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.