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':