Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 5

No chance of flying today, the sky is grey and it has been raining. People are still talking about how amazingly good the conditions were for the XC Open - I heard several top ranked pilots say it was the best week of flying they have ever had....

There is a high pressure coming our way, which is what is needed to push this trough out. The weekend looks better.

Stay Tuned

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 4

I am staying with the New Zealand team and last night we watched the most spectacular lightning show I have ever seen. The whole eastern sky was on fire with bolts of lightning - multiple bolts would fire off simultaneously from different directions. The night would turn into day, and layers of the monster cloud advancing towards us would be illuminated. If we didn't see a flash for 3 seconds, it was unusual and we braced ourselves for the next series of monster bolts and accompanying thunder.

At the north end of the wall of cloud was a cloud we nicknamed the "giant mushroom cap" - it was advancing around the end of a low hill and coming at us. The cloud was so thick and black that the lightning could only illuminate the small gap between the ground and the flat bottom of the mushroom cap. It looked particularly sinister.

Our house is on a deserted hill top and so we were sitting in the middle of the street feeling the thrill of being in the "front row". It started to rain, and so we went inside, it was about 10 pm. A few minutes later the gust front hit - the winds must have been 45 knots, as the power went out briefly a few times.

This morning the storm was still there, with more thunder and lighting! The day was put on hold and cancelled around 1pm.

We also have the first protest of the race - yesterday the task was set up to have no departure or arrival points, but even so, first place should have been worth 1000 points instead of 858. What I think has happened is the scoring software is calculating departure and or arrival points but just not adding them to the distance and time points, hence the low score. If they fix it, no ones position will change, but everyone will get more points.

Yesterday I was watching gliders coming into goal, and for no apparent reason, I saw a wing stall about 30 meters above the ground. The wing surged and started to recover, then it did a helicopter, another surge and then the pilot hit the ground hard. The ambulance was parked at the LZ so they got him stabilized quickly. It looked like he was too deep in the brakes, not sure why. I wish him a quick recovery.

Results can be found here.

Stay Tuned

Monday, February 26, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 3

The game is on! Today started out very overcast, but the sun burnt through the clouds and the Cu came on fast, so a 46km task was set which tried to keep pilots clear of the areas likely to OD. The course went 30km east, and 16km back to Manilla, with goal at the Caravan park. The climbs were slow and caution was needed to make it to goal today.

It was a elapsed time race, no departure or arrival points. It was weird, but at 4:30 there were still 40 pilots in a gaggle over launch, they were gone by 5pm, but I don't think any of them made goal - high cloud shaded the sun out at 6pm and goal closed at 6:30....

One interesting note: Thomas Rold, Kiwi, was the first to launch, the first to leave the gaggle, and the first to cross the goal line (but not the fastest elapsed time).

As I write this, the downloading is still happening, but here is who made goal:

Tom and Josh in goal, Tom just ahead of Josh.

Heike, Craig C, Viv, James, Andrew in Goal.

New Zealand:
Thomas, Middy, Harmony in Goal.

Only Nicole in Goal.

Stay Tuned

Worlds 2007, Day 2

The large trough that has been lurking usually off to the west has parked right over Manilla, and it has been raining off and on. Day 2 was cancelled without even having to go up the hill. Today looks a little better, but that's not saying much.

The farmers want to know when the next competition is, (they love the rain). On the bright side, Bright has seen two 150km days in a row. With the worlds being a 13 day comp, we will get some tasks in.

With no flying going on, there is a lot of socializing to be done - designers talking about design, pilots talking about the mods being made to the comp wings that just showed up, and lots of talk about the fastest wings - and how to keep them open...

The pic was taken a couple days ago, the glider on the left is a Boom5, note the high arc, shorter lines (to me) and rounded tips.

I have been here off an on for about 5 weeks, and today is the first day I have seen the day time temps go below 30C, kinda nice in a way...

Stay Tuned

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 1

The wings are out, the helmets are on, the breeze is blowing, and just minutes before launch, the sky blows up - the Cu is towering and the sky turns black. The day has been cancelled. It was a good call, it started raining in three directions around Mt Borah.

Enjoy the pictures.

Stay Tuned

Tom Mccune, USA

Craig Collings, Australia

Heike Hamann, Australia

Ewa, max height - 30,000 ft

Godfrey Wenness, Event Organizer

Brian Webb, Australia

Cu 5 days Now

We have had beautiful Cu for 5 days in a row in Manilla - a few days it would OD in some areas, but on those days there are lots of opportunity for triangles and out and returns.

Yesterday we took the day off and moved into the New Zealand Team's house, nice place on a hill with an LZ next door. Today I flew a little over 3 hours, doing a 40km out and return towards Barabba. I found a big fat thermal under every cloud I went to, except one. We don't get this much friendly Cu back home, this is going to spoil me bad.

The Worlds starts tomorrow, this afternoon we had the opening ceremony, which consisted of a parade with all the different countries teams, and then an airshow with everything from a gyrocopter to a jet fighter.

Tomorrow we get to find out when free flyers can launch, my guess is we won't be launching until the launch window closes.

Stay Tuned

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Manilla, Practice Task

The Paragliding Worlds starts Sunday. 150 of the worlds best pilots will battle it out for 14 days... Today they set a practice task, but because thunderstorms were in the forecast, I didn't wait around to find out what it was - the thermals were pumping and people were gaggling up.

I heard on the radio that Godfrey recommended people not go north, so I flew a headwind to Manilla and turned around and flew back to Borah, a nice 30 km (OLC) run. A mellow 2+ hours of coring. Wish you were here.

Stay Tuned

Manilla XC Open, Final Day

I am not in the comp, but they allow you to free fly with the competitors, which is really nice. We got a ride up with Gin (of Gin Gliders) and his test pilot. The back of the van was full of Boomerang 5's, the new Gin comp glider, they are making their debut here for the worlds which start Sunday. I took some pics of one in the air.

Getting up from Mt Borah was pretty easy today, it was a matter of minutes before the gaggle I was in was at base and going on glide towards Wee Waa, which is the direction that XC Open pilots were racing. Today was the final day of the event, and I bet someone went over 100 miles (160km).

Thankfully, I was on a radio channel with some Aussies that knew where they were going - it made me feel like it was ok to fly over lots of places where it would have taken a day to walk out....

When you fly west, there is a ring of low mountains that blocks the way, so you fly through either the Gunnedah or Boggabri gap. But not today. The stream of pilots took the straight line and crossed the forested hills, more pilots the better I guess. I got there and there were tons of pilots grovelling low and in massive shade. To the right was sun, but no wings, I made a decision and ran for the sun. It paid off and I saved myself a days worth of walking.

After the crossing we were on the flats again but the wind shifted and was blowing from the south, and the lift was shitty weak. It took about 25 minutes of Frisbee flying and drifting off course to get through these doldrums, but then it got good again and the clouds started pumping. I took some photos at base. I got to Narrabri (90km) in 4.5 hours.

Thanks to Rod Harris for the ride home, I made it back before dark.

The pic is of a Boomerang 5.

Results for the XC Open are here!

Mt Borah is on...

Stay Tuned

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Manilla XC Open, Day 7

Another day of great XC flying. Mt Borah isn't exactly a tall mountain, and the first low save of the day is usually your launch.

Getting up was was crazy hard today - there was some big sink right off launch. There was a glider below me that got drilled and had to land on the road up to the mountain. I flew a couple circles on my way to the North launch, then I started getting drilled and had to push out to the flats.

The wind mill is said to be the house thermal, and it saved me today. I climbed out solo. When it weakened, I ran over to the west side where I joined a better gaggle, and we eventually got to base.

The comp gliders are burning up the miles in the XC Open, they busted the 200 km mark a couple days ago, and get over 100 km regularly. They go far because they go fast - fast means ground speed, Kilometers per hour, simple as that.

I had a mellow 3 hour flight today, the lift was mostly really weak, but there were a few cores over 1000ft/min. I got to base a couple times and enjoyed the long lifty glides under the bigger clouds. I couldn't fly straight downwind because I have to hitch hike home, so I stuck to the main road to Bingara, and landed 64 km out.

Yesterday I posted that they do the XC Open scoring on Leonardo, apparently that was a baseless rumor. I don't think they are posting the scores anywhere on the net...

Lots of flying fun here at Mt Borah...

Stay Tuned

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Manilla, XC Open

We got into Manilla last night and it is a lot greener than when we left 10 days ago. They are running the XC Open right now, so there are a lot of people in the air which makes going XC a whole lot easier. The way they do the scoring is really simple, you submit your own flight to Leonardo, and your score pops out. Leonardo is really great because you can look at other pilots flight stats or look at the flight in 3D on google earth with one click.

Today the Cu was beautiful, but you had to choose your clouds carefully because some were a waste of time. We had a tail wind pushing us along the classic XC route, which is basically north. I landed past Barabba at 45km - there was a huge blue hole over Barabba and it claimed many a wing.

Hitch hiking has never been easier, I bet it has to do with Ewa being sucked into a Cu Nim here last week and making the news big time - the locals are curious and want to talk to us about it. Kari Castle talked to Ewa in person and has the facts about what happened.

The World Championships starts this coming Sunday, and all the big guns are here. I saw the Canadian team on launch today, they are looking a bit sun burnt, which makes sense when you come from -40C to +40C. It is actually much cooler here now than it was a month ago.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bright 321, Final Day

Today the weather was perfect, the task ran to completion, I repeat, the task wasn't stopped! No thunderstorms! Wheeeeee! The fear that the wind was going to be strong never materialized either, which put over 50 pilots into goal - always a great way to end a comp.

The task was a 57 km round the valley richochet - A 5km start cylinder around Mystic, to Smoko, to Lil' Pyramid, then to the Burrs, then to Lil' Mystic, then Porepunkah Roundabout, then with goal at Porepunkah airport. The Cu was very helpful and friendly.

Because of the possible increasing wind, a rebrief was called ten minutes before launch opened, and the task was changed with an earlier start time. Start times are one number you want to get right, and I didn't, so when the race started, I followed the 80 glider gaggle towards the turnpoint, but something was wrong, they were starting 5 minutes too early!

I was sure of it, so I turned around, went back to the start cylinder, got the 12:50 start, and restarted the course. The massive gaggle left me behind in a swirling cloud of dust, so to speak. I had a bad feeling, so I turned on my radio and ask what the start time was, and well, I guess there are times when following the crowd is a good idead...

Oh, well, I love a good challenge and I got one, several actually. Doing the course with only a few gliders around you is good practice! The day was a slow starter, and I got stuck big time at Gold Mine. The thermals didn't get good until after 2pm, but then it just got better and better.

The clouds started to stick around and it looked like it might try to rain, which would stop the task, and the lift was good enough that I started using full bar on all glides, hoping to get to goal before a stoppage. It took me 2:59 to get in, which is a crawl, but goal is a good place to be on the last day.

I think the Czechs did very well, and will be taking home some cash, and the Austalians will be in the money too.

Mathew Cooper threw his reserve, the SES even got him and his wing out of the tree before dark, I was glad to see him happy and smiling later at HQ.

Wesly Hill did a smash up job on the scoring, the daily results were out usually before dark, and get this - The final results were correct and posted on the web on the last day of the competition! Well done!

It was a well run comp, not to mention the $8,500 in prize money, with safety as the first priority, I hope I can make it back next year.

Scoring results can be found here here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bright 321, Day Seven

Today was similar to yesterday, same 5km start around Mystic and first TP at Smoko. From there it was upwind to Blackfellas, then way upwind to Valley Homestead, then downwind to the Antique Shed, then across the valley to the goal at Porepunkah airstrip.

Tunneling upwind was key, taking only the strong climbs (like the one shown in the photograph) and picking good glide lines was how you did it.

Despite the task committees excellent efforts to get us out of the mountain weather, the same pattern of afternoon thunderstorms stopped the race after 2 hours. When a tasked gets stopped, interesting things can happen. If you were climbing when it was stopped, not good. If you were at the end of a big glide when it stopped, you benefit because you were farther along the course. It's just the way the game gets played.

Early in the race, I was on glide near Clearspot when I heard the dreaded fabric crunching sound nearby, followed by the whumph of an opening canopy, followed by more fabric crunching sound and another opening whumph. I looked over my shoulder and saw the happy ending: a Boom 4 flying forwards with the pod facing backwards... The pilot spun out, hit a core, and started turning.

No one in the trees, no reserves tossed, but one pilot did launch with no leg straps or chest strap fastened, luckily for everyone he was able to get into his pod, clip in and fly the task...

All in all, it was a good way to spend the day. Tomorrow is the last day of the comp.

Scoring results can be found here here.

Stay Tuned

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bright 321, Day Six

Another brilliant task was set again today. It was a 50k task that took us from Mystic to Smoko, then Lil' Mystic, then up valley to Eurobin, then the Burrs, and then Mystic LZ.

Thunderstorms were forecast again and sure enough they started over Mt Beauty, were we could see lightning as we raced, but the big one happened later over Mt Buffalo. The task held up for 2:54 before it was stopped.

The day started out weak with high cloud and a low inversion, but it steadily improved and the best part was the wind was light all around. Base was about 2600 meters. No reserve tosses, no one in the trees, no one sucked into CuNim, just good flying fun.

We have three more days left in the comp. When the scoring is finished, results will be here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bright 321, Day Five

Hats off to the task committee, the task was spot on today. Like a pinball, we bounced around the valley so the safety committee could keep an eye on the thunderstorms building over the ranges.

The course went from Mystic, to Smoko, to Lil' Mystic, to Freeburg Spur, to Porepunkah Bridge, and then to Mystic LZ, 55 km altogether. I heard a few made goal before the task was stopped due to OD potential.

The gaggle over Mystic was grand, several times two gaggles merged like two galaxies on a collision course - someone called it the egg beater gaggle. Someone stuck their boot into the leading edge of my wing - luckily they were turning the in right direction, whoever you are, you owe me a beer!

But the best "There I was story" goes to Gavin Zahner - after taking a large collapse and big surge, he fell through the lines, wrapping several around his head and other stuff. The lines were tangled in such a way that his head was pulled down to his thigh, making it difficult to try to get the large cravat out of his wing, never mind the fact he is spiraling out of the sky. The lines popped his helmet off and he became untangled. After attempting to use the stabilo to sort out the cravat with no result, he full-stalls the wing. The cravat comes out, he finds a thermal low over the trees, and flies the rest of the course, helmetless. They don't call him "extreme dude" for nothing...

There was was one reserve toss ending in no injuries, and it OD'd a little after the task was stopped.

We have three more days left in the comp. When the scoring is finished, results will be here.

Stay Tuned

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bright 321, Day Four

Today had all the makings of an excellent day for flying. It was coming up the face at Mystic and a 71 km task was set that took us to Blackfellas, Smoko, and then into the Keawa Valley for a turn point at Running Creek with goal at Mt Beauty airstrip.

The wind techs were high, and it was on - I launched during the 15 minute open window, and getting up was easy. There was some turbulence at the inversion which was around 1300 meters, but nothing unusual for Mystic in my opinion.

Pilots had made the crossing to Clearspot and were getting really high there, they later reported the air was friendly. I needed a stronger thermal so I could break through the inversion - leaving for Clearspot at 1300 meters isn't enough height with my glide.

Then they cancelled the task because of turbulence. After landing, I talked to pilots and many thought the cancellation was premature. In retrospect, they may have a point considering the Mt Hotham observations backed off below 10 knots after 1pm today.

We have four more days left in the comp. The picture was taken during Task 1.

Stay Tuned

Bright 321, Day Three

We had the rare East wind again today, it was mostly aloft. The wind was blowing over the back at Mystic so there were delays about what to do. The valley effect didn't kick in as hoped, so we went to the Pines which took time to organize because the road is 4 wheel drive. We had a convoy of vehicles so long we had to coordinate the giant snake using radios, one at the front and one at the rear, well done Brian Webb.

Then some joker starts playing the "We got a Convoy" song (1975 by C.W. McCall) over the radio, here are some of the lyrics:

Ah, breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c'mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure. By golly, it's clean clear to Flag Town, c'mon. Yeah, that's a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy...

It was pretty funny (the first time anyway). So we end up on the Beechworth Ridge Launch where it's blowing over the back. The smart people all lob off into the first up hill puffs, but the lift was very weak and the death gaggle was growing and writhing below launch, so a bunch of people wait for something better (big mistake).

I had been watching the cloud above us growing and growing, but didn't calculate where it would shade out. The cloud soon blocks out the sun for miles, shutting down launch, and 25 of us watch JJ's valiant hour long struggle to chase the line of sun to the North East.

The sun returns at 4:45, the launch window closes at 5:00pm. Several people that bombed out had hiked back up and just before 5 pm we do forward launches and scratch out a couple of minutes of airtime....

Meanwhile we hear people making goal over the radio, it was a pretty painful day for some of us.

The next couple of days look promising, except for a new fire near Barwidgee Creek that could create some smoke.

When the scoring is finished, results will be here. Or here.

Stay Tuned

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bright 321, Day Two

Strongish SE winds aloft and storms nearby cancelled our flying day. Bored paraglider pilots will do some strange things if stuck on launch long enough - the rock toss game was pretty damn fun.

The daily results for the comp can be found here.

Stay Tuned

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bright 321, Day One

Forecast: Saturday
Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms, mainly about the ranges. Heavy falls, squally winds and large hail possible with thunderstorms. A warm day with cloud increasing and chiefly light wind.

That was the forecast for day One of the comp, and I was very happy with it because the forecast is never right, and today was no different. Oh, wait, they did get one thing right on - it was a warm day.

With the gloomy forecast and the clouds moving through the sky at a good clip, there was a lot of pessimism floating around this morning, but I didn't fall for it, because one thing is for sure, you won't fly if you don't go up the hill, so thanks to the guy at the briefing that said "Hey, lets do the briefing on top of the hill".

Up on top it wasn't so bad. The task was 43 km and zig zagged all over the place. But there was a lot of wind, so most of the field got one fast downwind zig, and one slow torturous upwind zag and if you were lucky and tenacious, you might have made it to the second turn point at Little Pyramid.

Three people made goal, and I bet they have cramps in their legs from mashing the bar all day. As usual, it was great to get the first day out of the way.

If today was windy with a forecast of "chiefly light wind", I wonder what tomorrow will be like with "fresh west" in the forecast... I say we just go up the hill.

Stay Tuned

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bright 321

Hey, the Bright 321 starts tomorrow! This comp costs $220 AUD, that's only $170 US and it is eight days long.

But wait, there's more, there's prize money! $3000 for first, $2000 for second, and $1000 for third. What a deal, huh? Who cares if there are no retrieves, because it is easy to hitch around here.

Today the flying in Bright made everyone happy, even me. Base was at 2500 meters, I flew around without a care in the world, luckily I didn't have the waypoints loaded in my GPS and so I didn't do the practice task that everyone was feverishly trying to do. I had a low save near Apex and climbed back to Base. I ended the day by landing in my front yard.

I never got close enough to take a picture of anyone, so I had to take a picture of myself. Tape on the nose and all.

Stay tuned, I should get a post out each day after the comp.

Hasta Pronto!


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Manilla, Good

Yesterday Mt Borah worked pretty well. Part of the Australian team is here training for the worlds - they set a practice task to Bingara, which is 90 km (55 miles), Craig Collings made the trip in 2 hours and 2 minutes, Viv Williams came in two minutes behind - a nice tail wind always helps.

Today was good too - it was light on the west launch and so we took our time setting up. Adie Kumar launched and within minutes the wind picked up beyond what a paraglider can launch in. A bunch of us were all dressed up with no where to go.

The NSW Titles hang gliding comp is running right now at Mt Borah, and watching them queue up and take off provided some good entertainment. A hang pilot had a problem with his hang strap and crashed just after take off, his glider is totalled - luckily he walked away.

About 3pm it backed off a bit, so we launched. The first climb was great, no inversion and straight up to 3000 meters. I got to fly with Heike, Viv, and Kari, and we headed towards the coast. I heard over the radio that they were going to try to fly to the town of Uralla. About 20 km out, the girls left me for dead, and I watched them cross into no man's land.

I didn't know where I was going, but I got back up, so I took a more down wind line. Just after 6pm, I flew into a convergence and watched cloud base form way below me off to the right, it was caused by a sea breeze kicking off all the warm evening air. A bit later I flew over the three lovely ladies folding up below. I landed 75 km out, about 10 km short of Uralla in a stiff head wind.

Craig Collings got away from launch in a lull (more like a hang glider type lull) earlier in the day and flew something like 90 km, then turned around and landed at Uralla.

The cu's were gorgeous today - it's good to be back in the air.

Stay Tuned

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Killarny Comp, Days 7 & 8

Yesterday it was blowing like stink, day cancelled. Today we had more hope and up at the East launch it was looking doable. A task was set and 20 something pilots launched and then it got really windy. A few more DHV 2-3's launched and each one went up and then backwards and was barely able to penetrate - and they were stompin' on the bar. The day was cancelled.

The pilots that got in the air went XC, several people flew over 100 km.

The start was a race to goal, and I heard many pilots wondering if an elapsed time start would have been better for the conditions. Either way, I don't think it would have made much difference to me, I wasn't going to launch with the wind that strong.

Gaven Zahner won the comp, Christian Maurer was second, Phil Hystek was third, full results are here.