Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's been a long time

The Bright Open 2011 is less than a month away, and besides the Canungra Cup in October, I haven't flown much this year.  A lot has changed since last year - the big one is we moved up to SE Queensland and are just now getting settled into our new house in Currumbin Valley...

A few other things have happened, one is I just passed by 1000 hours on a paraglider, it doesn't mean a whole lot, but it does mean I have survived a lot of crazy shit.

The flying in Canungra is quite different than Bright.  Most of the years I was in Bright were during a drought, so the conditions were definitely strong, the last year in Bright it was very wet and so the flying was more pleasant, but the season seemed to be shorter.

It's very wet in Queensland, right now the flooding up north of us is making the world news, and of course the wet ground around Canungra means you have to have a whole lot of patience to go XC, and that is something I am not very good at but will be learning more about..

The harness tweeks I spoke about in my last post are paying off, the nose of the pod is pointing down finally and  I like the feeling of the setup much better.

Hope you all are getting good flights.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Tweaking the Harness

I have been flying an impress II harness for about 3 years now and haven't been able to tip the nose down as far as I would like.

The adjustment located about mid-way down my back is the one that helps me sit more upright, thereby pushing the nose down. I have pulled the straps as tight as they possibly go, and this helps, but I need more.

So, I pulled the straps out of the buckles, and passed each through where the carabiner attaches to the harness, and this gives me heaps more room to pull the the mid-back part of the harness closer to the carabiners and this should help me sit more upright and push my feet down.

So if this is the last post you ever see on this blog, don't try this...

BTW, a couple days ago I had my first XC since April. The pic is flying back to Mt. Tamborine.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Art of Grovelling

The flying season is winding down fast here in Victoria, autumn is here, the trees are turning colors and dropping their leaves before they sleep for the winter.

Looking back at the comp season, I realized a few things - comps can really expose the "holes" in your flying skills.  I think one of the reasons people get into flying comps is they want to experience a new facet of flying, or to take their XC flying to the next level, and what happens is they learn new flying skills they didn't even know existed.

The last two comps were held in really weak conditions - at least I experienced it as really weak because I cherry pick the days I go flying, which means I only fly the best and booming-est days, and so I rarely am down low struggling.  Interesting it took me so long to realize that the weakest days are when my results are usually the worst of the comp.  I was blaming the weak conditions...

The comp at Corryong was composed of days of desperate grovelling, down low and bobbeling along for kilometer after kilometer, just about to land the whole time.  And I am not used to that - so I was tense for long periods, and when you are tense, you don't make your best decisions.  It's pretty easy to say to yourself "This is total shite, a complete waste of time, total suckage" and then give up and land next to the retrieve vehicle...

What I got from it was pretty amazing - although it's not my favorite type of flying - it's amazing at how far you can fly just barely above the ground and it is a really valuable skill as it takes a lot of patience and fast decision making to string together every every bug fart and terrain feature to just barely avoid landing time and time again.

I also had a few moments when instead of getting discourage about struggling in the shee-ite weakness, I instead became curious about things - curious about how I was going to dig myself out of tree tops, curious about how this was the 12th time I was sure I was about to land, but just found another beep that kept me alive until the next ridge, etc.

There were a few moments where I actually started relaxing and just letting the glider kind of find it's way around, let it do some sniffing about for the tiniest scrap of lift, and the more I believed I wasn't going to dirt, or at least sort of resigned myself to my incredible lack of altitude, the less desperate I felt and the more the glider felt my anti-gravity thinking and found another beep....  Jedi-mind tricks I guess...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Happiness Factor

It's no secret that the number of pilots entering competitions is in decline, and if the trend continues, it's just a matter of time before paragliding competitions are a thing of the past. Don't believe it? It takes a minimum of 40 pilots to have a AAA competition. The AAA Comp at Corryong in 2010 had 48 pilots in attendance...

About a year ago, I was thinking about writing an article for Cross Country Magazine. The title was going to be "Why we compete". I wanted to find out why people would burn every last second of their vacations to go fly paragliding competitions.

I started the article, but didn't finish it because even after interviewing some of the top pilots, I wasn't getting as close to the answer as I had hoped. Fast forward one year: I just finished 2 weeks of competition in Victoria, Australia.

The second comp was in a little town called Corryong, and the flying is brilliant there, well it's brilliant during a normal "dry" summer. The incredible amount of rain during the past couple months has made the ground so wet and green that the flying has been extremely weak, so we aren't getting as high as we usually do, and this has made it harder to get good tasks, and it's late in the season, the site is an afternoon site, so the flying window was extremely short. The end result was that fewer people had an opportunity to get to goal.

I was camping with most of the newer comp pilots, which was cool as the buzz was energizing, and I got an understanding of what they were thinking about as the comp went along. And when asked why they compete, the typical things came up - comps are a great way to learn from others better than you are, and the thrill of the game, etc, but what I somehow missed in my past search for the answer became crystal clear, and it was amazing simple - people compete because they want to make it to goal. The real satisfaction for most pilots comes when they and most of their flying buddies get back to camp and swap stories and celebrate making it round the course. This is what I call the "happiness factor" - the more pilots in goal, the more fun people have and the more likely they are to show up for next years comp. If the "happiness factor" is as important as I think it is, I could be vital to the future of competition paragliding.

To keep competitions from going extinct, you need to do three basic things:

1. Create valid tasks that provide enough decision making opportunities to sort out the best pilots from the good ones.
2. Get as many pilots into goal as possible, and still accomplish item #1.
3. Bring in new pilots and give them a reason to come back next year.

Getting fully valid tasks and lots of pilots into goal are not mutually exclusive! Some one may say "If 70% of the field get into goal, it's not as valid". And that is just not true - sure the task will probably be shorter, but so what? You don't need to fly 4 hours to separate the best pilots from the good ones. The idea of a paragliding competition is not to make the tasks so hard or long that only a few pilots make goal, that will just discourage the newer pilots from coming next year.

Maybe it's time to adjust the validity parameters (again) and for task committees to change their philosophy and start setting shorter tasks that are still fully valid and get the most pilots into goal?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Corryong Task 4 & 5

Task 4 was a good one, the happiness factor was high (more on that later). The difficulty on T4 was that the task started at 2:30, nominal time is 2 hours, that takes you to 4:30, and the lift has been stopping by 5pm or earlier, so if you get stuck for 15 mins, you run out of lift just before goal... That's was my story for Task 4.

Task 5 was worth less than 200 points, as it took the leader 2 hours to go 12 kms, which was just to the first turnpoint.

Yesterday we didn't fly, and today we went up the hill and the task was canned, comp over...  Results are here.  Oh, and Fred Gungl is Aussie National Champ - for the seventh time.

Pic is of me on task 3, which took us over Pine Mountain, and in my opinion, gave us the best conditions of the comp.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Corryong Task 3

Hazy Day, less clouds and no one makes goal.

# ID Type Radius Description
1 ell094 start 3000m ElliotLaunch
2 wal030 waypoint 4000m Walwa
3 tow040 waypoint 400m Towong
4 cor030 endspeed 1000m CorryongAir
5 cor030 goal 400m CorryongAir
Lets pretend that there wasn't a task on day two, ok? Good, lets move on to task 3....
Today the sky didn't look as good as yesterday, but a 63k task was set out to Walwa and back, which meant we had a wicked valley crossing right out of the gate. Start was at 2pm, but we didn't get high enough to start on time, and the first glide was a death glide... We got into Mt Mittamatite super low, below the south east spur ridge and kicking trees. Nice way to start the day - yesterday I sunk out on this same transistion, but today I flew a little smarter.

Most managed to claw out, and once high over Mittamatite, the race got better as we had lots of features to fly over. I have never flown that far north at Corryong, so it was nice to see new country... Several hours later we were coming back into Mt Elliot, but the day was late and the lift was already shutting down and no one got a climb where there should have been one, so we tried to find the best line and get as close to goal as possible. Results are here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Corryong Task 1

We are camping so I'm try to post everyday, but it's more difficult.

Yesterday was ok, but it is very wet and green here, so it's not the booming Corryong of years gone past that we are used to. The task was good, but high cloud moved in and shut the day down. About 3 pilots made goal. The rest of us were left ridge soaring in the shade.

Today looks a bit better. Results are here.