Article by Anthony Sandeberg
The third beer was so cold, a middy, “ trois euros merci ” said the barmaid, as I fumbled for change trying to identify the strange currency I hadn’t yet become accustomed to. At that price, it lasted a tad longer in the heat of the afternoon sun than the prior two. The pilots bar was well positioned at the landing of Talloires in Annecy, France. An absolute paragliding mecca, by the colours in the sky and the sounds of the accents making themselves heard as we sat mesmerized, absorbing the surroundings of this paradise for punters. Who had heard of a pub in a landing field where all the patrons were pilots!
A squadron of comp wings littered the blue background, crossing the lake on their final turn point, in the French Coup Du Monde, as we sat downing beers under the Kronenburg sponsored umbrellas…wishing we were up there!
You couldn’t ask for better, 28 degrees light cycles and such a warm camaraderie from complete strangers who shared the same passion.
I’d longed to be here for what seemed eternity, I felt so comfortable; I belonged in this ideal part of the world. The car park full with flying vehicles, navett vans bursting with tandems, eager pilots and naive students journeyed the 20 min ride on the half hour to the launch for the going rate of 10 euros. The glider repair shop deep with nervous pilots, fearful of not being able to fly on such an epic day, if their line replacement or stitching should take more than a precious hour. A solo chopper put down adjacent to the car park as glider after glider landed without incident or air rage.
“Boujour, tres bon uh”! and the like was heard from the locals as the landing filled with the rabble of international air addicted aviators.
One of the drinkers took a sip of his beer then paused and looked up exclaiming… “merd, regard!” As we looked up a huge eagle was diving at the glider and the pilot of the tandem, time and time again. A crowd gathered with explanations in every language, although mostly, “f&%#... have a go at the eagle…there he goes again. I’ve never seen one that aggressive, he’s attacking the passenger, look at that!”
As the escaping tandem pilot set up for his final glide, the eagle approached and landed perfectly, as eagles do… on the leathered sleeve covering the passengers arm, and stood proud, devouring his small reward of meat. The eager beer drinking voyeurs erupted in applause as pilots approached the beautiful bird Sherkan and its owner…
36 years old, Jacques-Olivier owner and creator of the parc Les Aigles du Léman in Haute-Savoie. Professional falconer for 12 years, he has been the youngest person to hold a capacity certificate to present birds of prey in public, in France, at the age of 22. Today, he owns about 120 birds of prey in this park. In his favor, a few firsts: drop of eagles from a fixed air balloon, ‘air star’ in 1998, and 1st show of equestrial falconry in a park in 1999. Training of the Geneva ice hockey club mascot (the latter has brought the puck to the referee, in a closed ice rink, with 6000 persons. World launch of the new Omega watch in 2003 (an eagle had to bring the watch to Cindy Crawford. 1st show presenting a condor des Andes on a horse in 2005 in Caen, for the « Chevaux d’or » show. Eagle flying from a glacier following a free rider for « la nuit de la glisse » in 2005. Long distance flight (about 4 kms) between the take off and the landing at the Icarus cup 2006. He has also performed his shows in the most famous institutions: Evian Masters, America Price Cup, Cultural Festival in Qatar, UEFA gala, Christmas party at the Elysée Palace, FIFA tournament ... This new challenge is the most exciting one because for the first time falconer and eagle have shared the same feelings, and it enabled to attract the public’s attention on the disappearance of certain sea eagles.
Recently Jacques tandem d-baged from a helicopter at 4000m with his eagle and flew across the English Channel, a distance of 38km.
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