Friday, June 24, 2011

Flying in Nova Gorica and heading to the Croatian Nationals

Yesterday I left a very wet Greifenburg and headed for Nova Gorica. I picked up the Ukrainians in Tolmin, where conditions were sure to overdevelop and we headed for Lijak. We launched at 2 o'clock and everybody had a great flight. The conditions were magnificent and so was the view. We were just a little late to fly into the flats, because the south winds took the marine air very far inland.
So I ended up doing probably the most classical flight there is when starting from Lijak, flying up and down the ridge. 75 km in 2 hours, it was fun :-) Although I knew it wasn't going to work, I tried to go into the flats, but had to land soon after. The last little thermal came from a garbage belt, and smelled like it...
Tomorrow morning I'm driving to Buzet, Croatia, to participate in the Croatian Nationals. At last a competition with a good weather forecast:

Plans for the summer

Here's a map with the agenda for this summer:

B: Croatian Nationals coming up soon (June 27th until June 30th)
C - D - E - F: Free flying in Greifenburg, visit family in Salzburg and head to Fiesch for the Fiesch Open (July 7th until July 11th).
G: World Championships at Monte Cucco, very, very much looking forward to that, 3rd and 4th week of July
H: Belgian Nationals in Laragne, immediately after the worlds (1st week of August). That will be a trip...
I: Postponed Austrian Nationals at the Diedamskopf (August 13th - August 15th)
J: British Nationals in St. Andre-les-Alpes

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Greifenburg, finally some flying again

The bad comp weather continues. The Austrian Nationals are postponed to mid-August. So I headed to Greifenburg, because it showed at least one good day of flying there.

While setting up, Gerolf and Zhenya arrived and Gerolf had a plan :-) And the plan included some sightseeing. The flight indeed started with extremely nice flying. It's very sad that I failed to turn on the GoPro (it only took 1 picture)!
Later, the thermals were broken and very turbulent. It was good to be flying for 3 hours. And as usual, I struggled in the turbulences. It's hard to manhandle my big glider in them. Gerolf suggests carbon leading edges ;-) I guess he's got a point there...

The second day resulted in a short flight for me. After almost an hour, I got drilled down like never before. 4 to 5 m/s down until I almost hit the deck...
In Greifenburg, I also met Juergen Pasker again on launch. He invited me to join his club and I had two very nice evenings with them. They introduced me to 'plattln', which is a lot like horseshoe throwing. Quite an interesting affair, when everybody has had his fair share of beer and schnapps. It's always good to hang around with the Austrians :-)

A few days 'dohoam' in Salzburg

After Tolmin, I drove to Salzburg for a few days, knowing that the weather was bad all over the Alps. I stayed at my grandma's place, visited some family and hiked up the Untersberg. The latter was impressive because of the low clouds which were blown by the wind. I stupidly decided to run down instead of walking down, resulting in the worst muscle aches I've had for quite a while...
The days in Salzburg ended with a visit to Primoz, with a faint hope to fly. We did not do anything more than a sled ride, but Primoz had an inclinometer, so we checked my sprogs. And surprisingly, they were low. We corrected them and the glider does feel better, especially on landing. The last landings, in Europe, I really had difficulties to flare. That's solved now. And it probably also explains why I found the flights in Tolmin to be rather turbulent, while Regina and Matjaz did not experience that at all. It's a fine line. One turn on the inner sprogs makes a big difference!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tolmin, part 3, Fly with us!

When flying in Tolmin, Regina, Matjaz and I all had camera's with us. Matjaz used the footage and made a really nice video about the flying in his home valley. Thanks a lot, Mat!

Next time, we also need to provide camera's to the eagles :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tolmin, part 2

Regina sent me some nice memories from Tolmin:


I had 2 days of flying in Tolmin with Matjaz and Regina. Matjaz was the perfect host. Sadly both days looked menacing and we decided to land soon on both flights. But look at this picture, Tolmin is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen:

The birds in Tolmin were flying remarkably close to us. They really seemed to like to have some friends around :-)
After we decided to land, Matjaz and I did some formation flying to get some pictures. And I tried my first wingovers again after last year's incident. I slowly started some minor wingovers, because I didn't have any confidence to try them again. This time I only pulled 2/3 VG and that made a lot of difference. Less VG gives the glider a lot more pitch and handling and still a lot of speed. It almost has the same effect as turning the sprogs up for aerobatics. The improved handling quickly resulted in some confidence and I did a few proper wingovers. I missed them, it was a lot of fun!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monte Cucco Fun

A quick impression of the flying at Monte Cucco:

Gap in between comps, flying Monte Cucco

So, the last 3 comps suffered from bad weather and now there is a 2 week intermezzo until the next comp, the Austrian Open at the Diedamskopf in Tirol. It is difficult to find good flying weather over Europe these days. I left the Italian Nationals at Feltre (canceled comp) and drove to the Monte Cucco.
Flying has been very good on the first day, but I had no retrieve so I decided to fly locally and practice top landings.

The second day had thick cirrus and the locals told me not to expect anything more than a sled ride down. I said I was an optimist because the sky looked very unstable low down and that I would wait a little longer before launching. Two hours later, Gary Wirdnam arrived and when we launched we almost bombed out but managed to climb out again. It turned out that the day was very unstable indeed and an hour later I toplanded because I got scared by the developing storms. I was a bit overcautious however, it was still perfectly flyable for another hour and a half... This was the beautiful post-storm sky (and the colors in the valley were magic):

I camped on launch, which was a nice experience on Thursday night, but not on Saturday night. I think Saturday night started with a drug deal on the parking space, than had a sequence of drunk people having a little party there and it probably ended with the same guys ending their drug deal for the night... Anyway, during the week, it is a nice experience:

Yesterday turned on very soon. There was a north wind and the north east side of the ridge showed thermal from 8:30 AM. The other side, the Sigillo valley, was completely covered in fog. It was a nice view to wake up with! Gary and I set a 120 km task, flying over the valley near Matelica to start with. By the time I returned to Monte Cucco, the sky had overdeveloped and Sigillo had heavy rain. I decided to land on the north landing field, where the car was already waiting by the time I came in. At last another XC flight. Almost half the task, it was good to be covering some distance again. And over terrain I had never flown over before.
Click here to see more pictures on Facebook.
The weather forecast is not looking very good for the next days, so I'm heading to Slovenia, to Matjaz' place. Looking forward to flying there!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wing Loading and Competition Tactics

Last year, I bought the Combat 14.2 because of the 8.05 aspect ratio. I knew I was quite light for the glider (85 kg, about 100 kg hook-in) but, if needed, I could take some ballast to make sure I was heavy enough. It turned out that I liked flying the glider and the glide was good. Others were telling me my glide was very good to exceptional, but I am not convinced about that.
The handling was ok, I needed some power, but hey, it is a rather large glider. But, there was one true weakness. And that was climbing out low, in turbulent thermals. And of course, that makes perfect sense with a rather lightly loaded big glider.
When I flew in Florida, I added 4 kg of ballast. And yes, that improved handling. Not dramatically, but it definitely was better. However, that feeling did not last. As the comps progressed, it felt more and more difficult to steer the glider in turbulent conditions. I could not really understand it and I did not manage to work around it. It felt as if I did not learn, but got worse at flying instead.
Once back in Belgium, a trip to the scale was telling. I had lost 6 kg, so I was 2 kg lighter than before I used the ballast. Now I understood.
So, while flying today at Monte Cucco, I added another 4 kg. And yes, handling improved a lot again.
I'm flying my glider 'light'. And while that's not bad for free flying (as long as you can land it safely), it does have a serious impact on my competition flying. My lightly loaded Combat thermals very well in organized thermals and I regularly out-climb the competition. This means that I'm on top of the stack and have to make the decisions and lead out in front. But, some others definitely glide better. And by the time I core my next thermal, they glide in at my height or even slightly higher. A lot of work and risk taking and no rewards.
It gets even worse when the competition is eager to take some risks. When some of the top guys go for it at the start of the race, they will glide until low down. They do this to get rid of a lot of the other competitors, who are not comfortable getting low. And you can guess it, that also is a weak point for me. Lower down, the thermals are less organized, more turbulent. You need swift handling to work the bubbles of air shooting up. You don't want to miss those! A lighter loaded glider, especially with high aspect ratios, does not handle swiftly. So that was my situation, trouble low down. And as a result, not enough confidence to go with the best.
Today, with my 4 extra kg (8 in total and maybe some recovered body weight), handling was better than ever before. The glider will still be rather lightly loaded, but I felt I could throw it into bubbles when I wanted to. And that is new and was a very good feeling! So, may the comps start again, I'm ready to test some new tactics :-)

Monday, June 6, 2011

No flying...

The bad weather streak is not coming to an end yet. After the bad weather at the MidWest comp and the Alpen Open, the first three days of the Italian Nationals have been canceled as well. And it is not looking good for the rest of the week. I think I'll leave and head for Salzburg for some free flying. And I will contact Primoz to testfly the 13.5 GT. My current glider is very good for free flying, but it is just a bit large for top notch competition flying. I'll write about that in a later post.
At least it seems that next week will have some decent flying weather. Let's hope so, my last serious flight is now almost 3 weeks ago...

Alpen Open

The Alpen Open, well they had bad luck with the weather. Only one small task. Roland Woehrle and Suan Selenati won the comp with 95 points in total. When you know that a single day should be worth around 950 to 1000 points, than you know the flying wasn't good at all during this comp...
We took our time heading to the Alps from Belgium. We visited Virpi and Kari, Hans and Christa and my grandmum in Salzburg. Eisriesenwelt was more interesting than not being able to fly during a comp.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011