Saturday, December 14, 2013

No 2014 Euros - what a shame!

Today, the FAI announced that the 2014 European Championship is canceled. What a shame! We lose an opportunity for a great comp. Not sure why it has been canceled.

On the other side, it seems that we will finally be able to pick a week for the Belgian Championship, now that the uncertainties about the Euros are over. I was looking forward to flying in Lumbier again though. Seems I will have to re-arrange my calendar for 2014.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flying the Moyes Litespeed RX4

I've now flown a season with the Litespeed RX4 after changing from the Combat and I love flying it, so it was about time to write about the glider. Where to start?

Well, the obvious bit: the RX is quite different from the Combat. Less span, less aspect ratio, less sail tension, less weight. It's all screaming 'great handling' at you. And that's the way it is and that's also why I love flying it so much. Of course, there's always a compromise to be made. And it's definitely trading in handling for a bit of glide ratio and minimum sink. But for me, it for sure is a change for the better.

The light, predictable handling helps in many ways. But the most significant thing is the pure joy of flying it provides. I had such a lot of fun flying it this year that I am seriously considering not sacrificing all my holidays on comps in 2014. I really hope I'm going to be in the Alps for some of the magic days each year has to offer. But that's for 2014, now back to the RX.

Apart from the shear joy, the light handling obviously provides better reaction times in turbulent thermals. And speaking of the trade-off, for me the improved handling is much more important than an optimal minimum sink, because most thermals we encounter are at least somewhat turbulent and fast reactions usually keep you on top of the stack. Turbulent thermals are especially what you find low down, where it is important to be able to use every surge of lift. I can think of quite a few out-landings where I believe the RX would have allowed me to stay aloft (especially the last task of the 2010 Euros).

Handling helps you in so many other ways too. It's better in terms of safety and allows you to chose smaller fields as landing opportunities. It's surprising how short your landing field can be, without any VG (although I usually land with around half VG because that produces cleaner flares). Being able to use smaller fields gives you more freedom to chose flying routes. The improved handling is also safer and more fun when flying pretty close to terrain or in crowded gaggles. The more relaxed, the better you fly, so handling does really help you with that.

The other amazing thing about the RX is the feedback it provides on what's happening in the air while gliding. Maybe this is what took me longest to get out of the RX, because the RX flies so differently compared to the Combat, but it sure helped me during the pre-Euros. I had much greater confidence there, that I was able to find the lift around me. And I really hope to retain that feeling for the next season!

This great feedback might be linked to not having a tail anymore. To be honest: at first it scared me a bit. Before the RX, I'd been flying a Combats for 3 seasons, with tails. So, on glides, I was used to cut through rough air like a knife through butter: the glider didn't really pitch up or down on bumps. The RX has a lot more pitch reactions to whatever is going on around it. So you sense more of the air, initially more than I wanted to feel. But by now, it feels completely natural. Those pitch reactions also help you a lot in turbulent thermals. Whenever you hit a surge of lift, the glider tends to pitch up and turn in, which is exactly what you want.

Pitch stability obviously bring us into the territory of sprog settings. And I didn't change a thing there. At first because I wanted to know how it felt coming out of the factory and I didn't want to change anything while having Combat references in my head. And later because I got to like the behaviour of the glider more and more. So, until now, the glider still has the factory settings and it seems to be very competitive, although it is not an absolute final glide hero. Compared to the Laminar of Alex and Primoz's Combat, it's definitely lacking efficiency, especially in the high speed range.

Hmm, I almost forgot: it flies perfectly straight. Didn't have a single issue with a turn yet. So I absolutely love my RX the way it left the factory. No doubt about that!

It's been a great year, flying the RX! It got me back to the top 20 and it even ended up on a postcard :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nice video by Nils

Nils produced a nice video about the 2 weeks flying in Ager this summer (Belgian/Catalan Open and British Nationals). Have a look:

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 DeBeNeCup - Final Round in Maillen

After 2 successful weekends in the Netherlands and in Germany in June, the last, Belgian, weekend of the DeBeNeCup had been postponed to last weekend due to bad weather. And for last weekend, the weather looked bad again, although there was a possibility for pretty good post-frontal weather on Sunday. It's complicated, isn't it?

Not everybody trusted, but 15 pilots did still show up, hoping for the best. And it did indeed look good enough while briefing, where we declared a 50 km task, heading for Rochefort.

Half an hour after briefing though, the clouds on the horizon changed drastically and soon after we had 90% cloud cover. Hoping to still be able to reach the sun, I launched as soon as I could. Behind the new Belgian dragonfly :-) The BeNeCup was first organized in 2012, while we were looking forward to the delivery of the plane and this weekend was finally the first time that Rinus' DF and the Belgian DF paired up for our towing comp. Which was a big success!

It was futile though, a few kms out, I climbed 100 m above Koos, who was circling very low down, not able to gain height anymore, and that was it. 10 km.

Many waited 2 hours for the sky to clear and had some light thermals then. Gijs won the day with 15 km :-) The results can be found on benecup.nu.

For the 2013 DeBeNeCup, I was allowed to take the honours with Gijs a close second and Koos in third. I hope you all enjoyed the flying and will be back next year. And hopefully with some more Belgians. Come on Tom, Jean-Claude, Michel, Gerrie, Bert and for sure some more!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pre-european Championships in Lumbier

I left Ager with a bit of deception. I had missed out on the Belgian title and had a possibility to be on the podium for the British nationals, but failed. But on the other hand, I loved flying the RX4 and had already gained a lot of confidence. I had been climbing well and had the impression that I was feeling the air quite well so it was about time to start making the right decisions.

So, on to Lumbier for the pre-euros. The first day had difficult launch conditions, a lot of chaos when we started switching to a pretty much non-existing north launch on the rigging area for the south launch and too much wind to be able to fly to goal. You can guess it: not too many happy faces that first evening...

The second day was different but not too much. At least we knew we were going to launch north and that we were going to try to escape the winds by having a task going out to the flats south of us. But, conditions were very stable and it was hard to get any height above launch. Much needed height to cross the valley ahead. Few made it across the valley, which was a shame, since the flying conditions were super nice after that. We flew straight into a convergence zone, Blay was always a few kms ahead and Anton and me kept meeting each other. I slowly caught up with Blay and in the last thermal, Alex joined us as well. Alex was first to go on glide and won the task. But, 2nd behind Alex was definitely not bad :-)

The third task showed the same conditions and the task was not that different either. The big difference was that the task ended with a headwind leg this time. Again it was very hard to gain any height on launch. I didn't want to lose any time doing that and dove into the valley. Alex and Primoz followed. We had to work some light stuff to get through the valley and Primoz took it more careful than Alex and me. We headed to the next ridge as soon as we could and were rewarded with a decent climb there. It was a blue day and it was good to be flying side by side with Alex, both looking for the best lift. Heading for the last turnpoint before final glide, I was a bit unsure whether we could make it and turned back into the hills at first. Alex was just behind me and did continue for goal. I had lost some altitude by now and was 50 m lower. I changed my mind and decided to go on glide as well with 11:1. Big mistake. As I was a bit lower, I got into the headwind just a bit faster as well and soon found myself 200 m below Alex and 500 m short of goal. Damn! 300 Points lost.

But those past 2 days had been a huge confidence boost. On to the fourth task! And that turned out to be a windy day. With a 20 km long headwind final. I was first to hit the turnpoint and felt some movement in the valley. I took the gamble and didn't return to the ridge. That soon ended with a landing and Seppi joined me:

Primoz decided differently and was the only one to return way north of course line, into the mountains where he found some wind shelter. A great decision which was rewarded with task victory. Petr Nedoma was the only other one in goal, after a big climb in the valley at the turn point. Seems I was there just too early... The Czech team was doing great, by the way.

So, on to task 5 and finally with better flying conditions in Lumbier. The task took us along the ridge first and continued with zig-zagging across the valley north-west of Lumbier. Interesting!

I kind of messed up my position on the start gate, but, the first part was along the ridge, so I wasn't worried and raced it low with Blay and later Laurent, which turned out to be the fastest option. Laurent and me took it just a bit too far returning on the ridge and had to climb lighter lift than many of the thermals we had flown through. Many caught us when we reached cloud base before crossing the valley. The first crossing turned out to be the most difficult for the day and I lost some time there, low and just above the wind turbines. After a bit a work there, the sky filled with beautiful cumi's and it was a race back to the airfield. Lot's of happy faces in goal. The conditions had turned on :-)

By now I was 4th overall so I didn't want to screw up yet another comp, but on the other hand I didn't want to slow down either. Task 6 was very interesting. We had to cross the valley south of the main ridge from the north-east to a point south-west of the valley. That created a lot of options to choose from. At the first turnpoint, the air in the valley looked nicer than what we just had been flying through on the ridge, so I wanted to leave the ridge immediately and cross the valley right away. But, I feared I was going to be on my own doing that. I showed Antoine I wanted to go there and went for it. Antoine would have been a good partner, but when I looked back, he didn't follow, so I was heading out into the valley on my own. I thought. Half way through the valley, shortly before the first thermal, I noticed a second shadow next to mine. Hey, Blay's here as well! Blay and I continued to push for the rest of the task and had to slow down just before the last climb. Others came in high above us, but they still had to do the last turnpoint. The climb finally turned on and we regrouped during the last bit of the climb. Elio was just a bit higher and won the task. Another 2nd place finish for me put me in 3rd overall. It was great flying with Blay. We were both keeping an eye on each other, but constantly made our own decisions instead of just following the other. Good fun! And this is how the sky looked at 8 PM above launch while we were driving back to Lumbier:

So, 7th and last day. And I sure didn't want to mess up that day. A 120 km task was set and I took it more defensively for this one. Antoine was in 4th and of course keen to improve on that. He may have pushed it a bit too much early on and he was low at the first turn point. That relaxed me quite a bit and I had a good time flying with Primoz and Elio. Antoine tried really hard and almost caught us before final glide. He went for it early and 300 m lower after finding a really good line there just minutes before. I was in a comfortable position though and followed Primoz and Alex into goal. 3rd place was secured :-)

A big thank you goes out to Adidas Eyewear, their Evil Eyes definitely helped me spot the vultures! And of course to Moyes for building such a nice glider. More on that soon!

Spain

No need to tell that Spain has a lot of history. Always worth visiting a city. Some shots from Lleida:

British Nationals - Tasks 3 to 6

It's been a while, but since this is a kind of a flying diary as well, I'm writing down what happened in the second part of the British nationals.

Task 3 was flown in quite difficult conditions. I lost a lot of time early in the task, but caught up with quite a few again and wasn't unhappy with the day's result. Dan Vynhalik had taken the last start gate and raced the whole task, showing the rest of us what was possible that day. He won the day with a considerable lead.

Task 4 started with an ominous sky on launch. We even had some drops of rain there, but the day cleared up enough to allow us to fly.

It was third time I had to fly the task to Calaf. The first time was in the 2010 Europeans. It was the last task of the comp and managed to land 15 km short then. The second time was the 3rd task in the Belgians the week before. I landed after only 40 km then, effectively losing the title then. So I wasn't very comfortable with the task ;-) The task started with cloud flying, but out in the valley to Calaf, things turned blue, very slow and very low. Half of the flight was less than 500 m above the ground. But, I finally made it to Calaf again... (after an earlier task in the 2010 Europeans) Gijs was also happy to be at goal (with the sea breeze convergence in the background):

A big 140 km task was set for the 5th task. But the weather was that stable that only 10 pilots made it across the ridge. I failed to do so and had to land after 50 minutes of trying. That wasn't good for the overall classification, but not too bad either, since the day was seriously devalued. I was still in 4th, only a few points ahead of Malcolm.

The last day proved to be a rather difficult day as well. Very stable, low thermal tops and blue. I had the opportunity to go for 3rd and I tried too hard. Landing out halfway through the task made me drop down to 9th overall... Andreas who had been leading the comp managed to do about the same and fell off the podium. A big congrats to Grant for winning both the Open and the British title, to Glen for yet another strong performance in still an early competitor's career and to Malcolm for yet another second place in his nationals. Come on Malcolm, better luck next time!

Sasha

Alexandra Serebrennikova, known as Sasha, is a talented new pilot in the scene. And, she's got a very nice blog. Check her pictures of the second task, taking us over Sierra Ferrera.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

British Nationals: day 1 and 2

The British nationals started and the weather turned on again. So far we had 2 days and 2 tasks: a 105 km task and a 150 km task taking us all the way to Sierra Ferrera.

The first task was quite a tough job. For some reason, I could not find nice thermals and was low most of the time. I was pretty frustrated with that feeling, but simply couldn't go fast. To my surprise, only a few gliders were in goal when I landed and I took 6th place for the day.

Yesterday's second task was a scenic one. The Sierra Ferrera ridge is just beautiful, I'm sure many photos and movies will show up online about this flight. For the first time, the thermals took us pretty high as well. Up to 3300 m and maybe even a bit higher for some others. Whilst flying I knew I wasn't going superfast, but I absolutely wanted to make goal to avoid the long retrieve. Gordon and Shedsy took a later start and caught us. Coming back from Sierra Ferrera, I went alone along the higher mountains, expecting to find better lift, but that was the wrong choice. So my course was a bit of a slalom, but I ended up 5th on the task. 5th place overall as well and only 30 point behind 3rd place... A good start to the comp!

Belgian Champion: Tom Haagdorens

The last day of the Belgian and Catalan Open was canceled as well. Thunder at 11 AM pretty much decided that.

Congratulations go out to Tom Haagdorens who won the Belgian Championship for a 3rd time. Tom flew very consistent during the 4 tasks we had and won the Championship with a significant lead. Well done!

It should be noted that Tom does not have a lot of time for flying himself because he runs the hang gliding school Trike Valley. He's a great instructor and proved here that he doesn't even need a lot of practice to win the Championship.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Belgian and Catalan Open - Belgian Nationals - Day 1 to 6

My Belgian nationals started with a rather good first task, but things were dramatically worse on task 2 and 3. In both those tasks, I was flying high and fast, but managed to hit the deck from top of lift. On task 2, I probably chose the wrong side of a lift line, hit major sink, tried to escape the wrong way and was even faster on the ground after that. On task 3, I took a late and low 2nd start gate, but joined up with Glen and Nils after 2 very strong thermals. I was positively surprised about the day quality and should have slowed down when we first flew into the flats. I didn't and that was the end of task 3.

My main contender for the Belgian championship, Tom Haagdorens (my flight instructor), flew 3 very consistent tasks and now was 700 points in the lead. It left me with one option: fly very fast during the next 4 days.

Task 4 was a nice 105 km task and I went for it because I didn't want to have Tom on my tail. I immediately got lower than intended and lost some time. Tom met up with me after 30 km, but it wasn't a nice thermal and I headed out low. That was a good decision and I ended up 2nd for the task, eating away 250 points from Tom.

3 Days to go, 450 points behind now. The stage was set for a very nice battle.

Sadly, both task 5 and 6 had to be canceled due to high winds, so I'm now looking at a 450 point deficit for the last day. The weather was predicted to be very good for today, but looking out the window this morning, it shows a lot of clouds and high instability. I hope we can still fly...

A local TV station visited us on launch and made this little report:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nice movie about the Red Bull X-Alps

The Red Bull X-Alps are the yearly highlight when it comes to paragliding. Enjoy the footage of the extraordinary event, taking the competitors from the old city centre in Salzburg all across the Alps to Monaco:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Belgian nationals coming up

Next Sunday, July 28th, the Belgian and Catalan Open will start. 60 Pilots have already registered. A very diverse field with absolute hotshots and occasional competition pilots. So, if you're looking for a friendly comp or for the ultimate training for the British Nationals, the week after, also in Ager, come and join us.

And burn a candle for epic Catalonian flying weather!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Looking back at the French Open - in short

The French Open have been an interesting comp for me. I can't recall having flown anywhere before where valley wind systems influenced the flying as much as they did there. Of course, the daily overdevelopment in the high mountains sucked in a lot of air and helped those valley winds. I sure should fly some more on the north side :-)

On the other hand, it was also my first true comp with the Moyes RX. And I'm really happy with the increased handling in turbulent air. When it comes to speed, I was able to compete with the lead guys, but I made too many mistakes which made me land. Next comp is the Belgian nationals, so it's time to get my act together again. Just a little more conservative should already help a lot!

On the Covert side, the harness is as comfortable as ever, but even with the slider being moved further back, the head-down balance is minimal. The slightest push on my bar changes my body position. I'll have to learn not to push on the bar at all. The main issue is that I'm always getting into the "standing-man" position in turbulences. Not what you want to do exactly during those times when you need maximum roll authority.

When it comes to sportsmanship, I was surprised at the number of times I saw people exiting clouds. I recall one time where 3 gliders were able to do a transition which I wasn't able to do, because of an estimated 300 m height difference. I will change my attitude towards this. No more silence, because it is just not fair towards others.

And then there was the hot topic of security. Quite a lot took place in that department. First of all congrats to the local organisation. They had the difficult task to run a competition with almost 100% thunderstorm probability. They put a lot of effort in assessing the conditions and I thank them for that.

On the other end of the safety spectrum was the tense time we all experienced on launch when a tandem paraglider pilot had taken off without closing his leg loops. We all watched how he was dangling for the paraglider, even trying to wrap his legs around the little passenger girl. Luckily, he had enough strength in his arms for a few minutes and it all ended well. But we all feared the worst for quite a while.

Lose leg loops in paragliding are pretty much the same as forgetting to clip in the harness to the glider for hang gliders. It is a very bad mistake to make and it should be part of any pre-flight check (but we all know nobody's perfect). Yet, that same day, I was surprised to see a hang glider pilot in my landing field, who was clipped in, but just as well could not have been.

The guy was using two 250 kg carabiners!

He figured out that paragliders used those, so it should be enough to carry him as well. 500 kg is more than his 100 kg clip-in weight, right? Well, we use 3000 kg 'biners for a reason. Imagine what his 250 kg carabiners would have done in this situation! I really hope he stopped using them, at least I told him his was lucky to still be alive...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

DeBeNeCup - Belgian weekend postponed

We're not lucky with the weather. After 2 flyable weekends in Stadskanaal and Hinterweiler, we're not getting the opportunity to finish it in style this weekend in Maillen. Strong winds and grey skies make it impossible to fly a comp task (probably impossible to fly at all).

The Belgian weekend is being postponed to September as most of us will be back from holidays then. So, mark the 14th and 15th of September in your agenda, it's going to be the final round of the 2013 DeBeNeCup!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hinterweiler pics

Dirk Soboll was taking pictures during our Hinterweiler weekend and posted some online. You can find them here.

DeBeNeCup - Hinterweiler weekend

Busy times for me, because the BeNeCup is currently running for the second year and effectively has become the DeBeNeCup since last weekend's trip to Hinterweiler (DE). But, first things first: it started more than a week ago with a weekend in the northern part of the Netherlands, in Stadskanaal. Quite some work to get our Belgian trike over there especially because our traffic didn't want to cooperate. Almost 6 hours on the road for a local comp...

But we did have a successful weekend with two small tasks. Although not making goal and only managing 25 km, I won the first task, with Arne hot on my heels. What can you say, a 600 m ceiling isn't easy, is it? The second task was almost completely overcast and pretty windy as well. 700 m ceiling and I went out early and landed a few km shorter than half of the field. But in fact, the very low ceiling, with extremely smooth, gentle thermals made it an hour of pure joy. Short, but good fun.

This weekend, we headed for Hinterweiler in the German Eifel region. Saturday was forecasted to be windy and indeed it turned out to be just that. So we discovered some of the beautiful surroundings by foot.

We had a nice evening in a local restaurant and drank a few extra beers to please the weather gods for Sunday. When we woke up, it looked like the weather gods weren't easily pleased:

The predictions were for nicer weather, be it with quite some wind, so we trusted that and set a 92 km task downwind. If the weather cleared up soon, 92 km would be easy, but if it didn't, it could prove to be way too ambitious.

It turned out that it took quite some time before the weather cleared at Hinterweiler. There were cumi's in the distance all the time, but only by 3 PM it was time to give it a go. The sun made it's appearance, so there was no time to waste:

It turned out to be great flying. Not easy because it was a continuous fight to stay in the sun but very enjoyable. The scenery had quite something to offer as well. First the volcanic Eifel hills, passing the Nürburgring on the way, then into the Rhein valley and crossing the Rhein into the smooth hills east of it. 25 km from goal everything got shaded out and a sailplane flew low below me, coming right out of the direction to our goal, the Ailertchen airfield. The sailplane had his engine out, so that didn't bode well at all. Luckily the air was unstable enough to continue to produce light thermals and after 2h45, I made goal and turned out to be the only one at goal for the day.

The results are on the DeBeNeCup site.

The airfield at goal was pretty busy by the way. General aviation, sailplane and hang glider towing, RC model planes and parachutist all share the air there. I wish there was such a place in Flanders...

The tracklog of the flight, crossing the Rhein :-)

Finally, a big thank you goes out to the hang glider club in Hinterweiler, DFC Vulkaneifel. They were exceptionally nice hosts to our little international competition. We could camp on the field, they provided us with breakfast and loads of cakes and proved to be a very efficient launch crew. All of this in the beautiful Eifel scenery, what more do you want? Danke DFC Vulkaneifel!

Und jetzt die Daumen drücken für schönes Flugwetter nächstes Wochenende in Belgien!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quick video of a flight above Beauraing

Saturday was quite windy, but had very unstable conditions. This resulted in great climbs but also in a strange kind of on/off weather. There were cycles with lots of sun and then suddenly the air lifted everywhere until it almost overdeveloped. This shaded the whole place and shut everything down, so you could only find slow climbs during that time. Every cycle took about an hour. Here's a quick video mash-up of some of the action:

Monday, May 20, 2013

GoPro Hero3 Firmware update

I've had a lot of troubles using the WiFi remote on the GoPro camera's. One month ago, a new firmware version was released. It took me quite some time to get it all working today, but both cameras seem to react nicely to the WiFi remote now. Turned them on and off multiple times and the camera's kept getting connected. So let's hope it works just as well on the glider next time too...

Quite a shame it didn't work 2 days ago. The colours with splendid from above, with the blossoming rapeseed and the bright green grass. Next time though...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Maiden flight with the Moyes Litespeed RX4

I couldn't wait to test-fly my new RX4 and yesterday provided a brief good-weather-intermezzo, so even if I a had to back in time for a games night with friends, I just had to go and test it. The weather was predicted to be overcast until midday but was promised to be very nice afterwards. And indeed, it turned out to be that way. Rigging was done under a clearly unstable, but still overcast sky:

To my surprise, not even a single other Belgian hang glider pilot showed up. The forecast was good, where were they? Whatever, William (a PG pilot and our tug pilot, what a combination ;-) ) and I had a good time in the sun (which appeared from 13h30) and I had the chance to fly my first thermals with the RX.

And what a pleasure that was! Quite a low ceiling, but very enjoyable flying. Both in terms of the weather and in terms of the glider. I had to land after an hour already, because I needed to go... But I had a huge smile on my face :-) Look at that:

I love the way the colours turned out (they combine my curved tip Spyder colours with the red-striped Combat past), I absolutely love the handling of the RX4 and I had a great day out. One to remember!

Come on Covert, make it back across the pond, I need you!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Flying over Flanders

Last Sunday was a special flying day for me. My first flight over Flanders, my home region. A winch towing club, de Hoekse Vliegers, just North of Flanders, in the Netherlands, already invited me a couple of months ago and now it finally worked out. I set myself a 100 km out-and-return task Hoek - Tielt - Hoek because conditions were predicted to be pretty good, although the sky was grey when I arrived in Hoek. At 11 o'clock, things started to clear out and the sky looked very nice by the time I was set up.

Egbert was a super friendly host and Jan did a great job on the winch. I was towed up just before 1 P.M. with cloud base still pretty low at 800 m. Here's a quick video mashup of the towing action:

The first thermal only took me to 700m and it took me a while to reach cloud base for the first time, but I was on my way and really enjoying the flight. I was surprised to find out that the thermals were pretty turbulent, because the clouds looked nice and there was almost no wind. So I expected nice smooth circles, but the reality was that quite some work was needed.

Didn't spoil the fun though, the view over Aalter, seeing my home town Ghent in one side and the Belgian coast on the other side, was great. Sadly no option to land at the beach, because this is Belgium after all, it's just one big CTR/TMA with a just few spots available to free flyers...

Anyway, I needed a low save at my turnpoint, but after that the flying conditions improved dramatically and I just cruised back to Terneuzen. I was pretty cold after those 4 hours and loved the sun on the towing field. And it was time for a cloud-cooled Red Bull which had gone along for the ride. First 100 km out and return in Flanders on the first attempt. Good fun!

Here's the tracklog:

Long time ago already...

I notice I haven't posted anything since Australia... So it's still ok to post the last view I had of Forbes airfield. Stunning, right?

Bye bye Australia, hope to see you again!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

19th HG Worlds - Day 10 - Task 9

A 240 km task was set, starting a little earlier than the previous days (1:50 PM). The day was beautiful with cumi's and associated strong lift everywhere. Cirrus caused some shading for a 20 km stretch near the second turnpoint, but other than that you couldn't have asked for more. This was the Australian weather we came for! It finally happened :-)

Unlike yesterday, there was plenty of time for launching today. I had time to reach and optimal starting point and there was some true racing going on for the first 140 km. 80 - 90 km/h glides between 4 - 5 m/s thermals. It felt good to be racing with the leaders, haven't done enough of that this championship.

I lost some time at the edge of the cirrus band, where things got slower and I missed a thermal that seemed to shoot Christian Ciech into the sky. Than I took a wrong course line under a dying cloud, but saw Primoz or Paris again at the 3rd turnpoint. They made it in and I should have as well, but I feared the day was dying and wasn't patient enough. I landed at 6 PM and saw gliders flying over my head for the next hour. 213 km out of 240 is not bad, but it is only good enough for 51st place. Such is the level at this World Championship.

17 made goal, but most remarkably, not Manfred, missing goal by 5 km. This significantly reduces his lead over Alex Ploner, now down to 15 points. The winner scores close to 1000 points a day, so the battle for victory is extremely tight between these two. It's going to happen today!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

19th HG Worlds - Day 9 - Task 8

Finally a less windy day and a 192 km triangle was set. Rest day for the drivers as the task committee put it. No Belgian has ever flown a 192 km triangle, so I was pretty keen to make goal ;-) The task committee wanted to make it a race (single start gate), but they did include later start gates for those unlucky with launching.

Because I'm quite far down in the standings and launching was slow yesterday due to the turning winds, I was launched 25 minutes before the start gate opened. It was 9 km from Forbes and I was going to be hard to get to the start in time. I found a good thermal 3 km behind the start gate and when I flew back to start, I was 5 km behind the others and had a height deficit. Not good, when everybody takes the first start.

Initially, I raced hard and started catching up with pilots. After 40 km, I raced for a field which had 5 dusties, sacrificing a lot of height, but the resulting thermal by far wasn't as spectacular as expected and I had to take the relatively slow climb now. No chance of catching up with the leaders anymore.

It was good flying, but I had to make all the decisions. A bunch of pilots followed me, but they never went out into the blue. So, I took the risks and got low and slow on 2 more occasions. 15 km from goal, the day faded and I had to be extremely patient in a thermal that drifted more than it went up to avoid an outlanding.

Anyway, I made sure I could get to goal and enjoyed the evening colors:

As expected, lots of people were already in goal, as gaggle flying does pay off on those blue days. It took me 5,5 hours and the leaders were an hour faster than I was.

Biggest triangle flown by a Belgian :-)

I enjoyed flying it a lot.

Monday, January 14, 2013

19th HG Worlds - Day 8 - Task 7 - Over and out

A 200+ km task and I only managed 30 km. I guess the next worlds are in 2 years time...

19th HG Worlds - Day 7 - Task 6

Safety issues yesterday. Loads of wind in the afternoon were predicted, yet a task was set and accepted. I told Zippy (task committee) I was concerned about it and he told me he was happy it was out of his hands. He was right about that.

During the first hour, the winds picked up from 15 km/h to 45 km/h. And the forecast was for way more wind, so I decided to land. Sure enough the task wasn't going to last much longer and I was nauseous anyway. To my surprise, it took another hour before the task was stopped. With that amount of wind, the others flew another 70 km, so I lost a lot of points yesterday. I'm pretty pissed that I didn't have the motivation to keep going, but very much also because I think that any reasonable thinking would have stopped the task way earlier.

I walked the glider to the edge of the field with my hands on the base bar. About the right time to land, I guess, how much longer do you have to wait? Quite a bit longer if you do not want to risk losing 500 points.

19th HG Worlds - Day 6 - Task 5

Interesting day it was, as predicted by the task committee (In-Tree-Esting). Pretty string winds, 2 forest crossings, a bit of wave on the first glide, a 7 m/s thermal to 4200 m and a 50 km fight against a 40 km/h wind.

Nobody made goal as the task was stopped when the winds increased even more. I was happy to be on the ground. The local farmer checked and offered help to every single pilot landing in his field.

Friday, January 11, 2013

19th HG Worlds - Day 5 - Task 4

A 170 km dog-leg task was set yesterday, with a 35 km exit circle. While trying to go upwind in the start circle, I found myself pretty low, without signs of lift for a whole while or other gliders, on yet another blue day. It didn't look good and got my nerves going. After struggling a bit, I got to a decent starting height with a few others around me.

We took the second start (15:00) and the gaggle stopped in pretty weak lift. I wasn't satisfied with that and glided on. Twice. This got me really low and I had to work whatever lift I could find. It was strong but turbulent lift and I felt more like a leaf in the wind than a pilot in the sky. The gaggle passed me and I was on my own again. I was low on 2 more occasions before we hit the turnpoint at 70 km, but got strong climbs and flew with the gaggle from the turnpoint.

When the day started to calm down, I took it easier than most others and played safer for final glide. It cost me a few places, but I really wanted to ensure that I made goal. It was beautiful flying, with the sun getting lower already, changing the colors and mellowing the thermals. I had lift when I arrived at goal and if we wouldn't have to do the drive back to forbes, I certainly would have taken it and enjoyed the rest of the day flying as much as possible.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Results in

The lead points don't make up for the lost time at all. A mere 8 more than day winner Zippy. Puts me in 43rd for the day. Must say that I hoped it would have been a bit better.

19th HG Worlds - Day 4 - Task 3

A 130 km triangle was set today. Light winds were expected and lift was not expected to be very strong, so the 130 km seemed like a good enough task. Indeed it started that way. I had nothing but sink on tow and it was my first tow in Forbes where I didn't release before I was being waved off. Actually, I wasn't even waived off today, the tug pilot just raised both arms, signalling that he was sorry, but that I had to get off the tow. I was in sink indeed and it took me a while before I found a thermal. I managed to get to the start circle just in time (way back in the standings now, long wait before I'm towed up).

I had my doubts whether the 1st start gate was too early to go, but hey, they didn't predict very strong lift today, so despite the pretty weak lift I had until then, I decided to go for it. It looked like the 130 km was going to be quite a task in those conditions, so I didn't want to waste too much time. What a mistake!

We flew a bit off course, looking for lift and had low and slow progress for the first 30 minutes. After that, the day turned on. It was one 3 m/s thermal (or more) after the other. Racing those with Gerd and Conrad was good fun, but I realized that the later start gates wouldn't have had the slow conditions we had in the beginning. Indeed, at the second turnpoint, we were caught by the 2nd gaggle. They already had us in sight for quite a while.

From there on, it was a fast race back to Forbes with loads of gliders in the sky. Close thermaling it was, luckily the nicely organized thermals allowed it. We won't have won the day, nowhere near, but it was a great recovery after yesterday's disaster. And I do hope the lead points will make up for some of the lost time. Bring on tomorrow!

Not to be forgotten: a big thank you to all the volunteers working to make this happen. Look at the activity and everybody's focus. They really do everything they can to get us in the air as efficiently as possible:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hottest ever?

Monday is expected to be the hottest day ever in Australia. Central Australia is expected to reach temperatures up to 54 degrees C. Luckily that won't hit us, we'll be getting some cooler air and maybe some rain on Monday. But 40+ degrees are predicted for Saturday and Sunday. It's going to be hot again!