Saturday, August 13, 2016

Italian Nationals - Bora causes strong NE winds

Our patience is being tested at the Italian Nationals. Day after day, the weather forecast predicts the winds to die down the next day, but the Bora keeps blowing strong and it looks like we will only have had 2 tasks... Yesterday, we were sent up to Tre Pizzi, although our chances to fly were nil. Organizer psychology: you have to try everything to try to have a task. Let's see what today's decision will be, since the weather forecast is exactly the same: no flying where we are, while the rest of Italy has good weather. Quite frustrating.

I think it's time to head to Slovenia or the southern Alps. At least there will be 2 flying days over there...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Italian Nationals, Task 1

The 2016 Italian Nationals are held in Sigillo, in Umbria, central Italy. Sigillo lies at the foothills of Monte Cucco, a special place in hang gliding because of the top landing options and the well known laminar conditions in SW winds, which allow for dune gooning on a 1500 m mountain.

However, we are currently in a rather strong NE flow and yesterdays task was launched from Tre Pizzi. What looked like an easy 80 km ridge run, turned into a tough battle due to rather weak thermal conditions and little ridge lift because the wind was too cross. Even before launching I had made the decision to take the last (second) start gate because it looked like conditions were going to improve during the day. This didn't really happen and overall, glides were surprisingly bad. After 60 km, I had caught up with most pilots from the first start gate (only Marco and Balasz were far ahead) and needed a last thermal to make it to goal. The idea was to leave the ridge which wasn't working anyway and fly it through the valley. However, I spotted Suan climbing in the direction of the ridge and joined him. It only went up 1 m/s and I decided to race on, aborting the plans to go through the valley. Big mistake. I only encountered strong sink and waited too long to head for the valley after all. 12 km short...

If only I would have been more patient and climbed out with Suan. Suan made goal and was 3rd. Here are the results for task 1.

The day wasn't without surprises. European and World champion Christian Ciech landed after 53 km. Only 5 pilots reached goal and the average distance per pilot is less than 40 km. As a result, the day is devalued and worth only 640 points. So I only lose 200 points for not making goal. A bit lucky there.

The scores will still needed to be corrected though, since it looks like the 2 rigid pilots in goal have also been counted in the flex results. So, probably, the day gets devalued even a bit more.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Christian Ciech is our new European Champion

The final day of the Euros was comparable to the 2 days before. A high risk of overdevelopment and thunderstorms in the mountains surrounding the valley. The task committee was again forced to keep us away from the mountains and to make the task short enough, so we'd land before things would go berserk everywhere. A 100 km task with 3 turnpoints and basically a 50 km final leg into goal was set.

Keen as I was to keep up the positive trend in my flying, I started hard from the start. Too hard though, because I soon found myself low. Did I ever do this before? I don't seem to learn... Well, the chase started from there. I only took the best parts of the thermals and didn't worry about not getting to cloudbase and soon was catching up. On the way to the second turnpoint, a thunderstorm was developing in the West. It's anvil was casting a large shadow which quickly started to cover the entire valley. The lead gaggle went straight through the middle of the valley, 10 minutes ahead, but for Suan, Zippy and me, this didn't seem to be an option anymore. We diverted to the East of the valley, trying to outrun the shadow. It worked quite well and we arrived in goal 10 minutes after the leaders. I was happy not to lose more time after the start, where I found myself low with Laurent and Petr Benes.

The leaders, Alex and Christian had a tight battle and Christian edged out Antoine & Alex on the final glide, ensuring his first European title, already being the reigning World Champion. Congratulations Christian! You're winning it while using the most daring tactics, such as choosing locations far away from the gaggle to take the start from a better position. Complimenti!

Picture by Tom Weissenberger

Complimenti also to the entire Italian team. They dominate hang gliding like Ferrari dominated F1 in the Schumacher era. It's obvious when you fly along with them that their radio communication is very efficient. If someone finds a better core, the Italian team is there in no time. The tactics are also impressive and resemble those used in cycling: splitting the team up to have front runners and other members dedicated to covering the opposition. As the sole Belgian, I can only dream of flying in such a team...

My compliments also to the Hungarian and Czech teams for their 2nd and 3rd place, beating the traditional countries. Not an easy feat and very well done!

My ambition for the Euros was a top 15 finish. Based on the second half of the comp, that should have been possible. I ended 22nd, mainly due to missing goal on the second task and a bombout which cost me a lot of time. But I'm happy about the progress and just have to eliminate the biggest mistakes for the next comp. CU later!