Monday, March 19, 2012

Aeros Heavy Duty Bag

The new 'heavy duty' bag by Aeros is the best hang glider bag I've seen until now. It's cushioned, it doesn't flap at all and it's a rain bag. Yesterday I drove it through a rain front to get home and the glider was perfectly dry.

The weather improved on the final stretch:

As expected, we had the most beautiful post-frontal weather today. I could observe the clouds from my desk :-(

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Aeros Winter Race, task 3, 95 km in 1h37m

Today was fast, very fast. And windy.

We had a race along the ridge with 2 excursions across he valley. It all started with going as far against the wind as I could in the start gate. I took it a little further than the leading guys, hoping to have a slight advantage on the start, but although my position was good, it didn't help me. The others had more of a headwind going to the first turnpoint, but got into the dynamic ridge lift sooner. I ended up not far behind Tom and Primoz, in a group with both Christians.

We raced the ridge at 85-90 km/h, slowing down when we hit strong lift, but just skipping all of it. At the first turnpoint, a group of around 50 people was hiking, when we shot over pretty low and turned steep to return. They had an unexpected show I guess.

During the first 40 km, we only needed two thermals, just taking 300 m to jump from one ridge to the other. The rest of it was at high speed. My right hand went numb at a certain point and I knew I still had 5 km a racing to the next thermal. It was pretty tough on the muscles today ;-) I'm happy I did at least some swimming over the winter. Here's the speed distribution:

I'd love to see Primoz's graph, he seemed to be the fastest pilot on the ridge.

While racing, it was nice to compare the glide. My Combat/Tenax 3 combination is gliding just as well as Christian Ciech is doing, so that's pretty good I guess.

When returning from the first valley crossing we were getting low for my comfort and at the same time I spotted an extremely well marked thermal. 200 seagulls (wild guess) were perfectly coring a thermal and shooting up compared to us. The group flew past it, but I thought I could not let that opportunity pass by. I turned in and to my surprise, it was only broken 1 m/s up. I couldn't believe it and tried to find the core with a second 360 (the birds had gone now, probably a bit scared of those 6 or 7 racing gliders). I guess I made a beginner mistake, we were just racing down fast and I misjudged the birds' climb rate.

Those two circles separated me from the group. I continued to race and reached goal 1 minute after the group, 5 minutes after ask winner Tom Weissenberger. Tom had an average speed of 61 km/h. I averaged 57,5 km/h, a new personal best :-)

It was a great day of racing! Some may say it was too easy, but I don't ever think it is easy. As soon as you are competing, it is all about optimizing the conditions and that is a pretty difficult thing to do.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Aeros Winter Race, task 2

Yesterday the conditions looked beautiful. When we arrived on launch at 10 AM, the birds were already thermaling and we had a breeze straight on the ridge. There was a thick haze, but that doesn't seem to mean that it's stable here.

We got a ridge racing task with one turnpoint out in the valley before goal. For the second day in a row, I managed to get myself in a less then optimal situation at the start gate. I was flying separated and when I hit a solid 3 m/s, I thought I was back in the game. Not so, because you almost didn't need to thermal today. 5 km before the first turnpoint, the leaders were already flying back. Ouch! I realized I had been way to conservative and started cruising the ridge as well. But the damage was done. I arrived 13 minutes after Christian Ciech in goal, who won the task with a 54 km/h average. For them it was 86 km of ridge racing. I realized it too late and there was no way you could make up any lost time.

Good to get some competition in before Bassano, seems I had to shake off a winter sleep...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aeros Winter Race, day 2, long wait, short flight

Woke up with beautiful sunny spring weather this morning. It looked stable and there was no wind. Driving from Nova Gorica to Ajdovscina however, Matjaz and I saw Föhn clouds over the mountains. That spelled nothing good. Indeed, near Ajdovscina, the wind gauge along the road showed 73 km/h... Damn, Bora wind.

Against our expectations, the organization decided to go to Kovk instead of Lijak which is known to be wind sheltered in Bora conditions. Upon arrival on launch, there were 80 km/h winds blowing over the back:

Yet, the weather predictions said the winds would calm down, so the waiting game started. It took a while until the winds were not too strong to rig the gliders and everybody got into action, with just a little hope of flying:

The bora finally gave in, but a light wind over the back remained. The task was canceled at 15h30. All of that was a little frustrating since we saw paragliders and hang gliders who had launched on Lijak fly by.

The thermal winds on our ridge were battling it out with the light wind over the back and for a short period of time, it was launchable. Gerd, Christian and I managed to get into the air. Although I immediately flew into a nice, gentle thermal, which gave me an extra 200 m, I was not able to do anything decent with it and landed after 25 minutes. The Italians free-flyers who launched on Lijak flew high and had long flights.

But anyway, it was good to be in the air and I love the way the Combat 13.5 flares on landing. The high wing loading gives it a very distinct flow separation. I had troubles with that on the 14.2, especially when I landed with just a little VG. Today, I feared the same scenario, when I accidentally released all VG instead of just reducing it in the last seconds before landing, but, as mentioned before, the flare was nice and clean.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Aeros Winter Race, task 1

Today was the first day of the Aeros Winter Race. A beautiful, sunny day. We had a 101 km task, racing up and down the ridges and having a few crossings in between.

The thing I was most interested in was how I was going to climb in comparison to the others with the new, smaller wing. And that definitely wasn't a disappointment. And I'm sure I will be climbing better once I really get to know the glider.

So, after some experimenting in the start gate and wanting to fly more on my own than in the gaggle, I had a pretty bad start. But after 30 km, Seppi and I had caught up with the leading gaggle. But at that moment, I also played it a little too safe and immediately lost the gaggle again. Anyway, after being a few minutes behind on the furthest turnpoint (Lijak), I got low and into trouble. I stayed low for 10 long km and lost half an hour. After that, I was happy to bring it back to goal. 17th on 56 competitors. More days to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the road again!

The season is about to start. I hit the road this morning and am very happy with the heavy-duty bag for the glider. Nothing is flapping, the whole glider is cushioned and the glider stays dry.

Anyway, I started out with nice weather in Belgium (Rudy flew in Beauraing and had his first cloud base of 2012), but as I got closer to the Alps, things got darker and darker until it didn't look like holiday weather at all anymore:

But, to my surprise, the temperatures dropped rapidly as I approached the foothills and halfway between Munich and the Alps it looks like this:

I never expected it to still have snow there in March. Luckily, our competition is in Slovenia, on the south side of the Alps. I'm looking forward to it. The comp starts on Wednesday and I hope to get some free flying in tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in Bassano.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aeros ordered some weather

Aeros is organizing the Winter Race next week in Slovenia. It seems that they are doing the final preparations on Sunday by throwing a bucket of cold air at us from their home base in the Ukraine:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The 13.5 flew. Be it only for 5 minutes...

The weather predictions were calling for weak S winds, turning into moderate SW winds. Now, that's a little bit of a problem in Belgium. We've got a S ridge and a W ridge, but no SW ridge. The S ridge (Sept Meuses) needs moderate winds and is known to be turbulent with SW winds... And the W launch (Coo) is known to be turbulent with SW winds as well... And by the way, statistically, most of our winds are SW winds. So what about towing? Well, currently, we do not have any towing operation (should be operational next month, though). So, desperate as I was to try the Combat 13.5 GT, I went to Sept Meuses anyway.

Our launch there always had some trouble with vandalism. So, some of our guys did a good job last year by making it impossible to reach the launch itself by car. Guess what, someone started demolishing the barriers:

I noticed that the suspect probably has a quad:

Fellow hang gliders, quad riders shall no longer be safe!

On a more serious note, there was almost no wind upon arrival. Combine that with an overcast sky and you see that the prospects for flying were bleak. Made me think of those "months on shitty hills" (Carl Wallbank). 2 Hours later, we still had the same conditions. Another hour and we had maybe just enough wind to fly, but already turning west. Knowing that this was the best we were going to get, I launched. I didn't fly close to the terrain (new bird in possibly turbulent air) and didn't immediately get on top of the ridge. A few turns in small thermals stretched the flight, but after 5 minutes, I was on the ground. With a happy face. Because I loved the glider's handling immediately. It feels definitely different from Matjaz's glider I tested this summer. It simply turns in faster and nicer. Is that the effect of the Technora leading edge? Curious!

Kurt, flying a 2006 Combat 14.2, launched 15 minutes after me and had a 20 minute flight. He flew well and while derigging, it seemed that conditions were slightly improving. We picked up the car from launch half an hour later, only to find out that there now was a steady and moderate, south wind. Ouch! Not enough patience today...