Our local TV station, AVS, interviewed me because I won the Belgian nationals for the second time. And I think they made a beautiful little report about it. Thanks a lot! Also many thanks to Bobby and Julia for being professional camera-(wo)men! Sorry, it's in Dutch and the video has been highly compressed, but I'm pretty sure the original HD version on TV was good advertisement for our sport:
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
It started 6 months ago at Quest and this morning, while I realize that the trip is coming to an end, David Glover showed me this clip:
I guess that really closes the circle. The video might not be that funny to you, but if you know the people in there, it's major fun :-) Let's turn the clock back six months and start it all over again!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Day 5 took us east again. Towards Newman's Peak. The first leg was a very slow flight for me. Very low and in weak broken thermals. I had made the mistake of going to early and had to work hard due to that. Those that left half an hour later climbed to 3000 m in the start circle and glided the whole first leg. It took me 1,5 hours below 1000 m AGL... Once I got to Newman's peak I finally hit some nicer lift, but I also rushed it because the day was going to come to an end and landed out. I seem to make one bad decision after the other.
By the way, the optimized route feature of the Compeo+ can play tricks on you. I wanted to take the 10 km cylinder and climb out on the peak again. You can see in the track log that I wasted altitude by not heading to the closest point on the cylinder, but by going to the optimized point for the route. Which wasn't my optimal tactical point at all.
Yesterday, we had a 125 km task to the north east. It was super slow in the flats again. But this time, I stayed with the gaggle and we slowly did make progress. We headed to the mountain south west of Phoenix, where beautiful, high clouds were waiting for us. While we were climbing in the first good thermal of the day there, I saw two fighter jets approach us from the west. And they were exactly at our altitude, heading straight for us and dumping fuel. I left the thermal to get out of their path, but immediately regretted that, because I was on my own now and surely they were going to make a move to divert the gaggle. But they didn't, they continued dead ahead and I think Larry Bunner saw them from very, very close. The thermal had an intense jet fuel smell after their pass.
I climbed to 3500 m, followed the ridge and went for the turnpoint in the flats. Again, a 30 km cylinder and it seems to be very hard to fly the shortest distance to the cylinder and back, when your desired out direction is different from the route to the next turnpoint. Back on the ridge I set a new personal height record of 4500 m. The instrument indicated I had final glide to goal (50 km!), but I knew it was going to be hard. Dustin and I left the same thermal at the same height, but chose a slightly different path. I glided only 40 km (only 10,6:1) and landed 13 km short. Dustin made it to goal. I seem to be really bad at picking lines this comp...
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Well, I guess day 2 and 3 were so demotivating for me, that I didn't bother to write anything about them yet. On day 2, I took the start thermal and 2 minor thermals before gliding to landing. I was very disappointed not to make it to goal 2 days in a row. Not even close by the way.
The result was that by day 3 I was low down in the ranking and as a result had no priority to speak of in the launch lane. Having only 3 tugs working, I knew I had to launch early to have any chance. I prepared early, get in line 10th, but saw everybody else use their priority to launch before me. I was on the same spot for 45 mins and was in line for 1h20. By the time I launched, the first start gate had already gone by. But what was worse, was that the air in the start area had become very inactive. I took a very slow climb to 1500 m, but still had to land after that. The second tow resulted in a very slow climb to 2000 m, which also was the last climb of the day for me. Three miserable days in a row...
Yesterday I launched early again and got in the start gaggle, making slow progress to 2000 m. I launched very early to avoid being stuck again and flew for 1h15 before the start. We had overdevelopment with virga and a visible gust front to the south of us and heading our way. The first thermal after the start was strong and very wide and must have been gust front triggered. It felt good to be flying with the lead gaggle at last, but when they decided to ride the gust front, I didn't feel comfortable doing that and headed out towards the sun. It was clear that the task was going to be canceled and I wanted to be able to pack up the glider before the gust front would hit me. I had an interesting time on the ground, being bitten by ants, watching the gust front get closer and seeing 3 microbursts very close to me. They were small, but they had some power.
Although the day was canceled, it felt good to be competing again. Bring on day 5! We have predictions for lift up to 3700 m...
Monday, September 19, 2011
Yesterday we had the first task of the Santa Cruz Flats Race. A 110 km triangle was set. The thermals were weak immediately after tow, but conditions improved soon after and after 20 mins I was floating around at 2800 m. I was convinced it was going to be a true racing day and I headed out in the blue, towards the start circle edge.
Things changed from then on. No more strong climbs and I had a bad position for the 2nd start, so I waited for the 3rd. After the start, I headed for a little mountain, which was a bit off course line and nobody followed me. I was on my own in the blue, not the situation I wanted to have. I got lower and lower and never had nice climbs, but just before the first turnpoint, I joined a gaggle. Immediately after the turnpoint, I wanted to make a detour over the mountains again and the gaggle decided to do otherwise again. I spotted a bird and a dust devil and went for it. But, it didn't work out. I got very low and it took me a long while to get up again. And, it was my last climb.
I flew towards the foothills of the mountains, didn't find any lift and had to fly out of there, because there was no way to land there. It was a cactus forest. Doesn't look inviting at all!
So I landed at the 2nd turnpoint, 40 km short of goal. Only to see the gaggle I was with drift over me low and climb out slowly. Dustin and Davis flew over as well, on their way to goal. 8 Guys made it in. Here you can see a few pics of the world I landed in, it's a different world :-)
Carl, Jamie, Jem and I had two magnificent flights in the dolomites, in August. And Carl produced a great video on those flights. If you don't have a lot of time, have a quick look at 2:00, where Carl and I fly on the south wall and over Marmolada. The view was exceptional!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I'm going to use every single day of my 6 month sabbatical. The Santa Cruz flats race is waiting in Arizona, but it's going to be quite a trip to get there from Kayseri. First we drive to Edirne, then the car train to Villach, then driving to Munich again, before I get onto the plane to Phoenix. Arizona, I can't wait to get there!
Friday, September 9, 2011
Primoz never tried the wind blown side of the mountain, flew into the lee immediately, unzipped for landing, but got a thermal to 3200 m and won the day... He was the only one in goal and now is far ahead in the overall standings. Pedro is second overall, he was 11 km short of goal while I was 34 km short. Suan was 38 km short.
Primoz also said that yesterday was a weaker than the day before. That was a surprise for me, because yesterday I got 2 to 4 m/s thermals, while it had been very weak the day before. I really must have flown a bad route that day...
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Dusties and smoke everywhere, but I was unable to find good lift. That's the story of the day. Alone, low, slow and on the ground after 2/3 of the course. Riding out of there with the Mitsubishi was the best part of the day. Jamie does know how to capture the moment:
Elena Filippova wrote this on a dedicated Facebook group:
"We urgently need financial help for the surgical operation and after-operational treatment for Voron'kov Alex! He got traumas as a result of falling on hanggliding competitions on August 20 at Kobala Open 2011 (Slovenia, Tolmin). Voron'kov Alex caught a tree at the landing field and fell down from the height about 20 metres. Pilot has serious injury- broken spine (pectoral and lumbar department), break of spinal cord, both shoulders are broken, a kidney and spleen were damaged (his spleen had been removed). A diagnosis is a partial paralysis."
She created a Paypal account for donations:I wish Alex the best recovery possible. Let's hope he will be able to walk again in the future.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Today started with the news by the weather man that today was even more stable than yesterday. That seemed to be confirmed by the thick inversion layer we saw on launch. Yet, while we were rigging it was soon clear that it was different than the day before. We had some dusties in the valley (there is very light dust there) around midday and we set a 63 km task.
We (Primoz, Suan, Pedro and me) agreed to launch together to improve our chances of not bombing out, because there were not many cycles coming through on launch. And I think it was a nice show to see us launch in quick succession and thermal up and away.
The flying was great. Although we didn't get very high (2500 m, valley at 1500 m), we got nice 2 to 3 m/s climbs and we made good progress. Here a some pictures of the first half of the task, crossing the valley east of Kayseri:
During the second glide, I skipped a light thermal, while the others turned for a while. This gave me a slight lead, but also the risk of being out alone in the blue. It worked out nicely as I was able to stay ahead and, after being a bit to conservative to make sure I made goal, I crossed goal 20 seconds ahead of Primoz. Suan arrived one minute later and we now have a very tight race with Suan leading me by 15 points in the overall standings. Everything is still wide open of course, since Pimoz and Pedro are not far behind at all.
I flew without ballast today because I expected lighter conditions. I'm now doubting whether I need any ballast at all...
The fields at goal were lifting everywhere, so we all thermalled up and explored the high mountains east of our goal. Spectacular views again, but sadly no pictures, the SD card filled up. Primoz (who I had lost sight of after goal) attacked the 25 km/h headwind and almost flew back to Kayseri. Sure, the day was undercalled, but we also had a very, very happy Turkish pilot in goal :-)
Monday, September 5, 2011
Some more news on task 2. Primoz launched first and got very low. He hit a thermal when he aimed for a landing field. He drifted a while before it turned on to a 5 to 7 m/s one taking him to 3200 m. Nobody expected that. It basically was the only thermal he took to glide to goal. To his surprise, the goal line was laid out in the middle of a lava field...
Suan was the only one to climb a little on launch. Just 100 m, then he headed out in the valley to climb slowly but steadily. Suan arrived in goal an hour later than Primoz. Suan and Primoz probably are the only ones having more than minimum distance.
Yesterday was a difficult day and the meteo guy promised us a more stable day today. We set a very, very short 32 km downwind task with pretty late starts (14.45 - 15.30). Until 15.00 I only once saw a thermal dome in the inversion layer and I decided to launch around 14.45. When I was ready for launch, Primoz was ready as well. Thinking too much about tactics, I decided to let him launch first and I got behind Suan and Pedro in the launch line. Primoz launched and had a difficult time, but was not losing height. Suan was reluctant to launch and when I finally was able to launch right after Pedro, I noticed that the winds were a lot stronger than usual. A clear indication that the thermal on launch had passed us and we had missed the cycle. For some reason I did not have the patience to wait and launched. I bombed out in a pretty spectacular fashion, that is without a single 360. Very stupid.
Primoz and Suan made goal. No more news yet.
Forgot to tell you about the wind. Both on the practice day and on the first task, we had strong winds. On the practice day, we had something like a jet layer at 2200 m. Primoz got through it earlier in the day, but I never managed to punch through. Yesterday, we had strong winds all the way from the ground (Suan landed with his hands on the speedbar). Primoz recorded a 45 km/h drift near the second turnpoint and it was at least 30 km/h for me. You can see how hard I had to work for that one once I got on the downwind side:
Sunday, September 4, 2011
When we asked the locals about the typical flying here, they said 4000 m cloud base (up to 5000 m) and 6 m/s thermals. The comp organizer even added that he didn't start a XC flight unless cloudbase was at 4000 m. But, he soon added that this year seemed to be special, because he didn't even get to 3500 m this year...
So, on yesterday's practice day, we woke up with a beautiful sky and had cumi's early on. We drove up to launch on mount Ali. Launch is at 1700 m, the valley is at 1100 m, but the landing field is at 1400 m. And yes, my first flight I bombed out before I realized it. Luckily, Suan landed next to me just a few minutes after me. He must have known that that was good for my confidence ;-)
So, today was the first hang gliding competition day on Mount Ali. The meteo guy promised us lighter winds and nicer thermals. We set an 80 km task with an entry circle and first turnpoint right above the grandstands on launch. We wanted to give the 200 spectators something to look at. The day looked way more stable than the meteo guy suggested us and we had a late race start at 3 o'clock. I launched at 2 and initially feared the same scenario as yesterday. I had already lost 150 m, when I got a very tight 3 to 4 m/s thermal. I never before climbed a thermal which remained that tight. And it reminded me of what the locals said. The thermals sometimes are strong, but too small for 2 paragliders. That seemed to be true.
Although the thermal was strong, it also stopped abruptly at 2000 m. That was an indication of what was to come. The rest of the flight was a struggle in weak, unorganized thermals. I flew for more than an hour not getting more than 600 m above ground. In a place which is known for 4000 m cloud bases...
The landscape is intriguing. The flats are separated by long hills, remains of lava flows. Some of it is very wild and desolate.
I flew about 35 km and was 2nd for the day with that. Congrats to Suan who won the day with 48 km. No one made goal, only Suan reached nominal distance, the points were very low. Predictions are for better slightly better conditions for the next days. So I guess it will still be a lot of hard work, no easy flying.
Check Jamie's pics. She's got some really nice ones on the take-off and surroundings and you can appreciate the hard work the organizers have done to make this a very spectator-friendly place for next year's comp! Jamie also blogs about what's going on here.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Primoz, Suan, Noel and I drove to Villach on Wednesday morning to take the car train. And I must say, it is a different way of traveling. The train took 36 hours to get from Villach, Austria to Edirne, just across the Turkish border. It changes your mindset. You have a lot of time and there's no stress at all. You're just a passenger on the train, leaning out the window and enjoying the different landscapes zooming by. At times, when I was confronted with a lot of different smells in a short time, it remembered me of riding a motorbike. And I had the time to re-read the 'Secrets of Champions'. I will fly like crap now, due to an information overload...
In Edirne, we hopped off the train and got the car back. Make sure you have a written permission that you are allowed to drive the car if the car is not yours. Customs might give you some troubles otherwise. According to the train personnel, I was the first one to enter Turkey without such a permission :-)
We left Edirne at 12.30 AM and headed for Kayseri. The GPS gave us a strange route, so we decided to follow the signs on the road. Those were a very good help and we had good roads all the way to Kayseri and arrived there around noon, after an 11 hour drive. Luckily we were able to split up the driving last night! In total we traveled just over 2 days from Villach. Slow, but we have a car and the gliders here.
The accommodation is very nice. We have good beds and free internet and apparently a kitchen we can use as well.
The team ready for departure in Villach. Notice the basket of fresh fruits and vegetables brought by Primoz. We all lived off of it :-)
Second time in Dimitrovgrad? Strange!
Trying to absorb champ knowledge...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
These are the results after 6 days and 3 tasks. Since tomorrow is going to be canned as well (very high winds predicted), they're probably not going to change anymore... Look here for task scores and the rigids.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
So, we flew from St. Andre to Lac de Serre Ponson, then back to Pic de Chamatte and landed in Thorame Basse. The task was fast and pretty easy, with lots of ridge soaring and strong thermals. But, it was not uneventful. We had a tumble over Dormillouse, the pilot being pretty much OK, but the glider is still up on the mountain. There was hail on course line and we had lightning over the landing field, when the cloud above us didn't even look that bad. It was a big surprise!
I finished the task in 4th and was pretty happy with that result. Here's the flight.
Yesterday we were plagued by SE winds while we were on the W launch. A 113 km task to Laragne was set, but it was shortened to a 89 km task because of the late start. It was a fast task again (won by Laurent with a 60 km/h average). Same story as the day before for me. A mistake early in the task, then being rather cautious over unlandable terrain, but with a strong finish (ignore missing the turnpoint by 10 m and having to make an extra 360). I was 9th for the task. Here's the flight on Leonardo. It was fun flying from one famous flying site to the other. And you do appreciate the change terrain. Mountains with rather narrow valleys in St. Andre and then the wide open valley of Laragne, with many different routes towards the last turnpoint. Although the task was short, you still had to make your choice in the end.
The Combat does speed up nicely on final. I was taking 2 extra circles in 4 m/s up in an attempt to beat Carl and Jonas into goal and I would have done so if I hadn't missed the turnpoint. Now I was 30s slower...
I'm now in 3rd overall. That's not bad at all :-)
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Yesterday I had my first XC flight here. Discovering the area from high above. But there's still a lot to discover and tomorrow is the first task. It looks to be a place where local knowledge is very important. Flying low across a ridge is not something you can do when you don't know what's behind it. Definitely not here.
And racing is something else than free flying. I guess I'll have to do a lot of risk assessment in the next few days...
Friday, August 19, 2011
After that, we flew over Langkofel and Rosengarten. Langkofel was special as well, climbing next to it and then we you reach the ridge height and start to soar it, you only see rock pinacles pointing right at you. No point in having a reserve chute there...
I will return to the Dolomites. This was my biggest flying experience until now!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I had 2 flights with it. One sled ride down from Kobala and an hour of light thermals on Lijak. Both launches were super easy. It is amazing how soon it starts flying.
On the sled ride I tried flying it as slow as possible. And it feels as if it can fly considerably slower than the Combat. The stall (VG off or 1/3) was very smooth, so gentle that it reminded me of my training glider. The handling with full VG is a lot lighter than it is on the Combat.
These characteristics helped me a lot on the flight on Lijak. The thermals were light and very close to the ridge and the WW gave me a lot of confidence to go for them, very slow and pretty close to the trees. And all this with a serious amount of high-siding. It remembered me of flying the Spyder. Except that the Spyder was tougher.
I played a little with the VG setting while thermalling. And I think it did well until 2/3 VG (in the light thermals). Above that the glider wanted to dive too much for my comfort. I lose feeling if I have to push it out too much.
The glide was very stable, but that surely was linked to the high sprog settings. I have no clue how it feels when you set them to 'Worlds settings'.
Pulling the VG was extremely light. No effort required there at all. Very, very comfortable.
On both flights I had some altitude to burn off and I did so with some wingovers. What a difference to the Combat! The WW (with high sprog settings) is a true acro machine. It was a joy!
Of course I had to land it. And here again, the easy handling comes into play. The approach was very precise and the handling in ground effect was very nice and swift, also at low speeds. I never felt any risk of dropping a wing. Now I understand why I see other pilots execute slow and low landing approaches which I normally wouldn't do with the Combat. The flare was easy and the flare window probably is quite big. Easy landing!
It was very nice to have the opportunity to fly a Wills. Now I can't wait to fly one in race trim...
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The report below was written in August 2011. Here's a more recent report.I had been waiting for this for almost 6 months. And thanks to Matjaz, I finally had the opportunity to fly the Combat 13.5. The 13.5 is special because it has an extreme aspect ratio of 8.5. This means the wing is 8.5 times as wide as it is long. And aerodynamics tell you that wings with higher aspect ratios fly more efficiently. That's why sailplanes have such high aspect ratios (long, thin wings). But for us, hang gliders, it is not as easy as for sailplanes to have high aspect ratios, because we lose maneuverability and pitch stability. Aeros claims that the 13.5 is as maneuverable as their other glider and has high pitch stability as well. So, with the promised extra performance and the glider being more appropriate for my weight than my current 14.2 (aspect ratio 8), I had to try it :-)
I launched into very calm air and the glider immediately felt comfortable and at least as responsive as my 14.2. It was gliding dead straight and did 3 km with a 15.7 glide ratio at 54 km/h. Hard to say how accurate this is, but it felt good.
The first thermal I hit, was a very light one. It was a struggle to stay in the air, but I immediately was sure that the glider was going to do it for me. The handling was very, very similar to my 14.2, with the exception of a much sharper stall when I was pushing too much to fly as slow as possible. I also had to push it a little all the time as the glider was trimmed a little too fast for me.
After about an hour, the day turned on and Carl and I had a 3 hour flight with amazing views over the Tolmin area. It was the first time I got into the higher mountains and you saw the remains of WWI everywhere. Trenches, bunkers, gun platforms, … We visited the war museum a few days before and now I saw it all flying just above it.
We had a few rough thermals as well and I had a tough time in those. But, I'm all over the place in rough thermals with the 14.2. I think the 13.5 was more maneuverable.
The 13.5 remains a Combat though. It is not allowing me to fly as close to the terrain as I see other gliders do. The handling with full VG is very stiff, so you have to be careful flying close to the mountains in turbulent air. But, it must be said, it is definitely not worse than the 14.2. And achieving that with a higher aspect ratio is a great job.
The effect of the higher aspect ratio was demonstrated when I had a glide next to Carl on his Moyes Litespeed RS 3.5. There was a clear gliding advantage for the 13.5. Sadly my harness rocked up a little when we went full speed, which wasn't ideal for the glide. Still, I had the same glide as Carl then, but the Combat could definitely do better.
Of course I wanted to land it nicely (Matjaz was watching in the landing field) and the landing felt easier than with my 14.2. I think it was a textbook landing with a very nice flare. The higher wing loading helps a lot to achieve this flare as I'm a bit light on my 14.2 and it is definitely harder to make that one flare nicely. Last year, I had one landing on the smaller 13.2 and that flared very nicely as well.
So, the handling of the 13.5 was at least as good as on my 14.2 (I'm light on that one!) and the glide was probably better. I liked flying it very much.
Major kudos to Matjaz for letting me fly his glider!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Anyway, my car was on the landing place and I decided to try to hitchhike back to it, because nobody of our team was in goal (and because I deserved the punishment). I left the glider in the field, took my harness and started walking. After 20 minutes, the official retrieve van passed me, empty and driving in the direction I needed to go to. Ideal! Ok, I did not pay for retrieve, but I said they could throw me out any time they wanted to. Any distance I could make towards Tolmin was just nice.
International experience tells you this:
- the Mexicans would drive by with a van that's going to break down in a few km, with 14 gliders on the roof and 10 pilots in the completely filled van. And they'd be insulted if you turned down their offer.
- the Japanese immediately call the team leader who gives you within a few seconds a clear answer on whether you can drive along a bit or not
- the Austrians would already be drunk and wouldn't even notice that you're not an Austrian
- the Belgians would take you as far as they could. If the bus would really fill up, they'd say "sorry dude, but we'll have to drop you off here. Here's a few beers, do we need to call anyone for you?"
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Here's the Belgian podium, with Jean-Claude Bodart (r) in second and Michel Bodart (l) in third:
Friday, August 5, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
There was some concern that we were driving up the wrong launch today. We rigged on the lower north launch on Chabre with light north winds and a serious chance for west winds in the early afternoon. Were we going to lose the day with the best forecast of the week?
We set a 104 km task over Aiguille, Gap, Montagne d'Oule, Sigoyer and return to the camping.
We launched as early as we dared to make sure we wouldn't be stuck on the mountain due to increasing west winds. It took me some time to find the first thermal. But the west winds didn't turn on and everybody was able to have a nice and safe launch.
It turned out to be a very interesting task with W to NW winds and a moderate cloud base (2200 m, max 2500 m). I made a first mistake when I crossed the valley near Veynes in an attempt to attach to Pic de Bure. I was to low for that and ended up in light lee conditions. I lost half an hour there. By the time I took the turnpoint near Gap, Mart, who started 20 mins later, had already overtaken me and Malcolm (also 2nd start) was right below me. I returned over Ceuse and had an easy glide to Montagne d'Oule. Had I only taken this route the first time as well... d'Oule wasn't active and I found a weak thermal on the foothills west of it. Only just enough to attach to Aujour where I couldn't find the expected strong thermal. I got low a second time, between Aujour and St. Genis and lost another 20 mins. A climb above the camping allowed me to go on glide to the last turnpoint. I enjoyed the final glide very much and flew into goal in ground effect :-)
Mart Bosman flew the task an hour faster, but after the difficulties along the route, I was happy to be in goal. 3rd for the task, 1st Belgian and 4th overall. On track for the Belgian title and the podium in the general classification is now a close battle between Malcolm and me.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Jamie makes really nice pictures, here you see Carl coming into goal. And she's using Carl's glider as a sun shelter for her office...I'm now in sixth overall, 300 points ahead of Jean-Claude, second Belgian. So I'm not yet handing over the Mitsubishi to someone else ;-)