA (British Acrobatic Paragliding Academy) was show casing itself on a proper stage along side some of the worlds top Acro pilots. Among these pilots were the new crop of very talented young pilots mentioned above.
Jack taking Lee out for a D-Bag at the AirGames
All of the these young pilots were flying the top level tricks incredibly well but Jack stood out for me, as not only did he have the mastery of the tricks but flew with a real flare and style that was a joy to watch. To be able to fly with flare and style you have to understand the tricks inside out and be able to do them completely instinctively whilst having enough mental capacity to be able to relax and play with the connections. Many people pilots and spectators alike said the same thing to me, even people who had no clue who the pilot was were commenting on how different he was to all the other pilots doing the same manoeuvre’s.
Over the next couple of years I watched Jack develop and perfect his skill and understanding of the whole Acro game and it was no surprise to see him flying among current and past world champions not as a new comer or as a prodigy but as an accepted top class pilot who was holding his own in this elite field of top echelon Acro pilots.
For a few seasons when I believed Jack was already good enough to compete he stayed out of the comp scene and showed amazing maturity to keep training, keep his head down and keep perfecting his art to ensure that when he did come onto the pro comp scene there would be nothing left to chance.
Jack in Organya during the Acro Game Competition
There is a cliché you hear a lot in life about the top guys in whatever sport it might be being the first in to a training session and the last out. In El Hierro I saw this with my own eyes as I watched Jack repeatedly be almost the first person in the air and a good five hours later as the sun was disappearing there he was still flying and still busting trick after trick again and again showing a degree of dedication and human endurance that only champions have. It was certain for me that this boy was going to burst onto the pro comp scene and not just be there to make up the numbers but would stand a very high chance of getting into the world top ten.
While we were in El Hierro I had the chance to take some advice from Jack about my own personal Acro flying and I was amazed with how well he was able to deliver information and clearly explain what is a very difficult concept to try and put into words. It showed me that there was so much more to Jack than just his flying. His understanding and ability to translate this information to any level of pilot was a talent in itself and it was then that I could see his future was not only going to be in high level comps but also in the world of teaching Acro and potentially SIV.
I have a huge passion for SIV and Acro teaching and am very anal about my beliefs in how it should be conducted and structured. Although I have had plenty of chats with very good pilots about working together, I am very selective about who I will work with as being a great pilot does not make you a great teacher but with Jack it was a no brainer.
We seemed to share almost exactly the same views about teaching techniques and the same analness about how to do it properly and most importantly safely. When he suggested the idea of creating his own syllabus and running his own unique style of Acro and SIV course it made perfect sense for us to join forces so that we could cover every aspect of Acro, from beginner to hopefully British pilots being able to follow in Jacks footsteps and get to comp level, helping to cement the UK as a serious Acro nation.
Jacks course will be totally separate to my already existing SIV and Acro courses and will be conducted by him under the umbrella of the Free Flight Academy that will be providing logistical support to Jack.
I want to be sure to make it clear that although we have joined up to share our knowledge and expertise in our field of Acro and SIV training, our courses are individual and will be run separately.
Jack and the Free Flight team have a few more exciting projects in the pipe line and I will chat more about these a little later on in the year.