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!

19th HG Worlds - Day 3 - Task 2

Lots of wind today. Pilots struggled not to drift out of the start cylinder due to the 35 km/h winds at 1500 m. I launched late, because I didn't look forward to another long fight in a turbulent start gaggle. My position for the first start gate wasn't too bad, but I was still 3 km from the cylinder, so I decided to wait for the next, conditions were probably improving anyway.

However, we had to fly quite far against the wind for the next thermal and after another 20 minutes, I was again in a bad position to take the start. That sucked. The same out-of-sync scenario for the 3rd start gate. By that time I should have decided to go anyway, but instead I headed for Zippy a few km away. From there on, it was a slow descent to the ground. Some strong, short-lived cores in between, but it didn't work out. A really bad result for the day. I can only hope I will fly some decent tasks now and get at least somewhere again in the standings.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Belgian HG Open and Catalunian Cup

The Belgian championship will this year be organized in cooperation with the Catalan Cup. The championship will be held in Ager, from July 28th until Aug 3rd. For those of you interested in combining a few comps, this could be very interesting, because the Dutch Nationals are held the week before in Laragne (there is a day in between for travelling, no problem there) and the British Nationals are held the week after our championship, also in Ager.

So, we're expecting quite a mix of participants in our comp: Belgians, Catalunians, Spanish, British pilots training for the week after and Dutch guys having an extra comp after their own nationals.

The entry fee will be 80 euro when pre-registered, so that shouldn't stop you from coming! CU this summer!

19th HG Worlds - Day 2

Day 2 was canceled due to high winds. The predictions for today, day 3, are for moderate to strong winds, low ceiling (4500 ft) and strong lift (3,5 m/s on average). Looks like we'll get another start gaggle from hell.

Monday, January 7, 2013

19th HG Worlds - Day 1 - Task 1

I had a rather difficult day yesterday. Some of the flying days, I am sure that you must be able to go a lot faster, but I simply cannot find the strong cores which must be there. It all seems out of sync, always flying in turbulent thermals, but not being able to find the sweet spot, although I'm searching for it. I felt the same last year during the first task of the Belgian nationals.

So, my day yesterday was pretty low and turbulent, while the top guys flew from one strong thermal to another. I lost half an hour on them, that's quite a lot. But, nothing's lost, I made goal and the score is still decent. I will have to fly faster though to move up in the rankings...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Last training day - 2013 Worlds start tomorrow

Today was the last training day, practice day in fact, where everything should unfold like a normal comp day. A 140 km task was set, but I was never going to fly that today, saving energy for the real comp days to come. The task committee consists of Jonny, Attila and Zippy, so, knowing the first two, we'll get loads of hours under the belt. They obviously have a lot of experience here, but as a side remark, it is my opinion that the task committee should be balanced. Anyway, I should have opened my mouth about that yesterday, as I did during the first meeting in Sigillo, when 2 Italian Icaro pilots were nominated for the task committee. Lots of people agreed back then that that was not desirable. We've all seen in the past how politics can get involved when the stakes are high...

Don't get me wrong, I have confidence that the task committee will do a good job. And I just know for sure it's going to be an endurance battle, looking at the weather forecasts.

So, I just flew for 1,5 hours today, enjoying the air, being surprised by the large sink area's and having some GoPro fun in between. I'm also very happy with my pair of Adidas Evil Eyes. It's nice to be able to recognize the competition from far away!

Tomorrow's the big day. Another 43 degree forecast, first comp day, everybody hoping that the towing operation will be smooth and efficient. Start order will be random on the first task, so I hope I have some luck with that.

From now on, it's for real. Good night.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Adapting the Combat to the heat

The first few days in Australia, I was surprised how tough hang gliding was. The glider was really hard to steer and I originally thought that was caused by the turbulent air and the lack of flying in the past 3 months.

It took me a while to realize the heat was causing it. Our sails shrink with increasing temperatures, so you have to decrease the batten length (it took about 3 turns on my inner battens and 1 or 2 on the outer to cover the 20 degree difference between last setup in Belgium and here). As important is what happens along the wing span. The Combat has rings (shims) which can be used to extend the leading edge. Mine was delivered with 4,5 mm rings. That's quite a lot, but when my glider was test-flown in January, temperatures were -30 in the Ukraine. That's 70 degrees difference to the 40 degrees we've got here. The result is that my glider became very slow in roll control because of the high lateral tension in the hot temperatures we experience here.

I made a drastic change and removed the 4,5 mm rings. The glider now has a surprisingly light handling, but bar pressure on fast glider has also increased significantly. Too much of a change. Luckily Paris went from 3 to 2 mm on his Combat and I'll be able to use his 3 mm rings on mine. I think that will provide a nice compromise.

So, anybody who's having a different glider between summer and winter: think about adding/removing rings to the leading edge. It does make a difference.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

More free flying

Although yesterday was very windy for pretty much the whole day, a few of us did get to fly late in the day. I launched around 16:45 and had great climbs flying into the headwind. 5 m/s to 3000 m, cloud after cloud, easy :-) Until I got overconfident and made a 3 stupid decisions in a row and landed out 30 km N of Forbes. Probably the best looking sky I've ever landed in. Damn!

And without cell phone signal, it made me miss most of New Year's eve. Couldn't find any food anymore, so it was just drinks from there ;-)