Saturday, March 17, 2007

Last Flight in OZ

I can't believe it, but today was my last flight in Oz, tomorrow we drive to Melbourne and Tuesday I fly back home.

Speaking of back home, apparently the snow was really light this winter because our big XC site, Pine Mt., is being flown early this year, a pilot got to 3000 meters ASL a few days ago... Maybe I can get some airtime with the home boys soon.

It seems March is a good time for consistent flying here in Bright, lots of wings in the sky today, I had 2 hours today and 2 hours yesterday. March is much cooler than summer, it's really nice here now.

I am going to miss this place, the flying community is pretty spectacular and everyone gets along, I made lots of new friends and I hope to be back in Oz next season.



Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bright in the Fall

Once again, the flying here in Bright was good - lots of thermals rising from their usual trigger points made for nice XC conditions yesterday.

I've gotten familiar enough with the valley/ridge systems here that on most decent days, I can do some fun triangles, or out and returns, without the annoying problem of sinking out in the middle of a good day.

Bright typically has several inversions - one or more mid-level ones, and a big one that stops all rising air - the big one is actually a good thing because with a good lapse rate and no inversions, chances are the sky will OD and stop all the fun.

With the help of using Google Earth to analyse my flight path, I have seen one way to break through a particularly tough inversion, it goes something like this:

First you need a stronger than normal thermal. Lets say you are coring up a moderately drifting thermal at 400-600 ft/min. Then halfway to base your climb slows way down as the thermal hits the warmer layer of air. This layer acts like a "lid" and besides your climb almost stopping, it can get turbulent. At this point it's easy to give up because the ride feels like it is over, but a little persistence can pay off big.

Because of the drift, the thermal "slides" horizontally under the inversion, and you should too, because sometimes the thermal exerts enough force on the inversion to poke a hole through it, and if you stay with the main body of warm air, you get pushed through the inversion too, and once on the other side and into cool air your climb rate can increase even faster than it was down below the inversion...

Yesterday I saw a glider high over Smoko, higher than any one else was getting, so of course I had to investigate. Once I got there, I found the climbs were better organized and I broke through the inversion at ~1500 meters that had been stopping me all morning, and I topped out at 2000 meters which is where the big inversion was.

Today the high pressure slid off to the east of Australia bringing strong north winds, so no flying today.

Saturday is the last day of the Mystic Cup, it will be the last day of competition for me until the Rat Race in June...


Monday, March 12, 2007

Back in Bright

I am back in Bright, the Worlds are over and now we can get back to free flying. Yesterday we had nice 2 hr XC flights and it looks like more of the same today.

It is quite a bit cooler here than when we left, it's actually cold in the mornings. While Manilla may be getting lots of rain, it is bone dry here.

Today looks good - the picture was taken on the last day of the Worlds.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 13

Incredibly weak conditions today. Lots of pilots bombed out repeatedly. Base was low, and sometimes ridge soaring was how you stayed alive.

The race was an elapsed time race, with multiple start windows. The task was a straight line, 53.6 km to the north. With conditions as weak as they were, I thought it was amazing people got away from Mt Borah, let alone getting to goal.

The big news is that Tom McCune has come in 3rd! Josh Cohn is 8th. Bruce Goldsmith won it. These are provisional results, official results will be here eventually.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 12

It has been dumping rain most of the day, no racing today. The ground is soaked and tomorrow is the last day of the comp - the forecast makes me think they might get a task in, which would bring the total to 5 tasks.

Such is life.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 11

Today started out with lots of sunshine and very little Cu - it looked pretty stable but it also looked taskable. A ~60 km task was set going out west, just a straight line to a tiny town called Baan Baa, no turn points. The conditions were weak and it was another really tough day.

There were a ton of gliders in huge gaggles over launch, and unfortunately there were two midair collisions. The two pilots came apart on the first one - a boom 5 recovered, but the other wing was so tangled up in itself that the pilot had to deploy. I heard the pilot was ok.

The second midair was low out over the east launch, the two pilots did not separate and both had their reserves out, there were injuries on that landing. Seems like knowing how to Gaggle fly is a really important skill to have, especially on the light and weak days...

I was able to get over an hour in the air as I tried to fly upwind back to Manilla. There was some big Cu to the NW, and even some rain coming out of it, and I heard the course had some very shaded areas.

A few competitors were struggling to get away from launch very late in the day. I have heard that 20+ pilots made goal, James Lawson was the only Aussie in Goal. USA: Kari and Tom in goal. Only 2 days left in this comp!

Tomorrow's forecast looks ok. Results should be here.

Stay Tuned

Worlds 2007, Day 10

Another day without a task, the weather is always the biggest and most unpredictable variable in competition.

It was too windy today to get a task in, and we have only 3 days left, but the forecast looks like we should get some racing in.

This guy got arrested for touching the hacky sack with his hands too many times....

Stay Tuned

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 9

The pilots are heading up the hill as I post this, but the sky is very overcast, it doesn't look great. Meanwhile, the following is a small portion of an Interview with Tom McCune, Top Ranked US Team Pilot, on Day 5 of the Worlds

Brett: What were the biggest challenges you faced to get here - to compete in the World Paragliding Championships in Manilla, Australia?

Tom: Probably one of the bigger challenges was getting the time off to go to the competition. Having been married now for 21 years and I have two teenagers at home, it's not always easy to get away for that much time. Convincing my wife to let me go for a whole month, that was the biggest thing.

Another challenge came in 2002 - let me say that sometimes bad things happen to people and good things can become of it.

By 2002, years of lower back problems had me to the place where I could barely walk, and when we got a new manager at the body shop where I worked, he decided to get rid of me. So I could have taken the bad news and went down into the basement and dug holes with it and sank even lower, but I tried to keep a positive attitude, and fortunately I got the back surgery I needed in 2003 and it took a while to get the pain levels under control and the flexibility back. And so getting laid off was really the start of how I got here, competing in the Worlds.

The other big thing is all the financial support which has made it possible for me to be here, I want to thank all those who helped us get here.

Brett: Do you have an idea of where you want to place in this comp?

Tom: As best as I possibly can, and I want to have a lot of fun.

Brett: Well, everyone says to themselves, "If I could be in the top X, then I'll be stoked, Have you picked a number like that?

Tom: Yah.

Brett: Come on Tom, what's your number??

Tom: "I want the podium!" I have the same skills that they do, and I'm flying as fast a wing as they fly - I just have to make good judgements in the air, and fly fast... It's in my competitive nature to be at the top.

Brett: After the worlds, what is your next flying goal?

Tom: I don't have any plans for comps, I'd like to keep doing them, but time may not allow me to. I'm in my mid 40's and I've always been competitive throughout my life, but there is a certain time factor there that doesn't allow somebody to do anything they want to do. I just have to take it one day at a time, and see what happens.

Brett: So this might be it?

Tom: This might be it. Sadly, this might be it.

Brett: You mean you might be just a weekend warrior after the worlds? And do one comp a year? Is that enough for you?

No. I love competitions, but if I only get one week off a year, it probably won't be to do a competition, it would be more family time. Getting the time off is going to be difficult, but then again I'm keeping an open mind, I mean, some pilots are paid to fly...

Tom was in 10th place overall after 3 tasks at the Worlds, we wish him all the best!

Worlds 2007, Day 8

Today started out very blue, but free flyers were getting up off the north launch before noon, which is good sign. Nice clouds were building to the north west of Mt Borah.

The task was a 57km task that had a couple turn points on the way south to Tamworth. The ground is still super wet, and after the race I heard several pilots say the flying reminded them of the worlds at Brazil 2 years ago - a test of patience with very weak and slow conditions... Pic is of Tomas Brauner.

The race started at 2:30 with big Cu over Borah. The course had a few clouds, but got bluer towards goal. Off to the south east were huge thunderstorms, it was quite a dramatic backdrop when watching the lead gaggle race in.

Today was another day where if you didn't fly with a gaggle, your chances of getting to goal were slim. Twice I saw a pilot break from the lead gaggle and then eventually glide to the ground. It was a really, really tough day.

Approximately fifteen of the pilots in the lead gaggle made it to goal about 6pm. Heaps of pilots landed just short of goal, I saw at least 10 land within a few hundred meters of the goal line. The glide into goal was over a series of athletic fields separated by rows of trees and fences. I saw one pilot threading through a couple trees to get to the main goal field, but still landing 100 meters short of goal.

First in goal was Christian Maurer (pic on left), second was Tomas Brauner, and third in was Petra Slivova (pic on right). I think Petra is first overall, she is flying very well indeed! None of the Aussies, Kiwi's, Americans, or Canadians made goal today....

Tomorrow's forecast looks ok. Results should be here.

Stay Tuned

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 7

The day was cancelled, it was windy, not much else going on - but it's hotter than hell here.

Stay Tuned

Friday, March 02, 2007

Worlds 2007, Day 6

It has rained so many days in a row now that the ground is saturated - I saw mushrooms growing in the west bomb out. The wet ground slows the heating and when thermals do rise, they take heaps of moisture up with them. So even really weak thermals make a lot of cloud, and that shades the ground, which slows heating even more...

Last night the forecast was looking pretty grim, and with everyone at the free pilot BBQ at Cloud 9, and a band, and free drinks, well, the sacrifice to appease the weather gods was a whole lot of human brain cells... The sacrifice worked, and sunny skies greeted the many hung over pilots this morning...

The task was a 60 km zig zagger that ended at a physical goal "line" at the caravan park again. There were 3 start times, but conditions were so weak on launch that no one made the last start time. Sticking with a gaggle was the way to get to goal today and I am guessing 20 or so pilots made goal, with a lot more still on course when the task ended at 6:30pm.

For the USA, Josh and Tom were somewhere in the top five today. The Aussie's had a tough day with no one in goal. For New Zealand, I watched Middy cross the finish line with 2 meters to spare... At least one of the Canadians made goal today.

The forecast looks good, there should be more tasks to follow.

Results should be here.

Stay Tuned