Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012 Belgian Open - 3rd consecutive title :-)

The Belgian Nationals are over with three nice tasks. We launched from Chabre once and twice from Aspres. The first task was a 105 km task and we had 33 out of 68 pilots in goal. Lots of happy faces and everybody was talking about 4 to 5 m/s thermals, 3400 m ceilings and amazing glides. I wasn't very happy at all, since I had been flying around alone, at max 2700 m, with slow climbs and bad glides. Almost an hour slower than Joost, who won the task, I could only conclude that for some reason I got it all wrong that day.

The second task was flown from Aspres and took us over Pic de Bure to Les Barrets near Gap, south from there to St.-Genis and Gache and then into goal (Laragne). Climbs were strong again and cloud base was high. But, with the West wind, you had to make the right choices to get to St.-Genis from Gap. Rich made the best decisions and arrived at Gache before cirrus started to cover the sky. He got a climb out of there and glided straight to goal. Many others, including me, had a hard time on Gache and had to be very conservative over Hongrie on the hills East of the glider port in order to make goal. Rich took 25 minutes on us and I was second for the day. A good comeback after day 1 :-)

Predictions for the third day were for more wind (still West) and blue skies. We went to Aspres again and set a more conservative 70 km task because of the winds. It immediately was clear that the weather forecast was not accurate at all. As you can see, an unstable upper layer was going to make sure that this wasn't a blue day at all:

The valley in front of launch was quickly covered in shade and nobody was keen to take-off. A brief moment of sun allowed us to launch and be on top right at the first start gate. In terms of tactics, I had two options for the day. Either race the course and try to make the podium in the overall ranking, or watch Tom and make sure I wasn't going to do worse than him to secure the Belgian title. Since I was in a good position at the start gate, I went for the first option and glided out with Andreas, Gordon and Grant. We got lower than intended, north of Serres and I took it more conservatively than the other 3, because I really wanted to avoid to be on the ground. After a bit of work, I found a 5 m/s screamer which Nils and I took to cloud base at 2500 m. From there on, it was a cloud race with 4 m/s thermals to Oule and back on Aujour, meeting up with Gordon and Grant again. Gordon and Grant stopped at Aujour's summit while I continued on to reach the clouds. At first, that didn't seem to work, but after a while it got me into a 3 m/s which ensured goal. I could relax, the 3rd Belgian title was in the bag :-) A big thank you to Terremark for their ongoing suppport!

The 70 km was definitely undercalled, because the winds were way lower than predicted, at least in the Laragne valley. But, the flying was beautiful. It's a shame the conditions were weak and low in Aspres, because that meant that many were on the ground before the first turnpoint, were the better conditions started. Malcolm Brown once more showed that he understands this area extremely well and had the fastest run of all. The day was won by Andreas Olson who led us all the way. I got 4th for the day and 4th overall, way better than expected after day 1.

Day 2 had a scare when Mart's crossbar broke while he was on final glide. We saw the chute deploy from the landing field and Mart spiraled down, landing in the hills East of us. Mart's got a slight concussion and a bruised arm, which is a very good outcome for such an incident. Glad that he's safe. The glider is wrecked and so is his harness and instrument. There is no apparent reason for the failure, so it's a bit strange. Maybe the crossbar got damaged in transport?

That aside, we can look back at a very nice championship. A few more tasks would have been nice, but we got 3 and they had very good flying. The level of the competition was good and the Brits filled the entire podium with a victory for Grant Crossingham. The comp was flown in a relaxed atmosphere and we all had a great time. On to the UK nationals!

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