This July, the world’s only long-distance paramotor race will be held in Africa for the first time.

The Icarus Trophy – ominously named after a character of Greek myth who died after flying too close to the sun (using homemade wings held together by wax, no less) – is a relatively new event, featuring daredevils soaring about in a paraglider harness with a large propeller strapped to their backs.

The event’s website describes it as a ‘near 1000-mile adventure air race where pilots fly across some of the most challenging terrain on the planet’.

But the routes the contestants take, due to weather or other constraints, can alter the overall distance they travel and two divisions are included to cater for two different types of challenger.

In the Adventure Division, entrants cover the distance at their own pace, while those entering the Racing Division are expected to complete in as short a time as possible.

Current record holder and 2017 Icarus Trophy champion, Tucker Gott finished last year’s event in just four days; from Bitteroot Valley, Montana, to Monument Valley, Utah.

“The awesome thing about the Icarus Race is that a lot of this terrain I would not fly over by myself,” Gott said. “The fact that I have a tracker and a team of people watching my every move; that fact by itself just influences your decision making and allows you to take some bigger risks.”

Elephants from above.

Just a small sample of the wildlife Icarus Trophy competitors might expect to see.

With three of these airborne marathons having been held in the US, now the Icarus Trophy plans to encompass some of southern Africa’s breathtaking scenery, like the Kalahari Desert to the Okavango Delta.

Starting just north of Johannesburg, paramotorists will fly over Botswana and Zimbabwe before finishing somewhere near Victoria Falls in Zamibia.

While crossing international borders may present an additional challenge compared to earlier years, a spokesperson for the event’s organisers, a UK-based outfit dubbed The Adventurists, says the event is designed for adventure.

‘Probably the key part of any adventure is the adventurous bits,’ they wrote in a recent media release. ‘And that means setting out into the world and fending for yourself. Anything else becomes a bit less exciting. It starts to remove all the fun bits, like ‘where the hell will I sleep?’ or ‘what do I do now I’ve run out of fuel?’ And it starts to become a bit of a guided tour.’

Competitors will be expected to carry all food, clothing and spare parts for their paramotor, but the organisers note there’s no rule against stopping in each evening at any available hotel along the way.

In return, The Adventurists promise to track each paramotorist along the way, providing a GPS unit for emergency communications and weather updates, as well as a support vehicle.

The Adventure Division is even open to newcomers to the sport, with the Icarus Trophy website providing information on where to source equipment and get the basic experience required to qualify.

Icarus Trophy 2018 Calendar

  • 22nd July – Launch Party
  • 23rd and 24th July – Pre-race Training
  • 25th July – Launch
  • 1st August – Finish
  • 2nd August – Contingency Flying Day
  • 3rd August – Finish Party