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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bright Open is Over

The 2010 Bright Open is over. Congratulations to the top 10 pilots:

1Felipe Rezende3327
2Geoff Wong3318
3Shane Hill3255
4Ivan Anissimov3112
5Dave Gibbs2878
6Andrew Horchner2873
7Benn Kovco2827
8JJ Bastion2675
9Paul Underwood2664
10Schuster Mirko2606

Here are some stats for the Comp. A successful comp in all metrics in my opinion.
Sunday is the first task of the Ozone Corryong Open! The weather is looking good and we are psyched.

Metric Value
Comp Days 7
Tasks Flown 4
Sum of Task Kms (flown) 225
Sum of task winners points 3621
Pilots in Comp 59
Local Pilots in Comp 3
Reserve Tosses 0
Number of Smiles 68724

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Task 4 - Bright Open

Good day, last day of the comp!
Task 4:
# ID Type Radius Description
1 mys080 start 400m MysticTO
2 7P-100 speed 1000m GoldmineTwr
3 7S-100 waypoint 400m SmokoRidge
4 lpy073 waypoint 400m LittlePyramid
5 5F-022 waypoint 400m Eurobin
6 7S-100 waypoint 400m SmokoRidge
7 6S-034 endspeed 1000m MysticLZ
8 6S-034 goal 400m MysticLZ

We launched from Mystic again today. The task was great, 62km. The day was a bit weird - really slow in places and really fast in others, a great day to know when to speed up and when to slow down.  Photo is of me, nice shot Hamish!

Today was the only day of the comp that I had a good start, but I lost the lead gaggle after the 2nd turnpoint - it is so easy to do on a weak day. Our up valley turnpoint made everyone decide if they were going to go up the left ridge or up the right ridge, and the right ridge (MT Porepunkah) was the faster way. I followed the lead gaggle around the left ridge and it was so weak and slow and painful until we crossed the valley at the Valley Homestead TP, and got over Mt Porepunkah, then it was fast until Lil Mystic where it was really painful, and then fast again. It wasn't a typically day.

Meredyth went with the second group which took the fast route and she made goal, nice way to end the comp!

Tonight is presentation night, free food and wine! Tomorrow we head over for a week of racing at the Ozone Corryong Open! Bright Open Results are here

Task 3 - Bright Open

Finally, good conditions give us the best task of the comp!
Task 3:
# ID Type Radius Description
1 mys080 start (exit) 400m MysticTO
2 7P-100 speed (exit) 1000m GoldmineTwr
3 7S-100 waypoint (entry) 400m SmokoRidge
4 4D-020 waypoint (entry) 1000m HappyValley
5 6F-028 endspeed (entry) 400m PorepunkBridge
7 6L-028 goal (entry) 400m PorepunkAir
We launched from Mystic, making the day way easier than the long drive and hike to get to launch that we did yesterday. Blue sky and not much height to it, and the thermals were fairly weak, so we really had to shift gears and make good decisions.
The task was the perfect length - 58km, and took Geoff Wong 2:50 to complete. The crux was at the Happy Valley TP, it was very weak all around the TP, and I and a few others decided to cross the valley and hope for a climb on the ridge and then tag the TP, which was in the middle of the valley. The leaders gambled and most of them went directly to the TP and got it and were able to find climbs on the north ridge, but not everyone.

I had to scratch so low for so long, but I finally got back up and was drifting towards Myrtleford Hill, and because it always works, I deviated course and went for the sunny side on Myrtelford Hill, I found my best climb of the day, then got the TP, and flew over the scatchy part of the course. I caught up with Hamish, Benn and Jason T, and Benn and I found the highest climb of the day (1700m) and we flew to goal together, but we barely made it as it was getting late and the lift was really shutting down.

One day left to race, and then we head over for the Ozone Corryong Open! Results are here

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Task 2 - Bright Open

South winds, so we went to the Pines - but the conditions are so weak, the airspace doesn't matter!

Task 2:

# ID Type Radius Description
1 ray057 start 400m RaysPlace
2 pin055 speed 2000m ThePinesTO
3 eld020 waypoint 1000m Edlorado
4 red020 endspeed 3000m RedesdaleRiverinaRd
5 red020 goa 2000m RedesdaleRiverinaRd

It has rained this summer more than anyone can remember and a front has just swung through so the temps are low, and a south wind is blowing. It's not the combo we want.

The task was long - 80km, which was too long as no one made goal, but Andrew H. got pretty close. I shitbombed 1k after leaving the start cylinder, and then I had to hitch for 3 hours to get home, I want to have this day removed from my memory, like Jim Carey in the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cool Tools

Since it's been raining for 2 days, so I did some analysis on my flight on Task 1.  Geoff Wong's online comp scoring program has been in use in Oz for a couple of years now, all the Cat 2 comps use it.  Because pilots upload their own tracks, anyone can download anyone else's track.  

Once you have the igc file for the flight you want to compare yours too, you can use gps visualizer to convert it to a klm and then look at it along side your flight in google earth.  In gps visualizer, be sure to set altitude to Absolute (for flights) or your track will be clamped to the ground.

What I saw my track doing was taking lines that required 2 more climbs than the leader to reach the same turnpoint, no wonder I was slow.  Well, that and I completely stuffed the pig on the start.  I also saw the leader hitting a thermal after each transition, just when he needed a climb, and then doing 10 or less turns and off on glide again, rinse and repeat... what a sweet flight, no drama.

stayed tuned

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Task 1 - Bright Open

# ID Type RadiusDescription
1 mys080 start (exit) 400mMysticTO
2 7P-100 speed (exit) 1000mGoldmineTwr
3 6Q-061 waypoint (entry) 400mLittleMystic
4 7S-100 waypoint (entry) 400mSmokoRidge
5 lpy073 waypoint (entry) 400mLittlePyramid
6 6M-070 waypoint (entry) 400mBlackfellas
7 7Q-090 waypoint (entry) 400mReliance
8 6S-034 endspeed (entry) 1000mMysticLZ
9 6S-034 goal (entry) 400mMysticLZ

The forecast for day 1 was very dismall, but we woke up to sunshine and lots of CU, game on! Helka took this pic, Brian Webb is on the white wing, I am on the other wing.

Perfect task for the conditions.  Getting high over Mystic was pretty easy as we had a big CU overhead and we just boated around under it waiting for the start.  Pilots headed over to the start cylinder at Gold Mine Ridge pretty early, but when they got there, they looked like they were just surviving, and the CU was much less, so I stayed at Mystic playing with the edge of the cloud, looking down on them thinking "haha, I'm higher!".

I left about 15 mins before start, and went to a cloud upwind of the start cylinder but found nothing, and so my haha turned to "ah, shit, I just fokked myself".  My tactic didn't work - Gold Mine is usually consistent and with that many wings there, even if they are just mantaining, at least I could have had a chance of getting a good start and staying in touch with the leaders, a pretty basic concept...

The first half of the race was pretty straight forward.  I was flying conservatively, partly because I tend to not fly that well on the first day of a comp.  For the transition to Little Pyramid, I went up the Gold Mine ridge instead of crossing the valley diagonally - I saw a few gliders droppping out of the lead gaggle and landing because they arrived to Little Pyramid too low.  I crossed the valley perpendicular and saw gliders turning on the sunny side of Lil Pyramid, easy enough.  I flew through the TP to join others in a climb and then headed back to Mystic, stopping for a climb over GM ridge.

I didn't turn over Mystic, and flew into Clear Spot low, but saw a bird coring a ways out, so I knew there was lift.  The climb was super slow.  High now I went for the Black Fellas TP and took a climb there.  I decided to bypass Clear Spot and head straight to Mystic, but the line was bad...  Took a good climb at Mystic to 1500m and left for the last TP at Reliance saddle.  I got the hydraulic press for a glide - just complete shite and arrived below Gold Mine peak to find nothing but dead air with huge holes in it - it felt very weird, like 2/3 normal gravity, not enough air in the sky to pressurize the wing...  And so I lurched around in tiny bubbles, dribbling down the ridge, watching other gliders hit the dirt, pretty depressing...

I dribble/lurched/gasped for air all the way down the ridge to Little Mystic where I got another 1m/s shite climb which saved me, but it was so weak that it took forever to get back up, and since there were no gliders near me, I figured there was no rush to get to goal, so I might as well make sure I got there.  I made goal, but way way slow.  27 in goal, I was 25.

I'm glad day one is out of the way...  If it's my worst day, i will be ok, and next task I am going to try to stay up front, and stay in touch with the leaders, at least that is the theory anyway...

Comp results are here.