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!


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!


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: