Advance Sigma Paraglider Evolution: It’s hard to believe that the Advance Sigma 10 is the latest progression of a 28 years old development programme, dating all the way back to 1989; the year that I first flew a paraglider. Even then, Advance gliders looked very different from the offerings from other manufacturers with their half moon shaped cell mouths and sails that were so clean for their time, that no one could work out how it was achieved. Then as if the gliders didn’t already stand out enough, the addition of the now famous winglets, in an attempt to reduce induced drag and improve handling, became iconic for the Advance brand.
Fitting in neatly from the Greek alphabet, the Sigma slotted between the Epsilon intermediate and the Omega competition wings, as it always had, up to the inclusion of the fairly new Iota. The Sigma design brief was based on a performance wing for experienced pilots who wanted a glider that was agile above everything else, giving them the ability to out thermal every other paraglider in the air. The capability of the sigma to be able to use the smallest of thermal cores to climb to base became synonymous with the model, with their light brakes and instantaneous responses to inputs.
As the years went on, the principles on which the glider was based, more or less stayed the same, but the way the gliders flew changed a lot through the various evolutions, sometimes for the good, sometimes maybe not so good. But with every succession of the Sigma, Advance continued to sharpen their craft until we arrive at where we are today. Its very nostalgic for me looking back through these photos and after 28 years in the sport, I can never remember a time without a Sigma in there somewhere.
1989 Advance Sigma 1: At the time, the wing was simply called the Advance Sigma. Very different looking with its half moon cell entries and clean design, the use of the colour pink was all the rage in 1989. So were shell suits and mullets…
1992 Advance Sigma 2: looking a little different to the previous model with its pointed wingtips and extra cells. A much more complex wing to build than the original.
1995 Advance Sigma 3: Obviously a big jump forward here, the Sigma 3 is starting to look a lot like the gliders that we fly today.
1998 Advance Sigma 4: My first Sigma and a wing that I fell in love with. For pilots who appreciated the handling and feedback, the Sigma 4 was perfection. For inexperienced pilots it was far too much and scared the hell out of them. I was selling Advance even back then and together with the factory, we had to exchange a few Sigma 4’s for Epsilons after the pilots bit off a little more than they could chew. Mine was a custom black wing with white leading edge. The factory rang me to ask if I was sure I wanted a glider that looked like a magpie.
2001 Advance Sigma 5: In a response to the previous model being a little lively, the Sigma 5 was a radically different glider to fly. Highly pitch stable and excellent in rough air, I thought that the spirit of the Sigma 4 had been completely removed but to be honest, it was appreciated when conditions got a little out of hand. Because of this reason, it gained a bit of a cult following in the US.
2005 Advance Sigma 6: Now we’re talking. Advance hit the goldilocks zone with the Sigma 6. In my opinion, one of the all time classic designs. The first glider that I flew that I couldn’t think of a single thing to improve. The demand for this glider was incredible even after it had been discontinued 3 years later.
2008 Advance Sigma 7: Another complete change, the Sigma 7 was nothing like the Sigma 6. A very solid wing at speed with a great glide, the Sigma 7 had sacrificed the sweet handling and agility that S6 pilots loved. This gave rise to the rumours that the best Advance models were always even numbers but in fairness, this is down to what the individual pilot looks for in a glider.
2011 Advance Sigma 8: The development of a paraglider is like a funnel. As the development goes on, so do the options reduce until you reach a point where it is far more difficult to advance forward. The Sigma 8 was Advances culmination of the models that came before it. To fly, it had a very ‘compact’ feel that is now standard in the current lineup of a lot of manufacturers. The wing moved through the air as a solid mass giving a great feeling of confidence. Handling was reactive and precise as well as a solid wing in the rough stuff.
2014 Advance Sigma 9: Some would say more of the same but the Sigma 9 had firmer brakes and a lighter speedbar than the Sigma 8. It had ever more of the confidence inspiring solidity in the air as the developments stayed with the high performance low aspect ratio recipe together with Air Scoop cell inlets; Advance’s answer to Shark Nose design being used by other manufacturers.
The Advance Sigma 10 internal structure
2017 Advance Sigma 10: So here we are in 2017 with all the knowledge of the past 28 years squeezed into the current glider and without doubt, the most complex version ever built. The same solidity if not more so that the Sigma 9, a big jump in performance and improvements in all other areas, the Sigma 10 continues the story. If you want to find out more, there are videos and and detailed review on the shop link which can be found here: Advance Sigma 10
Heres to the next 28 years! Imagine what the Sigma 20 is going to be like!
PS Psssssst! It’s also an even number…