Members of the Petersfield-based Sky Surfing Club have headed overseas in search of sun and better flying conditions.

Petersfield pilot Martin Ayres teamed up with Liss local John Kirby on a trip to North Macedonia to take part in the GIN Wide Open paragliding competition.

The centre for operations was the small town of Kruševo, which nestles in the middle of a magnificent east-facing mountain range and is one of the highest towns in the Balkans at an altitude of more than 4,400ft above sea level.

Ayres and Kirby were joined by fellow sky surfers Nick Piner and Jon Stockley on the trip.

Five scoring tasks were held during the eight-day competition. For each task the organisers devised an aerial route for the competitors to follow, ending at a defined goal. To follow these routes, the paragliders had to exploit strong thermals to take them high in the sky – sometimes beyond 10,000ft – all the while progressing through the course in a tactical race to the finish. Most tasks took two to three hours in the air to complete, covering 50km to 60km over the ground.

Ayers said: “Our group contained some first-time competition pilots who were happy just to take a relaxed approach to the event, soaking up the beautiful surroundings and enjoying the spectacular flying conditions on offer.”

Stockley said: “It was an absolutely epic week with many of us achieving our personal bests. I made my highest ever flight, going so high that I broke the rules and had 75 per cent of my points deducted!”

Competition was stiff, yet Ayers managed a creditable 29th place overall and was the highest-placed Sky Surfer.

Brian Parkins