Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best wishes for 2011!

For 2011 we wish you that you may fly under beautiful clouds, enjoy long stretched convergence zones and have many, many happy landings! Enjoy life, enjoy our sport!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Belgian flying

Hang gliding in Belgium can be really beautiful. This is some footage of a september flight (the one which ended with the crash). There was some wind and the thermals were not strong, but is was a very nice flight. It's a shame that there was some condensation going on in the camera, but I think it still shows the beauty of flying. Enjoy it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going for it

It's decided. I will interrupt my job for 9 months and will fly as much as I can during that time. The main target is the World Championship this summer in Italy. In the meanwhile, I hope to learn and experience a lot.
My budget is limited, very limited. Some promising talks with possible sponsors have failed to deliver anything. Last week there was a TV broadcast showing how difficult it is to find sponsorship for not well known sports. One of the interviewed sportsmen was Bert Schmelzer, sailplane pilot and 6th during the last world champs. He couldn't find any sponsors either...
Anyway, the flight to Australia is booked. Now I need to find a way to get the glider there.
And interrupting the job means that I have two more months before I need to say goodbye to a good friend during the past hang gliding years. The BMW 1 always carried my glider in style :-) Best car I ever had!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jonny loops it once more

And I have the feeling that I need to take his message personally. Have a look at 6m40:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Failed wingover analysis

For those interested: I wrote a personal analysis of the incident on hanggliding.org due to a discussion which was started there. There are more interesting facts and videos about wingovers/loops to be read/seen in the discussion.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Failed wingover

I put this online because it should serve as an informational video to anyone doing wingovers or loops. I felt very comfortable doing wingovers and never had any scares before. For this one, I was planning to do a wingover to the right. I had enough speed but immediately after initiating the wingover (which I did a little to abrupt), my body was swung to the left which stopped the wing from turning and sent me more into a loop than into a wingover. I didn't have enough speed for that, or didn't realize my error quickly enough and the result is what you can see.
I'm not proud of this. I probably was overconfident and made a stupid error, which I didn't correct fast enough. I didn't even release the VG when I already knew I was in trouble. Second error in my opinion.
A big thank you to Metamorfosi and Woody Valley, the chute-harness combination worked very well.
And a very big thank you to Chris, who's a tree surgeon. He managed to get my wing out of the trees without any extra damage. Thank you, Chris!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tail and dolly: watch out!

Last weekend I was flying the Dutch Flatlands, a towing comp. The organizers preferred dolly take-offs above foot launches. Personnaly I like foot launches, especially with my Aeros with tail. I don't want to break the tail on the dolly or get stuck with it on the dolly during take-off. So I had a good look on the geometry and had the keel position on the dolly placed as low as possible. This to make sure that the tail would rise significantly before taking off. You can see that I had quite an angle:


As I was very cautious on the first launch, I held on to the dolly quite long and took it off the ground while launching. The result was that the tail was well clear of the dolly:


This was confirmed by people watching my launch. I had asked them to pay attention to the position of the tail. My second launch I was more at ease with it, because of this. The result was that I released when I felt sure that the glider was going to fly, instead of having a big speed margin to make sure the tail was well up. The result is that the tail probably came very close to the dolly (there's already forward movement compared to the dolly):


Who has already done a large number of dolly starts with a tail? Anyone else with experience regarding this topic? Any suggestions to make sure the tail will never hit the dolly?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dutch Flatlands, day 2, task 2, task win :-)

Sunday had more wind and a very low cloudbase to start with. But the predictions were looking good. A 53 km task was set with a short crosswind leg followed by a tailwind leg and then a headwind leg to return to base.
We were towing upwind of a sailplane winch area which we couldn't cross beneath 700 m. But we were promised to be released on the upwind side of the field. That didn't happen when I got towed up. I was released at 500 m, right on the border of the restricted zone. So I immediately had to fly away against the wind, to find a thermal. Luckily, it worked out and I had 750 m when I crossed the border. That was a relief.
The thermal brought me to cloudbase at 1300 m. The view over the flatlands, woods and rivers of the Netherlands was magnificent!
I never got particularly strong climbs, but did have consistent ones and never got strong sink. I had nice final glide with a max speed of 112 km/h because I had to burn of some altitude. This resulted in a 1h20m flight and victory for the day.
Less good was that I had very painful arms during the flight because of a harness modification. I had cut off the blood and it was very hard to find some force to steer the glider. Luckely my thermals weren't rough. After landing my arms started shaking for a few minutes and they feel pretty sore today. But more on the harness modification in a later post.


In the general classification, Andre Disselhorst is on top, so he won the 2010 Dutch Flatlands. Congrats! Congratulations also to Koos de Keijzer who's the Dutch Champion for the 7th time! The Dutch Championship is the combined result of the Dutch Open and the Dutch Flatlands, so you have to be an allrounder to win it. And Koos did it many times now...

Dutch Flatlands day 1, task 1

Saturday was the first day of the Dutch Flatlands competition. The day looked very good from the beginning, but after the first starts it was soon clear that the day was more difficult than it looked.
I had a disaster day. Not a single thermal in my first tow. Restarted and got towed through a thermal at low altitude. I hesitated to release and when we hadn't encountered anything else a minute later, I decided to release at 350 m and return to the spot. I couldn't find anything decent anymore and was forced to land a second time. Very bad decision. I wasn't in a thermal, so I shouldn't have released before I got to release height. It's as simple as that.

I took a third start, but the trike had an engine failure at 100 m. I was disappointed in myself and gave up, because I thought the day would come to an end soon, it was 16h30. That was the second big mistake, because the sky looked good until 18h30. I felt more and more stupid by the minute...
So, that was a minimum distance day.
Thanks to Sander van Schaik for the picture. By the way, Sander produces a very nice hang gliding calendar every year.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Busy weekend and Brazilian thermalling

This weekend is going to start with one or more tandem flights on friday evening. Followed by a party in Gent and then on saturday and sunday I will participate in the Dutch Flatlands competition. You will surely be able to follow it on the site of the Dutch federation. So the weekend will be busy.
Yesterday I found a very nice video by Erick Vils, a Brazilian hangie, which really nicely shows the fight for position in a thermalling gaggle. It is an aerial battle/dance. You want to get up there first but you have to respect the others for everyone's safety. I love being in this partially synchronized, rapidly changing environment, so I thought I'd share it with you...

New month

A new month is a new poster babe at work (september's babe is called Oriana), but also a new world ranking. And I've climbed up to 87th, into the top 100! In may I didn't yet belong to the top 500. You can see the evolution here. No need to say I'm happy about this :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dune racing in Zoutelande - fast and low...

Last weekend I had an enjoyable flight in Zoutelande. Lots of fun speeding along the dunes (and the paragliders). Here's a short video:



And for the people with more patience, there's a long version too...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chasing a seagull

Usually seagulls don't let you get close to them. But last saturday in Zoutelande, this one didn't seem to notice me for quite a while...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Comp season is over: a big thank you to you all!

As I'm thinking back on the previous competition month and the results I obtained there (42nd in the Europeans, Belgian Champion and 3rd in the Dutch Open), it is clear that there are a lot of people who deserve a thank you.
In the first place, a very, very big thank you goes to Tom Haagdorens of hang gliding school Trike Valley. Tom learnt me the initial basics of flying three years ago and has supported me ever since. He encouraged me to go flying as much as I could, to go cross country and to start competing. All these things I would probably have done myself, but no way as fast and as good as it went with his drive and advice all the way through. Tom also was there to slow me down when he thought I had to much self confidence or the conditions were marginal/dangerous for flying or for my level of flying. I think I couldn't have asked for a better teacher.
In the second place I must thank Ruben Vandille. A good friend who has also supported me in many ways during these 3 years. Thanks Ruben!
I also want to thank my employer Terremark. They acknowledged how important hang gliding is to me and sponsored me while allowing me 10 extra days of unpaid leave. Without that I would have done 2 competitions less and that would have been a real shame. Thanks a lot.


Then there's Peter Mertens. Peter has been working on the winch and trike, has picked me up when I landed out and has always been there for many people when they needed help. Thanks Peter!
There's Ellen Lafaut, Tom's partner, who had very long retrieves during the Europeans on the long and winding Spanish roads. Ellen also has to accept that I regularly visit them on the most impossible times, just to pick up spare parts, order helmets, harnesses or just to talk about flying...
And there are many more people who contributed. Hans Kiefinger has been a really nice host in Germany. Next to being such a nice host, he demonstrated me that you can do serious flights on very, very cloudy days and that was an eye-opener. I spent a lot of time with the Russian team this year, (Natalia, Maxim and Julia in particular), always receiving a very healthy breakfast ;-) But much more important is that they are inspiring in many ways. My long term running mate David who also did a few retrieves and had to listen to flying stories for hours while running, should also not be forgotten!
I also want to thank Aeros who were very helpful last winter, during the ordering process for my first competition glider. The glider has been a superb companion on my flying adventures. Trustworthy from the beginning and it turned out to be pretty fast too :-)
Jean Solon of the Belgian federation also deserves a thank you. He wasn't sure about selecting the unexperienced pilot for the Europeans. But I think I didn't let the Belgian Federation down. Thanks for letting me participate!
And a last 'thank you' should probably go to the hang gliding community. A strange brotherhood of people who devote a lot of time to the strong passion of free flying. In most cases we do not fly alone and especially while learning, we often need a helping hand or a critical eye. I received these many times, in many cases even from unknown pilots. Thanks a lot!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Podium picture

I don't think Zhenya will be angry that I copied the picture from her blog...

3rd in the 2010 Dutch Open!

Day 5 and 6 were cancelled due to bad weather. So I'm 3rd in the overall standings! My best flying ever in a very serious competition (there were some hotshots in the comp) should make me enter the top 100 on the world ranking. More on that in a good 2 weeks.
The comp organizers made daily reports and movies on the action. I'll check them all when I'm back home.
But for now, the comp season is over...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Results after task 3

The results after task 3 have been published. I guess I'll drop to 4th after today.
And ofcourse, I'm pretty proud of my task win on task 2. Beating the European Champion, Gerolf Heinrichs :-)

Dutch Open, task 3 & 4

Task 3 was difficult. We had a 130 km task with half of the course in the shadow of thunderstorm anvils. This made us all fly very slow, trying to just to make the distance. I was 8th for the task and moved up to 2nd overall. Only Gerolf ahead of me...
The forecast for today spoke of chances for overdevelopment, so we had an early, rather short (85 km) task up and down the ridge. I didn't want to lose my place in the overall ranking and probably was to scared to take the risks needed to fly fast. End result: I was to slow to defend my overall place. I was probably about 20 mins slower than Gerolf, but also 15 mins slower than the pilots just behind me in the standings. I guess I'll slip to 5th or 6th... We'll see.
The weatherforecast doesn't look good for the next days, so flying might have come to an end. Let's hope not. And I would really love to have one more free flying evening at Monte Cucco...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2010 Dutch Open, task 1 & 2

Two days of competition, two tasks. On monday, we had a 95 km task, where I got low once and spent some time recovering from it. But it was a nice flight and I got 13th place.
Yesterday we had even better conditions and a 120 km task was set. I started a little slow, but made a very good decision after the south turnpoint which allowed me to race for the next 30 km's. From then on, I was in the lead with Anton Struganov, although we flew different paths. And I only knew that I was really flying fast and possibly in the lead when I saw Gerolf flying towards a turnpoint I had already done.
I was shooting up in a particularly strong thermal (5,5 m/s average) and left it at 2100 m because there is an airspace limit at 2330 m. However, during my glide, I suddenly noticed that I was at 2302 m. I pulled in as hard as I could, but my highest point was at 2360 m. An airspace infringement...Here's the flight.
When I landed, I was first at goal and Anton congratulated me. See this video made by Daphne. Soon it was confirmed that I had an airspace infringement. I should get a warning for it. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't get a zero, because I might have won the task...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Free flying at Monte Cucco. Pure fun!

On friday I drove to Sigillo, Italy. 1400 km, some traffic jams, 17 hours. I was pretty tired in the end...
Saturday was the last competition day of the Pre-Worlds at Monte Cucco. I wanted to do some free flying, but had to wait until all the competitors were gone before I was allowed to start. Bad timing, as a rain cloud was approaching and they were still having discussion whether I would be allowed to start. When I finally got in the air, I saw that a lot more rain was approaching and I thought that landing was the safer option. A short 20 min flight was the result. Half an hour later, the sky looked much friendlier again, but I was on the ground. 90+ pilots of the Pre-Worlds completed the task with many of them arriving within a few minutes. The busiest hang glider landing place I've ever seen. There was some traffic!
Today, Sunday, we woke up with very nice weather. I went to the Pre-Worlds prize ceremony and gave Wolfi a ride up to Monte Cucco afterwards. We rigged our gliders, launched shortly after 12 and started playing, going full speed over the start area. Wolfi went pretty extreme again and scared himself at a certain point when he touched the ground with a corner of the A frame. He knows he's lucky that he didn't slam into the ground.
Monte Cucco is such a nice place to do top landings. You fly for an hour, land, eat something, have a chat, get into your harness again and do your next flight. Big fun.
I did my last flight at 6 o'clock. The air was already much calmer and there was a nice laminar flow over the start area. This was the best time to play. Dive in behind the hill, get in ground effect, basebar 50 cm of the ground and dive down into the valley again, gaining speed while you skim the ground. A lot of fun! I'll definitely post some video material when I'm back home.
Tomorrow is the first day of the Dutch Open. The level will be high. Quite a few Pre-Worlds pilots stay here to compete in the Dutch. I'm teaming up with Hans Kiefinger, Christa, Achim, Camo and Hadewych. Let's see what we can do!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Surprise drink at Terremark

My colleagues organized a surprise celebration for the Belgian Championship victory. We had a nice little drink outside and enjoyed the moment. Thanks a lot guys!




Sunday, August 1, 2010

Belgian Champion :-)

I won the 2010 Belgian Hang Gliding Open! The results will be online soon.
Gliding into goal on task 3, I knew I had won it and I had enough altitude for a wingover so I celebrated the victory (see video) :-)


Thanks a lot to Terremark for their support. The past 3 weeks have been incredible with many personal bests and new experiences. This is me enjoying my victory beer with 'Terrebird':

Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 Belgian Open, day 6 cancelled

The winds continu to blow. We drove up the mountain because we expected the winds to weaken, but that did not happen by 3 PM. To late to start a task so the day was cancelled.
Luckily, the predictions say that tomorrow should be a perfect hang gliding day. There will only be valley winds and 4 m/s thermals to 3500 m. Looking forward to it! Tomorrow is the last day of the competition and I am in the lead of the Belgian Open and 400 points ahead of the second Belgian, so tomorrow will be a tense day. I don't want to screw up!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 Belgian Open, day 5 cancelled

Another strong wind day. Even sailing wasn't possible. Tomorrow looks flyable and Saturday looks superb. We'll see.

2010 Belgian Open, day 4, task 2

Yesterday morning looked like a perfect flying day. Sunny and almost no winds. We discussed a 120 km task while driving up to Chabre.
During briefing it was already clear that the NW winds were increasing and we removed the turnpoint at Pic de Bure, because it could be very turbulent there. That gave us a 94 km task. But, on the horizon, a thick cirrus layerwas coming our way. As it turned out, the cirrus was covering just about our task area the whole afternoon. Just after the briefing, Malcolm and I looked at each other and Malcolm said "what a rubbish task we have set". I agreed.
Tom launched early to make as much distance as he could before the cirrus shut down everyting. So, although I did not really want to start early, I had to start too. Tom got low and really had to work to get high. The same happened to me, I had to work for 45 minutes before I could start the task. Tom was long gone by then.
It turned out to be very difficult and I managed to fly 59 km, which is 3 more than Tom did. Nick Pain was the task winner with 63 km. But, because no one made goal, it was a low scoring task. While I feared that I was losing points while flying, I slightly extended my lead in the general classification. I now have 1400 points with Gijs Wanders (NL) in second place (1300 points). Second Belgian is Tom with 1000 points.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Belgian Open, Day 3 cancelled

Pretty strong mistral winds. No task today.

Belgian Open, Day 2, Task 1, first task win!

Yesterday we had a 77 km task from Laragne to the sailplane field in Puimoisson. With north winds, flying to the south should have resulted in a fast task. I started the task with 2400 m above Chabre and flew to Gache, arriving just below the ridge. I could only thermal up for 300 m there and crossed Sisteron to attach to the Roc d'Aigle. I managed an extra 300 m and was able to make it to the foothills of Montagne de Lure. Finally, in pretty rough conditions there, I was able to get high. But, we had a 2300 m ceiling due to airspace restrictions, cloudbase was a few 100 m higher. I made sure I never got over 2300 m and flew to the last turnpoint following the clouds. There was some serious sink at the last turnpoint and I had to find 200 m to make it to goal. 15 km before goal, I had my best thermal, with 4 m/s climb. I now easily could make it to goal, where I expected to see already a few gliders on the ground.
Big surprise when I couldn't find anyone there. I was first on goal and most of the other pilots had also taken the first start gate, so it looked good for me!
I indeed won my first task :-)
Currently there are serious discussions about airspace infringements. The FAI sporting code says that pilots who have minor infringements (less than 100 m) should get a warning and others should get 0 points for the task. Three pilots had minor infringements (I did with 18 m, Malcolm had 90 m and a 3rd pilot with 34 m). Three other pilots had serious infringements of more than 300 m. At this moment, the rules are applied, but discussions are going on...
I am surprised however that I have a tracklog above 2300 m. I'm quite sure my instrument never indicated that. The times I was close to the limit, I very regularly checked my height and I never saw anything above 2280 m. So it seems we must take a greater margin of error to be sure...
Anyway, it feels good to have won a task :-)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Belgian Open, task 1 cancelled

We travelled from Ager to Laragne for the Belgian Open. Toady was the first competition day, but the Mistral is blowing. Task cancelled.
The weather doesn't look good for the coming days. Tuesday should be flyable, and maybe even very good, but Wednesday and Thursday look like Mistral days again. Let's hope we get at least 3 tasks for the competition!

2010 Europeans are over!

Day 12, Task 9. Rain in the morning with a very low cloudbase. Quite a lot of wind predicted and there should be better weather coming in so we headed up the mountain. Some pilots didn't even start setting up their glider because they couldn't believe we would have a flyable day later on.
The weather indeed cleared and we got a 87 km task out in the flats. I started well and followed the lead gaggle until 20 km before goal. But, I wasn't feeling comfortable in the air and somehow slowly lost height in the gaggle. I started the race on top and now, near the end, I was low, but still in the lead gaggle. I just needed 1 more thermal to make it to goal. I started flying conservatively due to my decreasing altitude, but when I saw the lead gaggle shoot up 2 km ahead of me, I raced towards them. 1 km before the gaggle, I flew through a 2 m/s thermal, so I concluded that the one ahead surely needed to be a strong one if the area around already had such rising air. Sadly, I found nothing below the gaggle. The 2 m/s thermal probable was the same one, but broken from the part the gaggle was in due to the wind. I didn't find anything decent anymore and had to land 18 km from goal. I needed 1 more thermal to end the competition in style and I failed.
It cost me a lot of points because 50 pilots made goal. I dropped from 34th to 39th and I am no longer first Benelux pilot. That honour goes to Koos. Well done Koos!
Still, 39th place should provide me with something like 40 points for the world ranking, which should move me into the top 150. Will the Belgian and Dutch Open enable me to reach the top 100 this year? I'll try, but hey, no guarantee!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 Europeans, task 8, racing day

Yesterday was a risky day for overdevelopment, so the task committee decided on a short 77 km task. Launch conditions looked difficult at first with a 22 km/h east wind in the valley, blowing along the ridge.
I took an early start and headed against the wind to approach the start circle from the east. I worked on that for half an hour, until the thermal seemed to die there and I drifted back towards launch. 5 Minutes before the first start gate, I got high again with the guys who just started at that moment...
But OK, I wasn't in a bad position to start and had a really nice, fast flight. In an easy thermal I didn't release the VG because I really want to optimize my climb. I pushed out a little and thermalled like that. Suddenly, I did it a bit too much and the glider got into a spin. I lost 100 meters in a matter of seconds and it was only after releasing the VG that I dared pulling it out of the spin. There was much more force involved in the spin than I expected it would have. I will never thermal the Combat with full VG again, not even in the smoothest thermals!
I loved racing the clouds and was in goal in 22nd position, which is my result in the task too. I got 792 points for the task, a new personal best which took me to 34th overall. First pilot of the Benelux. Absolutely way past my personal expectations or ambitions. I hope I can continu the learning curve. I love this sport!
Have a look at the videos on the Ager 2010 blog. The sound of gliders diving into goal at high speed is so cool :-) Yesterday I flew into goal with a top speed of 113 km/h. Against the wind that is. It's always big fun to aim for that white goal line!

2010 Europeans, task 7, lots of broken pieces

Task 7 was a tricky one. We headed northeast against a 20 km/h wind. The thermals were rough and I clearly lacked experience fighting against the wind in the mountains. After 45 km, I got into the lee of a mountain and it felt like being inside a washing machine. And one that's going down fast!
I had a nice green landing field in sight and could just make it there. There was already one glider standing there. The field had 3 terasses and the landed glider was on the smallest upper terasse. I chose to land on the biggest one, the middle one. I turned to downwind and saw the field from the side for the first time. ****! There are 2m high sprinklers all over the field! They were 20 m apart, but covered the whole field and there was no other option than to land in that field. Turbulent, windy conditions and having to land the glider in a 20 m crosswind lane. Not ideal to say the least! I managed to stay in the lane during my groundeffect glide, but got out of course and headed for a sprinkler short before I normally would have to land. I flared early and high to avoid piercing the sail on the sprinkler. The landing was pretty hard and I broke an upright. 2 Years without damage are finished...
5 minutes later a Hungarian pilot arrived low. I tried to convince him to land on another field, but he saw 2 gliders in a perfectly green field, so he came to land too. He slightly clipped one of the sprinklers with his left wing, causing some damage to the carbon winglet but landed fine. For him, it also was a big scare when he noticed the sprinklers (really late).
Another 5 minutes passed before Julia arrived on the scene. She was still quite high and probably could have made it to another landing field, but hey, our field was so green and already had 3 gliders on it. She didn't interprete our frantic movements to make her to land as an indication of trouble ahead. She came in nicely for her landing, but slow because she probably didn't want to have a long glide in between the sprinklers. And then, very quickly, a turbulence sent her nose down, crashing her into the field from about 5 to 7m. The impact was very hard and she was motionless when we arrived there. A few seconds later she regained consciousness and she could move all fingers and toes. But she obviously had a slight concussion and didn't remember the crash. The glider had a broken keel.
Another 5 minutes later, Natalia arrived. Congrats to her for a nice landing on that field. None of the pilots saw the sprinklers until the very last moment. The farmer came to have a look at us, confirming us that the sprinklers were 'veery dangeroos'.
I'll watch out for suspiciously green fields in the future!
Many more pilots had bad landings that day. The continuous flying was taking it's toll in terms of fatigue. Since the weather predictions weren't super for the next day, the organizers decided to have a rest day. Many pilots were repairing their glider during that day (in most cases just replacing an upright).

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Europeans, task 6, many lead points

Yesterday we had a stable, pretty difficult day with a 113 km task. I wanted to start early to take lead points to compensate for my speed and to be helped by others in the second half of the task.
While nobody wanted to start at the first start gate, I took off to a ridge north of the start, convinced that there would be decent thermals there. But I didn't find any when I got there. To make matters worse, got below ridge height and had to choose the east side of the ridge, which was in the lee of the westerly winds, because there were no landings on the west side of the ridge. To make it even worse, the first turnpoint was situated on the west side of the ridge, so I had to get higher to be able to cross it again.
When I already was pretty much convinced that I would have to land, I found my first weak thermal. I just allowed me to stay aloft. This continued for 20 minutes. Just maintaining height, not getting anywhere. Then things got better and I was able to start flying along the foothills of the ridge until Talarn, but never getting high enough to cross it. At Talarn, I suddenly had a 4 m/s thermal which took me just high enough to make it across the ridge. On the other side I got pretty low again, but eventually I found a nice thermal and got high (2500 m). I started the glide to the first turnpoint and saw that the valley north of the turnpoint was full of gliders. Many had taken the second start gate. I was first to round the turnpoint and headed for Talarn again, looking for my 4 m/s thermal to extend my lead. Major mistake. Talarn was a detour and I only found 1 m/s lift when I got there. The lead gaggle past me on the north, taking the direct route.
I could join the second gaggle and headed for the valley of Isona. Coming back from Isona I had a really close encounter with a vulture. It probably flew on the wave of my leading edge. So close! Beautiful.
I made goal in 12th position. I was slower than many others, but I knew I would have quite a lot of leading points. It resulted in 33rd position for the task with 94 leading points. Rob was right behind me in the standings, flying 20 minutes faster. So the leading points compensated for 20 mins flying. Not bad. The flight made me regain some places I had lost the day before. I'm now 43rd, it would be nice to make it back to the top 40.

2010 Europeans, task 5, racing with Jonny and Alex

Two days ago, we had task 5. I try only to remember the positive things about the flight. The start gaggle at cloudbase was nice and the race start was impressive. I basically followed Jonny until the first turnpoint and that definitely was faster than I ever flew before. Somehow I lost the contact after turning around from the turnpoint. I really don't know how that happened, but it did. And at the same moment the thermals seemed to die. I stayed in the air for another 20 minutes, but had to land after 45 kms. Not good. Lost 10 places in the overall standings (49th).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010 Europeans, task 4, 196 km!

On friday, we had a beautiful day and the task committee decided to give us a really big task. 196 km were to be flown. The day was really good and I surpassed my own expectations. I made goal, with a new personal record for distance and speed.
The final glide to goal was probably the most nerve wrecking thing I have ever done in hang gliding. I started the final glide about 25 km from goal, into a headwind. The compeo said I would have 600 m above goal and after a few kms glide, the instrument only gave me 200 m. Luckely the glide got better then and I rounded the last turnpoint with a predicted 400 m above goal. And with the wind in the back! Time to get some speed. I started gliding at 90 km/h and sped up to 115 km/h just before goal, overtaking Larry (USA) in the final kms. That was true racing :-p
Many happy faces at goal as an unbelievable total of 62 pilots made goal. The organizers never expected that.
And ofcourse, Jonny made a movie about it:


This flight put me in 39th overall, but yesterday's flight was a little disaster for me, landing after 45 km. So I dropped to 49th. But I'll write about that later. Time to get up the mountain for task 6!

Friday, July 16, 2010

41st!

Well, the general classification is published. Yesterdays task made me climb from 65th to 41st in the rankings. 1st Belgian and well inside the first half. Will I be able to continue this?

2010 Europeans, task 3, 22nd!

A 112 km task was set yesterday on a day which had a very pronounced inversion. People were not looking forward to the start gaggle as very dense traffic was expected due to the low thermal height. It was indeed very busy!
The day before was cancelled to strong winds and I bought some cycling gloves because my gloves are too hot for Spain. But... I pulled the VG when I jumped from one thermal to another above the start. When I wanted to release it when I entered a busy thermal, the VG rope got stuck around my bare fingers after only releasing a tiny bit. My right hand was stuck to the glider and I was flying the busy thermal with almost full VG. Not good. It took me about two minutes to untie the knot with my left hand and release my fingers which were pretty sore by then. Won't fly with these gloves again!
A few minutes later I was pretty high for the conditions and the first start gate opened. I decided to start, but only Markus Ebenfelder and I flew away. Two out of 90, I didn't trust it, so I returned to the start gaggle. 8 Minutes later I was pretty high again and I went anyway. That's an 8 minute penalty in time, but hey, it was good to get away and to be in front. I just had to make sure I kept flying and then a lot of people would pass me.
It turned out that I was very fast towards the first turnpoint, where I caught up with Markus. We were both thermalling with about 1 km between us when a group of about 15 vultures shot up beneath and in between us. We both headed for the birds. Their thermal was the best of the day for me and it was impressive to fly really close to them. One was only about 5 meters from me for a while.
I lost a lot of time from the first to the second turnpoint because I went through the valley and was caught by some pilots while I was thermalling up in a crappy thermal at the turnpoint. But from now on, I was no longer alone. A few kms further, the lead gaggle caught us (they started 20 mins after me) and I flew with the top pilots for the first time. I even sacrificed some height just to be able to glide next to Jonny and Gerolf for a while, to see how good my glide is compared to theirs. Not bad actually, I expected more of a difference.
Goal was only 2 thermals away at that point, so I started flying cautiosly because I really wanted to make goal. I took my last thermal only a few kms before goal under a convergence line because we were going to have a headwind from the sea breeze behind the convergence. Gerd Doenhuber flew under me to race towards goal and I had 400m excess height from a 6 km distance, so it really couldn't go wrong anymore. I had Gerd in sight and could race by him due to the height I had. Nice game :-) I lost the lead gaggle by flying slower, but came across the line in 12th position or so. Wow, certainly my best flight ever!
They published the scores for yesterday's task and I'm 22nd with 747 points. New PB. Taking the risk of going early provided me 91 lead points. The guys in 21st and 23rd were a good 10 mins faster. I like lead points :-) I don't know where it takes me in the general classification, but I think I will be in the top 50. Let's hope I can keep flying like this!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jonny's video on task 2

Jonny has made a really nice video on yesterday's task. Make sure you have a look at the final glide and landing!

2010 Europeans, task 2

Driving up the mountain yesterday, we saw a thick inversion layer and we feared it would really be difficult to get up from the ridge. The task committee clearly also feared the stability and set a 90 km task. Rather short for a European championship, but I really had my doubts whether it was possible on such a stable day.

We all knew the start was gowing to be crowded. Pretty weak, sometimes broken thermals and 90 pilots fighting to get up. I started when about 50 pilots were in the air. Quite a view to see almost all of them circle in the same thermal. I took me quite a while before I found a decent thermal which took me high enough to start. I didn't want to wait another 22 mins until the next starting gate, so I started the race with an 8 minute 'penalty'. But it was good enough to be able to get away.
The first part of the course went well. I was catching up people because I could see them thermal ahead of me. Blay showed me a very nice 3.5 m/s thermal and thermalling up with him at the same altitude was really, really synchronized. And hey, I didn't climb slower than one of the best :-)
After the first turnpoint, I made the wrong decision of trying to follow ridges to speed up the pace. I left Blay and Wolfgang 'Wolfi' Siess because I thought they were taking too much risks trying to go fast and probably low later on. 2 mins later I saw them climbing very fast, but I didn't want to take the risk to leave my thermal at that moment to join them. Crucial mistake, they went up to 3050m and basically glided into goal from there. I got low on the other hand and survived on the ridge I followed but lost more than half an hour on them.
Wolfi got 3rd place into goal, I got 56th position. Damn... But it was a really good feeling to be on goal on a day where I had my doubts whether I would get anywhere. Spain is definitely different from Belgium ;-)
BTW, check out Wolfi's videos. They're pretty spectacular!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Europeans, task 1

Yesterday was a difficult day. Stable air and weak thermals are not what Ager is known for. They set a 130 km task with 3 start gates. People were clearly reluctant to start because of the weak conditions. I planned to be in the air for the second start gate and I started at the right time for that, but I just couldn't get enough height to make the first crossing over a few unlandable kms. It took me an hour to get the first somewhat consistent thermal. I didn't look at the start time at all at that moment and just started the race.
I got quite low before the first turnpoint and flew low and alone after that. When I finally got some height again, I was joined by a gaggle and immediately after made a crucial mistake when I didn't trust the route they were taking. Soon after I was on the ground and I saw them passing by on the other side of the valley.
The flight delivered me 61st place out of 90 pilots. I hope to improve on that today.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Preparing for the Europeans

On thursday, I'll drive to Ager to participate in the European Championships. And I'm nervous about it. Not about flying together with the best. I have confidence in my hang glider handling and I like the busy 3D thermalling-in-traffic-game. But what will my performance be? In the German and Austrian comps I flew close to Julia and Tiefi's performance, two other young pilots (6 and 4? years experience, but many more flights/comps). And they are flying really well in the Spanish Open at this moment. But what will happen when the top 5 of every national competition is present? I'd hate to be low down in the results. But I fear it will happen... and that's why I'm nervous about it.
I shouldn't expect it any other way. I only fly for three years, it's now not yet 2 years since my first cross country flight. And I fly in Belgium, where conditions aren't optimal, but maybe that's good for training?
Anyway, the waiting has lasted for long enough now. Let's just go and fly. And hope it will at least be a good training for the Belgian nationals, immediately after. I want to be on the podium there!

Friday, July 2, 2010

201st

It's now July 2010 and I'm 201st in the world rankings, exactly 3 years after my first flight. 2 Months ago I was 501st. It's just a matter of flipping the 5 :-)
Time to get nostalgic. This is how it looked like 3 years ago. I was all pumped up and just couldn't wait for my first flight. I barely managed a smile for the camera. Come on, let me run off the mountain!

Nowadays things look way more aerodynamic and I absolutely love my sport!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two nice pictures

Artem, a Russian artist/comedian/photographer made these 2 pictures of me launching in Bassano. For me, the second picture really captures the energy/intensity of a launch. I love it :-)


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Austrian Open, 3 tasks, great flying

We had 3 really great days of flying at the Austrian Open. The tasks were 70, 120 and 150 km. I was short on the first day (50 km out of 70), but made goal on day 2 and 3! 120 km and 150 km were 2 consecutive personal bests for me :-)
It delivered me 21st place on 53 participants in the overall standings, which was better than expected. I hoped to end in the first 2/3 and ended up well in the first half. The target for the Europeans now is first 2/3 and I want to be on the podium for the Belgian Championship. Top 10 in the Dutch Open would finish it off... We'll see.
The scenery in Austria was stunning, with the bright fresh snow on the mountains. It was really nice to see all those mountains I had walked/climbed on before. Steinerne Meer, Watzmann, Hoher Sonnblick, Tennengebirge, ... I definitely want to fly there more often!



Thanks to the points earned in the German Open, I'm currently 346th on the world ranking. Should be in the top 200 by the end of summer. Maybe even in the top 150? Stay tuned ;-)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Austrian Open, here we come

Yesterday we at last had a nice flight in Bassano. Nothing extraordinary, a relatively short 1 hour flight, but I enjoyed it very much. Thermals were weak at first but then we got overdevelopment and I landed after doing the first wingover-alike moves with the combat. Quite an experience, you really feel the energy retention. It's so nice when the speed gradually bleeds off when you rise back into the air. There will be more fun in the future :-)
Today we drive towards Zell am See, where we will probably have three flyable days for the Austrian Open. Competition time again. Keep your thumbs up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bad weather all over the alps

The last three days, we headed for Bassano del Grappa on the south border of the alps, because it looked to be the only flyable place in the complete alpine region for a few days.
We drove there through torrential rains, the car aquaplaned at 80 km/h and you don't want a lot of that with the gliders on top...
We found beautiful weather in Bassano, if it wasn't for the foehn. 50 km/h north winds with extreme turbulence. No flying... So, now where wednesday and we haven't been flying since saturday. Today look reasonable to good, so we'll see what happens. We will fly for sure!
The forecast for the Austrian Open has dramatically changed and should give us three good days (friday, saturday and sunday). Keep your fingers crossed for that! Thanks ;-)

German Open, 2nd task

Yesterday (well, saturday that was) we had the second task of the German Open. The weather conditions were difficult again. A lot of clouds and a lot of shade, especially in the mountains.
The task committee decided on a short 47 km task heading out into the flats with a return to the alpine border. Cloudbase was about 200 meters above the mountain top when I launched. The conditions were really weak and we were all thermalling very close to each other, but it was really nice and safe due to the mellow conditions. With my rather large 14 m2 wing, I managed to climb to the top of the gaggle. It really felt good :-)
However, as I was on top and reached cloudbase, I had to make a decision. Head out and start the task, or wait and see what the others do. I decided to head out to reach the more sunny flatlands as soon as possible. I started gliding and noticed that no-one followed me. Ok, let's just try it. I picked a hill as the most likely thermal source and indeed there was something when I arrived there. But not much. I was trapped there for 45 minutes, before I slowly got higher again.
When I reached 1300 m, which is 700 m above ground, I decided to look for the next thermal. 2 kms further, above the autobahn, I found a nice 1,5 m/s second thermal which I left early in an attempt to outrun the increasing cloud cover. It was a mistake, I should have taken it 300 m higher and I found myself on the ground a few minutes later.
However, it wasn't a bad idea to leave early, because half of the pilot's didn't even make minimum distance. On the other hand, my 17th place only gave me 137 pts compared to the 111 for minimum distance or less.
The end result is that with a 21st and a 17th position during the tasks, I found myself in 23rd position overall. That puts me just in the top half (46 participating pilots) and I do not feel bad about that.
More important is that I felt very good after the flight. The fixed harness gives me a much better flying position and I felt a lot better what the Combat was doing. I also thermalled a lot slower and thus tighter. Looking forward to the next flights!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

First days in Austria, German Open task 1

Saturday I drove to Austria to compete in the German Open (Austrian border) and the Austrian Open. I first flew two days in Greifenburg with the guys from Ruhpolding. The first day was difficult and I only had a 30-minute flight. The second day was awesome, but turbulent. I climbed to 3700 meters and had a magnificent view over the Austrian, Italian and Slovenian alps. But, after 2 hours, I got sick and had to land. It probably just was too high, only just having arrived from the seaside lowlands...
Yesterday we flew the first task of the German Open. The first day was cancelled because of wind, but yesterday we had a flyable window. A 50 km task was set, because overdevelopment was predicted. Indeed, halfway I got trapped in the shadow of a big cloud and had to land. Until then it had been a very interesting flight. I got to 31 kms, making me 21st out of 44. Not unhappy about that. It was the first competition flight with the Combat and the glider feels better and better.
Today is rainy and I will head to the Woody Valley factory to have my harness adapted. At this moment my feet always come down when flying, making it very difficult the remain in an aerodynamic position. I hope we will be able to fix it.
Tomorrow could be a very nice day. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thermalling above Bevekom

Bevekom is a Belgian Air Force base where we are allowed to go winch towing during some weekends. Here's a video of me climbing a weak thermal above Bevekom. At the same weekend, motor riders could have their max speed measured (by the police!) on one of the taxiways. Nice initiative!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No-handed take-off

Yesterday we had some fun on the training hill. Just for the fun of it, we tried a no-handed take-off on the big wills wing condor. And it worked! Sorry for the crappy mobile phone video...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First flights with the Combat

April has already brought some superb days to the alps during the weekends (already a 250 km flight), but here in the Benelux things were much calmer and stability ruled. Nevertheless, I had some nice flights and these conditions were actually really good to get to know the Combat.
I spent a weekend in the German Eifel and really enjoyed the flights and the atmosphere there. Here some pictures of that weekend:




I joined the ATOS'es of the local club on a 70 km triangle, but sadly had to land after 36 km. Two of the locals, Eduard and Joseph, rounded the triangle, congrats to them!
Last saturday I returned to the Eifel, but that day was really stable. But, a friend of mine had joined me and offered to retrieve me. My plan was to fly back home as far as I could, although I didn't have high hopes of getting far. I took off and had to search for 15 minutes before I found a more or less decent thermal. There was a big surprise when the thermal suddenly accelerated to 3 m/s and pulled me through the inversion. After that, I had a steady 1-2 m/s climb to 1800 m, which is 1200 m AGL. That was enough to convince me I should give it a try. Sadly it was the best thermal I would get in the 1,5 hour flight. I landed again at a mere 36 km. But hey, it was nice to be able to give it a shot. Thanks David for the retrieve!
A picture of that flight:


Sunday didn't look promising, but I went winch towing at Bevekom, a Belgian air force base. Had a 30 minute flight, exceeding my expectations.
Picture below: a Combat requesting permission to land ;-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brand new Combat, with Terremark

As mentioned in the previous post, I've got a brand new Combat! I also want to thank my employer Terremark, who recognize the effort I put into my sport and decided to sponsor me. It's a nice match with our sport, since two of our main products are called 'The Enterprise Cloud' (E-Cloud) and 'vCloud Express'. The Power of the Cloud at Your Fingertips. What would a hang glider want more?
Thanks a lot too to Wiebe and Diego for giving me a helping hand attaching the stickers!




Last flight on the Spyder, harness slider issues

10 days ago I received my new glider. A brand new Aeros Combat 09L 14,2. But, since the weather hadn't been kind to us lately, I even hadn't had the chance to try my new harness.
Last sunday we finally had flyable conditions and we could go for some dune soaring. I was very keen to try out the new glider, but I thought it was appropriate to try the new harness on the Spyder, instead of flying a new harness and a new glider at the same time.
That turned out to be a very wise decision. I took off from the dune and the harness immediately forced me into a very upright position. I could barely get into a prone position and the slightest turn or turbulence brought my feet right down again. It simply wasn't fun to fly like that and I even messed up my landing due to it. No harm, soft sand...
The reason for this was two-fold. First, the harness was not setup properly for my body weight distribution. The angle of dangle system had to much freedom of motion towards the front of the harness. The result was that it required all the force I had to get me to a prone position. Secondly, there was too much friction in the slider. It didn't move. So I never got into a stable prone position and always had to force myself down again.


That evening, I moved the slider a few times with my bare hands (couldn't do it at first!). I tested it and noticed that it still required a lot of force to get prone, but the slider moved and I hung very stable in the prone position. After restricting the slider's motion to the front by a notch, I could get myself easily into a stable prone position.
Should have tested that first! It ruined my last flight on my beloved Spyder ;-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weather forecasts...

It's strange how far off the predictions sometimes are. Drove to the French coast today because 4 Bft from the west was predicted, but only felt like 1-2 Bft once we got there. We even got light winds from the east on a sunlit west-facing coastline...

Paid a visit to Cap Blanc Nez on the way home and had a nice view:


I'm definitely going to fly there some day. NW-NNW winds are ideal for the spot. Definitely the largest "mountain face" in my region :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's official

I will be participating in this year's European Championship as member of the Belgian Team :-)

Let's fly better than ever before...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kurt on the Spyder

Yesterday I flew with Jo and Kurt. And while browsing my hard disk yesterday evening, I found some video material of Kurt's first flight with the Spyder. So I thought I'd put it online ;-)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

First flight in 2010

I had a real nice flight at Zoutelande today. Sadly no movie (don't know why, but the GoPro didn't cooperate). Here's a picture taken after landing and the wide angle view is wider than expected, I wasn't supposed to be on the pic ;-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter flight in Belgium

Here's a short video of a winter flight in December. This is along the north-faced ridge of Beauraing. The wind was strong enough, but cross (45 degrees and more). After only 15 minutes, the wind was so cross that I had to land.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tenax 3

It's winter. It takes much too long. Loads of beautiful pictures posted by the pilots flying in Australia. Not even a few soarable days in Belgium...

But the good news is that the new harness has been ordered and that the current one has been sold. So I'm waiting for this baby, a Woody Valley Tenax 3: