Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Killarny Comp, Day 5

We raced up to the north launch today to try to beat the thunderstorms. The sky looked less threatening than yesterday, but once on launch the nice clouds started to mushroom straight up again... The wind was light and everybody had their wings out, we were going to race these clouds out of mountains and onto the flats.

The course was a 60 km task that went downwind past Killarney, jogged back into the wind going north of town, turned south with the goal at the rec center in Killarney. Base was pretty low over launch, about 2000 meters, and there was a lot of shade so the lift was light but we got away from the mountain range and onto the flats. The clouds were marking the lift and big ears were coming on to keep as high as possible without getting sucked into the clouds.

We were closing in on the first turn point but to our dismay a very large black cloud had parked near it and lightning was shooting out of the base as it dropped it's load of rain.... So the tasked was stopped, and we will score the race up to ten minutes before they called the stoppage.

Back at the rec center, which is the race HQ, it started to rain, and then it poured, and then it dumped, and then it deluged, and then the flood gates opened and with the wall of water the gust front came blasting through... A bunch of people are camped in the grass field at the rec center, which is now underwater. Lots of lightning and thunder. The power was out and the scoring will have to wait, but no one seemed to mind too much because there is a bar in the rec center stocked with heaps of cold beer.

Two Japanese pilots decided to entertain the rest of us by running around in the down pour with no shirts on while making funny noises and waiving their arms in all directions, it was very funny and quite spontaneous...

Stay Tuned

Monday, January 29, 2007

Killarny Comp, Day 4

Today started out humid, 70% relative humidity and thunderstorms in the forecast. The north launch was called as our launch - it is about an hours drive through the mountains. An 81 km task was set and pilots began launching into strong winds and a low and rapidly growing cloud base. In just a few minutes one of the two gliders that launched first was whiting out. It looked pretty sketchy but not sketchy enough to keep everyone on the ground. Many pilots didn't even get their wings out of the bag...

A bit before the race was to start, the day was cancelled because big anvil heads on course were dropping a lot of rain. Another hours drive down the mountain...

In yesterday's post I speculated that the day would not be very valid, I guess I don't know enough about the OzGap2005 scoring system, because despite no one in goal and a lot of people not flying very far, the day was worth 900 something points...

Stay Tuned

Killarny Comp, Day 3

10:00 am: There are no clouds in the sky this morning. That and the pale blue horizon makes me think it's going to have that "high pressure" feeling in the sky, oh, and did I mention that we are going to fly today?

7:00 pm: We flew today. The task went 75 km towards the coast with one turn point. The terrain is beautiful, large valleys, high plateaus, patches of forest, and it's very green. There were a few good clouds today, the best ones were north of the course line over the mountains. Some pilots took advantage of that and it served them well because an unusually strong sea breeze had penetrated way inland and anyone down low was fighting a strong headwind.

Nominal distance is 30k, and I doubt the average distance today is over 30k, so the day won't be worth a lot of points. I don't think anyone made goal either. That aside, people got to 3000 meters, many flew to Woodenbong, and the mood is way up all around. By the way, I wonder if I could sell any bumper stickers that say: "I've never tried a Woodenbong".

Paul Russel (UK) had an interesting day, first he bombed out from the now hated west launch, and the retrieve vehicle he was in ran into the other retrieve vehicle on the way back to launch, he then launched and got away only to have an eagle attack and rip his wing. Another pilot had an unplanned manoeuvres clinic while crossing low over a forest and landed in the trees. No one ever said paragliding was the smartest thing a person could do.

Hey, but something keeps us coming back for more.

It's good to get the first day out of the way, it takes some of the pressure off somehow.

Tomorrow we have thunderstorms in the forecast, so we should have some white cotton candy to float around in (or run away from).

Stay Tuned

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Killarny Comp, Day 2

Blue day, and windy. Unlike yesterday, the launch window did not even have a chance to open. Only a very few clouds in the sky by the end of the day - and the humidity is way down this afternoon, below 5%.

All we can do is hope the wind backs off tomorrow.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Killarny Comp, First Day

For the last couple days we have had big thunderstorms in the afternoons, torrential downpours at about 3pm, and thunder and lightning show in the evenings. Quite a few people flew from the north launch yesterday before the storms hit - the Cu was big and not friendly looking. Someone threw their reserve right off of launch, the pilot is fine.

The trough is slowly being pushed out by an incoming high pressure. Today started out very overcast but by the time the pilot briefing finished, the sky was clear and blue.

We have some serious talent registered in this comp, and that is because a bunch of pilots flying in the upcoming World Championships in Manilla are here to practice. There are some very aspecty wings in the sky...

Today we had west winds, so we all went to the west launch, makes perfect sense so far. Most of the launches are big enough for only 2 gliders to layout, so there is a pretty fancy launch order and queue system. I hear most comps here at Killarney are individual elapsed times, which means everyone has their own start time when they leave the start cylinder. This type of start is good for sites with typically stronger winds.

The wind was a little gusty on launch, and because I had a high launch number I took off during the open window, which is a half hour period right after launch opens when anyone can take off. A bunch of us took off and were able to climb out, but the wind on launch just got stronger and gustier. Someone lost control of their wing minutes after taking off and crashed into the trees - the pilot is ok.

A group of the rock stars made it to base, but the task was cancelled about then due to the poor launch conditions.

By the afternoon the whole sky was dotted with beautiful Cu, and today was the first day in a long time it didn't over-develop.

stay tuned

Monday, January 22, 2007

Black Black Cotton

Big Black Cotton is how the sky looks when it's really unstable and you get several layers of crazy clouds blowing up all over. We had white cotton clouds too - some white clouds had edges that were almost perfectly vertical. We stuck to our motto and "just pretend like we were going to fly" and we even got as far as Godfrey's farm where we waited a bit and played some cards.

When the sky turned black with rain to the south west, we left. Back in Manilla it dumped - big drops of rain that could have put your eye out if you looked up at the wrong moment.

We have the Killarney competition starting this Saturday - hopefully this trough will be gone by then...

I hear the flying is finally better in Bright.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Cotton

We haven't flown since we arrived on Friday, so this morning our motto was "Lets just pretend we are going to fly". Sometimes that is the best way to keep from talking yourself out of going up the hill when conditions aren't looking the best. Going up the hill is sometimes worth it just for the things you learn by observing the sky.

Today we got to see how fast it can OD (over-develop) at Mt Borah. A tandem did launch off the hill but the giant cloud street out in front just kept getting bigger, and then a tell-tale column of rain dropped out of a nearby cloud. We felt a slight temperature change from the cooler air dropping out of the cloud and it got a little gustier. The visibility on the horizon decreased. Then we became distracted by fixing a flat on the Basher III, until a few drops came out of the sky...

We looked out in front and a wall of rain was coming at launch - our gliders were open and spread all over and there was a mad dash to fold gliders and shove them and 7 people into the basher as it dumped.

The forecast mentions thunderstorms a lot this week, so getting out earlier might be the trick.

The picture is of 2 kangaroos - taken on the west launch of Mt Borah today.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Manilla Again

Yesterday we drove from Bright to Manilla, it took 12 hours. You need AC for that drive. Today it was quite flyable, nice Cu, but it wasn't a 200 km day, so what is the point? (I'm joking).

We are staying at JJ's house and he wanted to go for a fly, so I drove him up the hill at about 3 pm. He challenged me to a race, to see who could get back to Manilla first, him on this Paraglider or me in his car - those are my kind of odds!

He climbed out right off launch and I even let him get high before I got back in his car. His van goes amazinlgy fast - it's a turbo diesel, and it even catches air! I soundly clobbered him, and his car should be ok (I hope).

The forecast looks like a switch to South early in the week, and that could mean some good air is on the way.

Stay Tuned...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Pines to Wandi

Interesting day today. The day starts out with a bunch of us driving up to Mystic to find the gate up - it's closed due to fire danger. This is the first closure this season that wasn't preceded by an email. I guess the decision to close it was made this morning. So the ride up the hill used up all my gas money.

Then a whole mountain of people drive up to the Pines. The Pines isn't a very big hill, but big enough to eat a lot of dust while standing in the back of a pickup on the way to the top. Watching a ton of people launch and bomb out makes it hard for me to get motivated.

Some of the rock stars were able to climb out, and when most people were off the hill, I heard someone say "I guess we have to get off this bloody hill one way or another..." and that realization makes me decide to launch.

So after getting all my gear on and waddling over to launch, the wind stops. The temperature inside my flight suit has been steadily climbing for the last ten minutes, and then the wind blows over the back. I waddle back under a tree and steam discharges when I take my helmet off. Waiting might have been a big mistake....

A puff comes in and people hurl themselves off in desperation, myself included. I go to where I saw the rock stars climb out, and it's my lucky day, I get a nice thermal and I climb out. I do some math in my head so as not to break airspace rules and I fight my instincts and force myself to leave the sweet core and go on glide towards Bright.

I weave my way through the obstacle course of ridges and small mountains, picking the best lines I can, and 3 hours later I am over clearspot trying to find a climb, and if I do get up, I am going to fly home to the Wandiligong valley. I find the climb, glide to Wandi and find nothing but up all over the place, so I go for one last climb, and I top out at 2638 meters. The view is great.

What a day! 53 k and I land at the front door.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mystic Closed

Mystic is closed today and tomorrow due to fire danger. Tomorrow the forecast calls for 40C (hot!) and strongish winds, which kind of limits the options...

Next week we are going back to Manilla for some XC action!

Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bakers Gully

Anyone that has flown to Clearspot from Mystic has looked down into Baker's Gully. Baker's Gully is a large narrow canyon with a couple crappy landing paddocks at the bottom. Today I got to see how crappy the landing paddocks really are. I chose the sloping clear cut at the back of the valley, mostly because that's all I could glide to. The sink going to clearspot was sick - full bar and a 2:1 glide. I guess leaving Mystic at 1500m didn't help either. I almost climbed out of the hole, but almost isn't enough.

It's a doable place to land, if you don't mind rows of burnt stumps and huge thermals kicking off around you. Anyway, my curiosity about landing in Baker's Gully has been fully satisfied.

Yesterday I spoke too soon about the fires - while the fires aren't a threat to us, apparently one nearby has flared up, because today the Bright valley was filled with smoke. High fire danger has closed Mystic tomorrow.

A bit more about Yesterday's flights

Yesterday Heike flew for 5 hours doing a 81 km out and return. Fred did the same flight, but a bit faster. Brian Webb flew almost to Wangaratta before turning around and flying 10k back towards Bright. It was a good day.

So another day has passed us by in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stay Tuned.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Far and Blue

Yesterday it was windy and it rained, which just about makes people dance in the streets. The rain is good for suppressing the bush fires too, which are of very little concern to us now.

There were no clouds in the sky this morning, but the humidity was around 70%, and we have had lots of cloud lately, so we were wondering if there was an inversion that was capping the thermals.

We got up the hill pretty late, but it seemed like no one was in a hurry, and lots of people were on the hill today. I got to demo the Nova Tycoon, and turned out to be a good day for getting a feeling on how it flies.

As I write this, people are still flying out to the flatlands, so I expect someone made it to Wangaratta or beyond. I opted to do a 43km loop and when I turned around, I had a good 20km into the wind return to Mystic. I used a lot of bar and never lost the wing, amen. Just outside of the town of Porepunkah I had a sweet low save - I saw a pilot walking out below me - I was glad I got to share it with someone...

Back at the LZ, there was a nice thermal lifting off so I went for one last climb for the day.

Tomorrow I will post more about the long flights people had today.

Hasta Pronto!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Brett's Email Address

Brett Hardin's email address is below.

To stop spammers, I used an image so you will have to manually type it into your email program.



Thursday, January 04, 2007

Buffalo Tandem

Yesterday Heike arranged to have Franz, her 80 year old step father, go for a tandem with Fred Gungl. Franz doesn't look a day over 60. His Tandem ride was a 2 hour long XC flight that went over the top of Mt. Buffalo and up to cloud base several times. Franz was ecstatic for the rest of the day - he is an amazing man.

I watched Fred and Franz climb out from low over Mount Buffalo and I wasn't brave enough to go in that low, but I'm not the Australian National Champ either. I hope I can still fly when I get to Franz' age.

Today we had short flights in high wind, the thermals weren't coming together enough to get away. I got to try a Nova Tycoon, and it is a nice ship. Tomorrow is the Mystic cup, but the winds may still be a factor in the comp happening.
I heard the weather in Manilla has been bad, but the flying is back on, yesterday Brian Webb flew 85 km.


Photos courtesy Glen Thompson.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lots of Circles

Just another day of big fat Cu popping over the high ground, and lots of circles to turn. I got to base 5 times, which was just above 2300 meters. I flew a fun little triangle - From launch to pyramid, then to Gungle's Gully and then upwind over the high ground to Porepunkah Mountain, then to Blackfellas, Clear spot, then to Little Buffalo where my luck ran out and so I landed at Porepunkah airstrip.

The clouds have been plentiful this week, due to lots of moisture in the air. I think we will have a few more days of this, hopefully it will be like this for at least one day of the Mystic cup which is a local comp that runs every other weekend.

Stay Tuned!

Big Wednesday

Today was a classic XC day at Mystic - big cu, high base, and a sweet Eastish tailwind aloft. Craig, Fred, and Karl flew crosswind to Benalla (90+ km) in about 4 hours. Colin flew a bit past that.

It was a real treat to top out at 2500 meters under perfect Cu around Mount Buffalo. Heike and I got to the King Valley and weren't sure were to go next so we flew around for a while and landed out at about 50km. The hitch hiking was like blundering into a 7 m/s climb, we got home in no time. My track log can be viewed here.

Tomorrow could be a repeat.

Stay Tuned!

Monday, January 01, 2007

How I make Cloud Streets

We got back to Bright in time to celebrate the New Year. The drive from Manilla to Bright takes a full day and as we drove we had a sinking feeling that we left one day too early. During the entire 1000 kilometer drive the sky was covered with perfect cloud streets. The same thing happened on the drive up....

After we got back, I checked around and sure enough, Phil Hystec went 180 kilometers from Beechmont, a guy named Franz went 150 kilometers from Manilla, the fires backed off near Bright and Mystic saw its first good day since we left, in fact the flying was epic all across Australia.

Every time we leave a flying site and drive all day, the flying gets really good everywhere. It has happened so many times now, that other people are noticing it and they are planning their flying days around our travel plans.

Just today I got an email from the Australian team inquiring whether there was any possibility that I could help out by travelling during the entire World Championships - the email even hinted at helping pay for petrol.

A couple more 12 hour days behind the wheel and I will have enough proof that I can actually control the weather. Then maybe I could ask the other National Teams to sponsor me to drive somewhere during the Worlds.

Maybe Red Bull would let me drive one of their little tanker cars around...

If I could just figure out how to make the clouds appear like that when I went flying...