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!