Friday, July 29, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 10, Task 7

Task 7 was a 120 km task around the valley, dodging the overdevelopment (OD) areas in the mountains around the valley. The OD started soon, while we were waiting under a big dark cloud to start the race. The start gate shouldn't have been any later...

We all flew across the first gap in the mountains and found a turbulent lee-side thermal on the NE corner of the mountain N of Bitola. I decided to try the SW flank of the mountain as soon as I would be able to cross the ridge. Well, that really got me in some turbulence! It took a minute of searching before I hit a turbulent 5 m/s monster. I never gripped my speed bar that hard, but it ripped me up to cloudbase in no time. What an incredible sight to see the mountain fall away from you like that. I was impressed.

This thermal put me in the lead and we crossed the blue sky above the valley. The other side had nice clouds which were surely going to OD later on. The gaggle assembled in the next thermal and we raced to the North turnpoint. At this point, I decided to gamble for task victory. The lead gaggle continued deep into the turnpoint to get the climb under the next cloud, while I immediately turned around. Well, it didn't work. I didn't find the strong thermal I needed and went into 'bring it home' mode after that. Still, arriving 10th, 3 minutes after the leaders is a nice result and it puts me in 24th overall. So maybe, top 20 is still reachable...

Today is going to be the title decider. Italians Alex Ploner and Christian Ciech are only separated by 13 points, with a 100 point advantage on Swiss guy Peter Neuenschwander. Will the two World Champions battle each other and risk the Swiss to run away with it? Probably not, since the Italians have been unbeatable as a team. Anyway, let's celebrate hang gliding today and have a great task! See ya!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 9, Task 6: Bomb out...

A bomb out and a re-flight for me yesterday. I started 20 minutes after the last start gate, so it was going to be very difficult to get a decent speed along the task, due to the 20 minutes handicap and having everybody 40 minutes ahead on course line.

Initially, the run was good and I caught a few people, but I got very slow in the shade near Prilep. Surely, for the lead gaggle the thermals in the shade were still more active, or I simply didn't find the strong one there. Lost a lot of time and only scored 570 points for the task. I can forget about my (already adjusted) top 20 ambition now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 7 & 8: Rest days

Days 7 & 8 had thunderstorms, so we didn't fly tasks. We went for some swimming in the Ochrid lake and visisted Ochrid. Yesterday started with a CIVL meeting to talk about some general issues with some interested pilots and after that there was more swimming in an abandoned marble quarry. Picture by Matjaz:

The day ended with a magic sunset on the Treskavec launch above Prilep:

2016 Euros, Day 6, Task 5

Task 5 was a 145 km task around the valley. Matjaz, Sasha, Mario and I had the most relaxed wait for the start gate at 2000 m above the valley. Others were being thrown around in turbulent thermals above the mountain. That was already a good start to the task :-)

We nailed the start and a lead gaggle formed in a washing-machine-alike thermal above Barakova. That was hectic! Luckily we left it pretty early and headed further into the direction of Pelister, the 2600 m high mountain West of Bitola. The real racing started from then on with 3 m/s thermals to 3000 m and long glides. We touched the Greece border and headed North, heading into quite a strong NE wind. I charged hard because it was my only tactical plan I had to try to win the task. 25 km from goal, my 3 m/s thermal quickly attracted Antoine's attention and we were both leading. Sadly, it suddenly stopped at 2000 m, which meant we needed an extra 300 m to make goal. The north turnpoint had a little hill in front of it, so surely the SW area, which was lee-side in the NE winds was going to provide the thermal we needed. But because the day was dying, we took it conservatively and stopped racing.

Arriving at the North turnpoint, we found some light broken lift. We searched the area for a few minutes until we saw the gaggle coming our way. That's when we made the mistake to leave for the next thermal hotspot. The following gaggle found some lift and easily made it in. Antoine and I struggled on the last turnpoint and barely made any height. At this point, Antoine was at least 100 m higher and when the thermal died, I decided to glide to goal in a direct line, over the spot which generated the last 3 m/s thermal. Alas, that didn't work and I was 3 km short :-( Antoine glided more North and arrived with excess height... Ouch, what a missed chance to make up quite a number of places!

Lots of leading points, but that's not worth much compared to making it to goal...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 5, Task 4: GPS issues again

We had a 120 km task yesterday, which took us more into the mountains (more to the North and visiting the Predistil mountain). The race started in a good position for me, but I soon found myself low after coming back from the first turnpoint. A slow low save was required and I thought the day was over. But, the second half of the task I raced hard and managed to get quite a bit closer to the leaders. There were nice climbs in a convergence zone west of Bitola, which provided a great view on the Prespa an Ochrid lakes from 3000 m.

On the second to last climb, Antoine, who had been super low at Krushevo, joined me while the climb was slowing down and I signaled to go on glide. We both left, only for Antoine to fly into a strong core 500 m later. So I was gliding out alone again... on to the last climb of the day in the middle of the valley. The gaggle now came in above me, since they had all enjoyed the core found by Antoine.

Antoine was the first to start on final glide and the entire second gaggle followed. So did I. But, after just a short while on glide, I lost GPS reception, as has happened each time I fly in the Prilep area :-( I had no numbers on my glide and no idea where exactly and how far the last turnpoint was. That was a major bummer. I flew around the other ones to ensure I made the turnpoint and immediately after taking the turnpoint, the GPS signal was recovered, so I flew into the cylinder again. Only to lose the signal again and now be in trouble because I was too low for final glide. A low and slow thermal cost me 15 minutes and around 100 points... Luckily the backup GPS and the Airtribune logging show me in the turnpoint and I was scored flying into goal.

Alex won the day and probably takes the overall lead now.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 3, Task 2

Frustrating flight today. We had a 120 km task around the valley and I had the same issues as yesterday. Low most of the time and not finding any good thermals to take me to a safer altitude. Knowing that most people you were with at 80 km all made goal and that I hit the deck 20 km short doesn't make it any nicer. Feels like I'm taking one wrong decision after the other. Let's hope I stop doing that tomorrow.


For quick updates, follow me on Twitter.

2016 Euros, Day 2, Task 1

Yesterday, we had an 85 km task around the valley, see the Airtribune results page. I started the race to enthusiastically and soon found myself scratching rather low in the valley. I lost time, never got really high after that and struggled my way around the course. 35th in goal, 10 minutes behind the first. Still 800 points, which is more than I expected. Plenty of days to go, so let's try to climb our way up the standings...

Not many surprises in the field, although some pilots have a bad score already. Notably Tom, who missed a turnpoint and Zippy who got trapped by shade. We all know Zippy and for sure expect some task victories from him now :-)

We use live tracking, so everyone can follow us as the race is unfolding, but you can also watch a replay of the task. It's a shame that quite a few of the top pilots do not use live tracking, but as long as it is not mandatory, pilots will want to hide their tactics...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016 Euros, Day 1

The task was canceled due to variable launch conditions. It was the right thing to do. If not, half of the pilots would have had a great flight and half of the pilots would have landed below launch. There's no need to have this kind of lottery, we still have 10 possible task days to go. Good call by the organizers.

I flew for an hour and the glider feels good. Good thermaling in left and right turns and straight on glide. Ready to race. Let's hope we get a first real task tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Crossing the Dachstein

This one doesn't need a lot of text. Five Belgians crossed the Dachstein :-) Congrats Pavel, Koen, Michel and Bart! Here's a raw edit: