Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Testing the Go Pro Hero HD Camera

Last week my new camera arrived and I had the chance to test it this weekend. Here's some basic footage of a short winter flight. Looks like very good quality to me!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dutch Open, Task 3 & 4

Task 3 saw very good flying conditions and a 118 km task was set. The task launched at Aspres. 1st Turnpoint was montagne d'Oule, then Chabre, then back to Pic de Bure before heading towards Hongrie and landing at the camping.
I managed to get to Chabre and then didn't have a good plan to get to Pic de Bure. Just before arriving at d'Oule for the second time, I flew through a 2 m/s thermal, thinking that it would be better at d'Oule itself. That wasn't the case and I landed at 61 kms. Bad mistake! Fell from 22nd in the general classification to 27th.
Yesterday a small cold front came through and thunderstorms were predicted. If we were to fly, it was going to happen early. A 90 km task was set with early start gates. It soon became evident that there was going to be overdevelopment, so I started early to do as much as I could before the task became too dangerous or got stopped. A large cloud developed over Aspres and we all waited at the base for the first start gate. Flying under the cloud to get lift and then heading out in the blue again to avoid being sucked up. Quite a nice game :-)
I started with the first gaggle and made the unbelievable error to leave them when I saw Richard gliding better 2/3 kms to my right hand side. In between was sink... A very short 47 min. flight was the result and I got rewarded with minimum distance. Don't know the effect on the overall results yet. The task was stopped when the leaders were 50 kms into it. About 17 pilots hadn't even been able to start at that point.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dutch Open, Task 2, my first lead point :-)

Yesterday we left for the Apres launch. A stable day was predicted with thermal tops 2400-2800 m. That proved to be correct, I maxed out at 2600 m, but often could not get higher than 2200 m. A 70 km task was set, which would take us from Aspres to Hongrie over St Genis. From there we had to go to Tete de Boursier, Aujour and back to the camping site. When I saw the task, it was the first time I felt I could be able to make it to goal.
While the competition waited for take-off, Anne flew my old skyfloater and climbed his first thermals, just as the day before (see pictures below).
I waited quite a while before I launched because I thought conditions would improve as the day progressed. In 3 steps, I could only reach 2200 m at Aspres and decided I would try to use that to get to Aiguille. It worked out, but just barely, I arrived at the height of north-east facing ridge, not ideal... But I could climb out and was joined by a gaggle. When I left for St. Genis, the gaggle followed me, so may that's where I got my lead point...
I had to search for decent lift at St. Genis for quite a while and then decided to go straight to Hongrie. I arrived low in the foothills and spent 15 minutes just surviving and drifting/climbing towards the top of the hill. That rewarded me with a great climb to 2600 m. Many pilots who already had taken the turnpoint at Hongrie joined me in this thermal. I could now take the turnpoint and return to the same thermal before heading to Tete de Boursier. When I returned, the thermal was way weaker and only took me to 2200 m. Barely enough to make it to Tete de Boursier. Arriving on the foothills again, slowly working my way up. Mart could not get any higher above the ridge and joined me. We climbed to 1600 m and then followed the ridge towards the valley. Richard Lovelace was thermalling there but we couldn't get any higher than 1600 m either. I left for Aujour knowing that I needed to find something in the valley. That didn't happen so I landed minutes later.
15 Minutes later Richard flew by and easily climbed along the Aujour ridge. Flying home from there was easy. If it only went a little higher at Tete de Boursier, I would have made it to goal...
I managed 20th place today (on 47 pilots) and am ranked 22nd in the general classification. Not bad :-)

Dutch Open, Task 1

The first task was flown in very stable conditions. A 70 km task was set and I immediately knew that it was going to be very difficult for me due to the low ceiling. We took off from Chabre and flew towards Col St Jean, to return to Chabre. The next leg was towards Gache and I didn't really know which option to take. Go straight to Gache or go to La Platte first.
I decided for La Platte, but when I saw a glider there (not finding any thermals) I decided to go for Gache anyway. I also hoped that the valley would be active because the thermal activity on the mountains was low. Bad luck, I could not find anything and after 20 kms the game was over. I thought I would be classified really, really low, but currently I'm 25th out of 45. Better than expected. Congratulations to Koos who finished 45 mins ahead of the second pilot.
Today we're going to Aspres. The atmosphere looks less stable, but no way unstable. Let's hope we can manage to do a decent flight...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dutch Open Day 3, Task 2

Yesterday's task was cancelled so I didn't miss anything. I'm feeling a lot better today, although not very fresh yet. We will launch from the north take-off today. We'll see...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dutch Open Day 2, Task 1

Not a very nice day for me. Felt sick and had a fever yesterday evening and woke up with a soar throat today. Feeling very weak. No flying for me today. Everybody just left the camp site to fly the first task starting from the Chabre. I think I'll drive up anyway because I just can't miss the atmosphere.
Here's a visualization of one of the best thermals so far. It took me from 1500 m to 3000 m within 5 minutes. That was spectacular!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day five and six, 2 flights, first to goal

Yesterday was a windy day. We took off from Chabre and landed half an hour later. Too turbulent. Jean-Claude broke an upright on landing. I landed at the camp site and instead of doing it in style, I pushed out too late and landed on my chest. Not the way to do it in front of public.
Today nobody knew where to take off and we decided to go to Aspres. Strong winds on launch but the sailplanes which were towed up in front of us gave us an indication that conditions probably were better in the air. Indeed, after a take-off in 30 km/h winds, there was only a moderate drift while themalling. The wind was SE to SW, so I wasn't sure whether I was going to make it to the camping 30 km's further. I failed eralier this week in similar conditions. This time I went to Aiguille instead of Aujour and headed for Serres afterwards. Serres rewarded me with a 6 m/s climb to 3000 m, from where I could glide to the camp site. First time on goal!

Landed on goalJean-Claude coming in for landing

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day three, second flight, new personal records

Yesterday turned out to be a really good day for flying. We had ceilings of 3600 m and I had a 6 m/s thermal. Both more than I have ever experienced before. Some even reported 8-9 m/s thermals. No lack of instability...
I flew with Jan Haagdorens and we decided to go south, heading for Dignes. Take off from Chabre, first climb to 2400 m, waiting for Jan to take off. A second thermal took me to 2700 m, which was enough to cross the valley to La Platte. There I climbed to 3400 m and headed for Roc d'Aigle. Couldn't find anything decent there and searched for half an hour together with Jan. Finally we headed back to the La Platte area and found a solid 5 m/s thermal which rocketed us up to nearly 3600 m. Definitely high enough to head for La Lure. At La Lure, Jan pointed me out that some small cu's were forming to our right hand side and they rewarded us with a 3 m/s climb to 3400 m. So we headed for Les Mees. A 20 km glide. The longest I've ever done and I arrived at 1900 m. High enough to start searching above the plateau.
Things were completely different over there. Only 1 m/s thermal and a 2000 m ceiling. After searching for a while in the direction of Dignes, I headed back to the Durance valley and landed near Chateau Arnoux. A 3 hour flight was finished, 61 km were flown (3 turnpoints). New PB for total distance, furthest glide, strongest thermal and highest ceiling. What a day!

The forecasts for today look even better...

First two days, one flight

The predictions have clearly been better than the real conditions and we were able to do one flight on sunday. I managed a 30 km flight against the wind in turbulent conditions, so I should not be unhappy about that.
Flying here is definitely completely different than in Belgium. The thermals are so much stronger, but also further apart. I had 2700 m at Aspres when I headed towards Aujour with Jean-Claude and I was very much confronted with his better glide angle. He made to Aujour (20 km/h headwind) while I had to survive in the valley.

I did do so for a while and eventually was able to climb up Aiguille. I then glided towards Beaumont, but found nothing decent there and landed at Montrond.

Good to get going and hoping for more.
Today looks flyable but not great. Top of usable lift predicted at 2200 m, so we'll see.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Just arrived in Laragne

The weather is beautiful and we have a light mistral blowing. No flying today due to the strong winds. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks great, so I'm really looking forward to it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2 Years of flying

It's now 2 years since my first flight in Thorame, Southern France. And from the moment I started it, this sport fascinated me more than anything else. Since then, I've spent almost every single holiday on hang gliding, only 3 days were sacrificed to skiing ;-). So what happened in these 2 years?

It started with the course I took with Tom Haagdorens in july 2007. During a week in Thorame, I did my first 10 flights, including a first thermal flight which took me 1000 meters above the St. Andre launch. The evening view was magnificent from up there and this was of course my personal highlight of that week. It couldn't have started any better!

After that week, there was a long 6-week wait, before Tom was back and I could do a few more short flights in Belgium. I did my 20th flight during the Coupe d'Icare in september and progressed from the skyfloater to the Laminar Easy which I bought at the festival.

From september until april, I flew as much as I could. It was however mostly limited to dune soaring. It was fun to practice the first wingovers, but I was really hoping for some thermal action. When spring arrived, I was very comfortable with the way I handled the Easy, but I had not encountered a single thermal with it...

The weather never cooperated during the weekends and in april I only had a 20 minute flight at the 7-Meuses site. But, I had turned for 5 or 6 circles in my first thermal with the Easy. And I was ofcourse hoping for more soon.

In may, I set off for 10 days flying, starting with a weekend in the Vosges mountains and spending the week in Laragne. I had two fantastic flights from the Treh. The first one was an evening flight, with nice smooth wide thermals taking me to cloudbase for the first time. The second one was during the early afternoon and was very turbulent. But it also was the first time I crossed a valley, the first time I flew with gliders, the first time I vomited whilst flying (hope that was the last time too) and the first time I bent an upright on landing.

With these flights I felt ready to go to Laragne and hoped to fly some serious distances. Well, that didn't really happen. The first day we drove to Aspres due to pretty strong SW winds. I was happy to be at cloudbase soon, tried to cross the valley against the wind, but that did not work out and I had to land. At least I tried... The second day was the first day in Laragne. I got to cloudbase faster than I could have hoped for, climbed 300 meters in front of the cloud (what a sight!), dove back under it because I planned to wait for Jan and decided that it was way too black to stay there. Raced to the camping site and landed. Jan did the same. We got lightning 20 minutes later...

The third day looked extremely good and I broke a wing tip while assembling the wing. That ruined the day and resulted in driving to Grenoble and back to get a new one. The fourth day I bombed out. I really wanted to do a nice XC flight and it never worked out. High winds were predicted for the next few days, so I returned home, because the forecast was better over there. 24 hours later, the weather was epic in Laragne (Jan told me on the phone) and I couldn't fly at home. I felt gutted.

I was however happy with the way I could handle the Easy and decided I wanted more performance. In june, I bought the Spyder I'm currently flying. But I hadn't had any practice in XC flying and I wanted to participate in the Belgian Open during the third week of july.

So I left for Laragne to do a XC course during the second week of july. My first flight during that week was a evening soaring flight on the north face of the Chabre. My landing was the worst ever. 30 km/h wind from the north and completely misjudged the performance of the Spyder. I was frightened that I would have too much ground effect and in reality I didn't even make the landing field because I flew out too far downwind... One broken upright on top of that.

How did the XC course go? Complete disaster. Only 3 flyable days. Bombed out twice. The day I did get up, I flew with Tom, who landed just a few minutes after crossing the camp field. I followed him after a misunderstanding. This concluded the second week trying to do my first XC flights and I still hadn't done a real one. And the Belgian Open was about to begin.

The competition started with a windy and very turbulent day in St. Andre. I didn't have a lot of confidence in gaggle flying in these conditions and as a result I did not get away from the starting ridge. The conditions did not seem to improve and after 1,5 hour trying I landed at La Mure. Still no XC flight... but I kept it safe, while 3 out of the 30 competitors suffered some kind of injury during landing (2 broken wrists).

The second day was a lot better. Not an easy day and a 66 km task was set. 9 people in goal and I managed 18 kms, with a detour ;-) My first XC flight, at last!

The third day had the best conditions, but by no means really good. A 95 km task was set, 3 in goal, I managed 22 cross-wind kms. Had a low save and scratched quite a long time under a cirrus cover. Hey, definitely an improvement again!

The fourth day started with a 20 km leg against a 20 km/h wind. That didn't look good... 85 km task, 6 in goal. I managed the headwind leg, but was too impatient at the turnpoint. Landed and was frustrated to see the 2 pilots I had just joined get high and start the 40 km tailwind leg. Missed the potential for a 60+ km flight. Half an hour later I my mood had settled down and I was just happy about the progress I had made during the competition. I had flown with the purpose of getting somewhere instead of just flying around. It felt good.

After these two weeks, it was back to Belgium, only to return 14 days later for a week in St. Andre. High hopes for my first 50+ km flight! However, the first day, I bombed out at the antenna's. Felt stupid. The second day, I scratched for 40 minutes at the west start in very turbulent air. I was giving up because it really wasn't fun anymore and headed for La Mure to land. Only to find out that there was actually a south wind blowing, resulting in strong 4 m/s thermals on the south side of the mountain. What a lesson! The others had already derigged their gliders, because they had seen how turbulent it was for me. I flew to Thorame, but did not use the potential of the day because I was all alone up there and did not know how or when I would get picked up. Being at 3500 m for the first time was memorable.

The weather did not cooperate during the next few days and I only managed one other nice late afternoon flight which took me to Pic de Chamatte. But I couldn't really get high from there and landed after 2 hours flying. I didn't reach my 50 km milestone and was a little disappointed about that. On the other hand, I had done my first XC flights during that summer, so there definitely was progress and I hoped for more in Belgium.

Belgian weather was however not giving me what I hoped for at all. The next few months I was rewarded with nothing more than just a few light thermals and it soon was winter.

Winter and early spring were spent winch towing. That meant a lot of landing practice and that was good. And I had the outlook of taking part in the Montegrappa trophy in april, flying among Europe's finest.

The trophy had beautiful weather in store and I did my best flight until now (56 km). The last day I was too impatient again and after having flown the first 30 km in an hour, I did not use some light lift I encountered, expecting better lift 3 km's further, only to have to land there. Missed potential again. But, I had been in the middle of the gaggle at the starting time and flew with 30 or 40 gliders for the first few minutes, all racing in the same direction. Quite a squadron. What a sight!

After the trophy I was looking forward to a 10-day flying trip in may. I was going to fly in the Bavarian/Austrian alps for the first time and I was all excited about it. May has the highest chances for really, really thermal conditions and if I wanted to do my first 100 km flight, this was the time and place to be. I thought, I hoped. It turned out completely different. Not one decent day resulted in frustrations. Not the way holiday should be. The best memory is Hans Kiefinger being a really nice host, inviting me to fly the Bavarian flatlands on a windy day.

Back in Belgium. Beautiful cumulus cloud at work. Not one decent XC flight during weekends. May and june have passed by.

Why did I write all this? Because 2 years have gone by since I did my first flight. And I wanted to sum up for myself what had happened in that time.

And because I'm looking forward to this year's final flying trip. On friday, I'm off to Laragne for two weeks. Hoping to fly the longest distances I've ever flown. The weather looks really good, let's see if the predictions stay that way.

Keep you fingers crossed for good weather, will you? Thanks :-)

Friday, April 10, 2009

At last a report...

So far, the holiday has been a great success. We've been away since saturday and have been flying every day. One day in Greifenburg, one day in Zillertal (flying over the slopes where I used to ski) and then we travelled towards Bassano.
We had two interesting 'training' days with nice flights over the snow covered Monte Grappa, before the competition began yesterday. The first task was a complete disaster for me. My flight only lasted a good 15 minutes while everybody else was in the air. I felt deeply embarassed...
Today was a completely different situtation. I started last and had to work hard to find some list along the slopes towards the first turnpoint. When I finally found something decent, I was joined in 'my' thermal by the leading pack. Quite a view ;-) I then could glide to the first turnpoint and got very low returning from it. I was only 200 vertical meters from landing when I got some lift again and slowly, very slowly could make my way up again. It took me 1,5 hours to do the first 15 km... After that I had some nicer thermals and worked the ridges until I landed after 2h45 flying time. I have probably gone further than 50, which is definitely a new personal record. I'm happy about today and about the week so far and we'll see what happens the next few days.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bassano, here I come!

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Bassano for my second hang gliding competition. I'm all excited ;-) I haven't done any cross country flights since my first ones in July and August, but I'm very keen to test how my thermalling skills have improved.

So I'm heading for Bassano. And I will be flying there with the European top pilots. That is, I will see them start and they will quickly leave me behind ;-)

I'm competing to test my own skills and I hope I'll manage my first 50 km flight. Ofcourse I'm dreaming of reaching goal once, but I would probably need a very good day which is completely underestimated by the task setters to be able to do that...

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to it and hope to do some great flying in the next few days. And I'll try to keep you posted!

March is over...

March was spent with a variation of short flights (winching, towing) and a few still relatively short, thermal flights. The most beautiful flights were 2 fourty-minute long fligths, one in Hinterweiler on a stable but sunny day and one in Beauraing on an unstable but almost overcast day.

In Hinterweiler I reached a height of 900 m AGL with the first real thermals of the year for me. I was impressed by the surroundings and the hospitality of the local crew. I'm certain I will go there again to spend the weekend :-) Here are 2 pictures from Hinterweiler:

The flight in Beauraing was in very unstable conditions and I was sucked upwards to a cloud street at 3-4 m/s. The cloud base was at 1100m AGL and I was able to ride the street for a full 15 minutes. Only managing 7 km's by doing so due to the strong headwinds. I guess around 40 km/h...
Finally some pictures from an overcast flight in Maillen which ended with some raindrops:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Full speed

Here's a nice screenshot from some video footage of a windy day at Zoutelande. Going full speed over the dunes :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hang gliding couldn't be easier!

We tried winching the Condor for the first time on saturday. Well, hang gliding couldn't be easier ;-) Ideal glider for training purposes!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nice flying weekend

Just had a very nice flying weekend with winch towing on saturday and dune soaring today, sunday. I shot a few video clips on saturday and quickly cut them into the next video. The video shows some starts and landings of students of hang gliding school Trike Valley.

Although it is still very early in the year (february), it was a nice day and I had an 8 minute flight from tow to 200 m thanks to some light thermals. I had about the same situation just a week ago, where I had an unexpected 15 minute flight from a tow to 400 m. It was unexpected then, because the area was almost overcast, but apparently, the air was very unstable. Good to get going again :-)

Here's the video:

Today was overcast but SW winds were predicted and they provided an opportunity to go soaring at Zoutelande in Holland. The winds were pretty strong when we arrived there and were even a little stronger when the gliders were set up. I had an enjoyable flight with some fast and low ridge racing. Going 90 km/h, sometimes just 10 feet above the ridge is quite impressive :-)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hang Gliding 2008 video

Ruben and I spent a few evenings running through last year's video material and are proud to present you the following video: