Thursday, January 08, 2015

Forbes Flatlands - Last Task

Fantastic last task today.  It all started with a bit of grumbling over the task setting.  The committee decided to have predetermined stop at 4:30 for safety reasons.  The forecast looked identical to yesterday and they were quite sure it would overdevelop as it did yesterday.  About the half the pilots felt like there was no reason to stop it in advance of knowing whether or not the forecast would really pan out.  They took a vote at the briefing - which was pretty much split down the middle - and then decided to let the safety committee make the decision.  In the end, they decided not to stop it in advance.  

But, with the expectation of overdevelopment, they called a shortish (for Forbes) task to the south and then east, thinking that most would take the first start.  Most did, but not all.  Atilla hung back and took the second start.  Jonny apparently wanted to wait (as he wasn't able to leave the start circle right on time), but worried about the forecast storms and went on ahead with most everyone.  

All the drivers sped to goal and watched the sky for storms and for the coming leaders.  Blenky, Jonny and Atilla were the first three in (I think in that order), but with Atilla taking the second start and the others on the first.  We watched several pilots come in over the next 15 minutes wondering what might have happened to Zac in first place.  After 16 minutes, with probably 15 pilots between him and the first in, Zac finally made it - together with Gordon (in second place overall and Jonas in third).  It was a nail biter for everyone at goal - and probably for those watching the trackers from abroad.   In the end there were probably 35 at goal.  And, by the way, the overdevelopment never reached us.  

We're getting read to go to the prize giving in the next half hour and still don't know for sure who will win.  The speculation at goal was that Atilla will steal most of the big points with the day win and Jonny won't get enough in second to overtake Zac (and probably not Gordon or Jonas either).  But, it will be interesting to see how it all comes out.  

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Forbes Flatlands - Task 5

The task committee originally called a triangle to the north with the first let into the wind.  Not everyone necessarily understood that, but it didn't matter because out at the tow paddock the north wind was stronger than expected and they quickly realized a task with leg one into a decent wind probably wasn't the best idea.  So, they went with the alternate task - a slight dog leg to the southwest.  

Although there was no talk of thunderstorms in the forecast (at least not that I heard), as I got about halfway to goal in the car, I could see a big cell that appeared to be just to the west of goal.  

It quickly became quite widespread and I got the text message that the task was stopped.  Many came down and landed near the turn point before the gust front hit.  They were about 2 hours on course and near 100km, so while it won't be a 1000 point day, it should still be reasonable scoring.  It should be very interesting going into the last day - just 2 points between first and second place!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Forbes Flatlands - Task 4

Looooong task and a long day overall.  They called a 258km task out to the west (toward Hay).  The drive along course line takes you through almost nothing, just lots of Australian outback.  Drivers were warned at the briefing to fuel up anyplace we saw an open station.  It's not unheard of for teams to sleep in their cars after a late retrieve waiting for the gas station to open up in the morning.  That may have been the fate of the team of Christian/Blenky/Glen as their driver arrived at goal with 1/3 a tank of fuel - which wouldn't have been enough to make it back to the nearest fuel at West Waylong (haven't heard yet this morning though).  

Anyway, it was a long task time wise.  Most pilots were on course at least 6 hours and even after we packed and left goal we heard that more still came in (around 25 total, I'm guessing).  No scores are up yet, but it looks like Zac will have won the day (that lucky hat is working!) with Jonas, Glen and Jonny very close behind.  Glen and Jonas took the first start, worried that the day would fizzle out early.  They lead most of the way with Jonny catching them from the second start maybe halfway on course.  Gordo also did much of the leading, but off on his own left of courseline, where the others tended to stay right.  

Amongst the top ten, Atilla and Trent weren't in goal.  Others in the top ten were slow.  So, standings will change a bit when the scores come out this morning (hopefully soon).  

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Some Pics from Day 3

Yesterday and today were canned  because of thunderstorms.  All should be back to HOT and normal tomorrow and looks like for the rest of the competition.  Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Forbes Flatlands - Day 3

What a day!! Seriously under-called task, but 40 very happy pilots at goal yesterday.  The cloud streets lined up so perfectly that I couldn't catch them even at 140km/hour on the highway.  It was one of those classic Forbes days and it's just a pity they didn't call a 400km task, because I'm sure it could have been done.  Most were landing during the strongest part of the day and even driving home from goal at 7pm the clouds still looked incredible!  Reminded me of a day a few years ago when we went from Forbes to Hay ;-).

Friday, January 02, 2015

Stories of Yesterday

The gust front we drove home through last night was the widest one I have ever seen - I LOVE the exciting weather in Forbes.  It turned the sky (and everything else) a golden brown.  We stopped at one point on a eucalyptus lined road to jump out a get some pictures.  After 2 or 3 minutes outside the car, Tullio shouted over the howling wind "hey, maybe we should get away from these trees", so we started back toward the car and just about then a giant eucalyptus branch came loose and landed just short of Zippy.  With the day win and the narrow miss of the tree branch, we decided Zippy should buy a lottery ticket. 

We also heard news driving home that Sasha was unaccounted for.  In the midst of that massive gust front, the whole car was quietly concerned.  Arriving home, we heard no news and even at breakfast, with scores up and no Sasha or Gerolf in them, we worried more.  Thankfully, I heard from Gordo this morning that Sasha had landed safely 25km beyond goal and got her glider flat on the ground about five minutes before the front hit.  She even made the 400 goal cylinder - go Sasha!!!

Speaking of the goal cylinder, they are going with a goal line most days here and the rule is, if there is a line out there when the pilots arrive, it's a goal line finish.  If there is no line (maybe the paddock isn't suitable or something), then goal is a 400 meter cylinder.  Yesterday, Zippy arrived so quickly that Rob didn't have the goal line out yet.  So presumably, goal was the cylinder.  But, Rob put the goal line out just seconds after Zippy landed and that left the rest of the field with a goal line finish.  I can see situations where that could cause a problem.  For instance, if Zippy had gone to the far edge of the 400 meter cylinder and not crossed the line (which wasn't the case yesterday - he flew directly over where the line was later placed) AND they went with the line finish, he wouldn't make goal.  Apparently yesterday, Vicki gave Zippy the choice of taking his time across the cylinder or across the goal line, so it wasn't a problem here.  Zippy chose to have the goal line time and presumably all other pilots making goal get scored when they cross the line.  But, I wonder if Sasha will be scored getting goal or not?  I heard she got the cylinder, but probably not the line.  

Forbes Flatlands - Day 2

Awesome call on both the weather and the task!  The forecast called for quite a lot of overdevelopment around the area, especially in Forbes by mid-afternoon.  The task committee (Jonny, Atilla and Gerolf) found a narrow corridor to the south (which was very convenient since we had pretty strong north winds) that took them to the only area that didn't look to have any overdevelopment.  The only concern was that the weather was meant to build and follow us south, so there was a chance it would catch us and spoil the day.  

Winds in the tow paddock started out fairly strong out of the north and people were running around with wind meters worrying that it might be too strong.  Early readings were around 30km/hour.  It lightened up just a bit by launch open.  By the time everyone was towed up we could see the overdevelopment all around us (except to the south).  When I left Forbes to head to goal, this was chasing me.

 But, out in front, in the direction of goal, the sky was classic and it was clear if they were out in front of the weather, it would be a fantastic day.  The task zig zagged to the south and with the strong tailwind component, they were moving fast!  I arrived at goal watching the first guys with trackers right on my tail, but I couldn't find the goal field - no goal keeper, no line, no nothing.  I thought I was at the wrong coordinates.  Not two minutes before the first glider came in, I found goal keeper Rob.  But, he had just arrived and didn't have time to get the line out before Zac came racing in.  I had watched him on the SPOT page and knew he was making really good time, but I had no idea if any non-tracking competitors were with him.  There were none!  He was completely on his own and it was nearly nine minutes before we saw the next one - Jochen - then another six or seven minutes after him when Gordo came in...three very happy boys!  Eventually two more big gaggles straggled in, but they were 35 minutes or so after Zippy.

In the end, there were somewhere around 30 in goal - about the same as yesterday.

We passed through a massive gust front on the way back to Forbes...just about the biggest (area-wise) I've ever seen.  Forbes weather is so powerfully cool!!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Day 1 Pictures

Forbes Flatlands 2015 - Task 1

Great way to start off the year!  Nearly half the field made the 144km task to Manilda.  

Launch started off a bit on the slow side with the final few competitors launching after the first start clock.  But, everyone got on course fine and for those in goal, I heard of just one that took the first clock.  The first group in (Attila, Olav Opsanger, Gordon and Gerolf - in that order) took the second clock.  Attila commented that those taking the third start were likely faster, but it didn't look like they got in quickly enough, so Atilla will likely win the day.   

The altitude limit for hang gliders here in Australia is 10,000ft and it was announced at the briefing this morning that there would be penalties for going above that.   Apparently, many guys were getting there and having to pull out of thermals early - Pippo says that cloudbase between the first and second turn points was definitely above the ceiling.  

I've heard that Gerolf and Jonny are doing the weather this time around and it seems they got the forecast and the task call pretty good today.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Feliz Año Nuevo from Forbes

It wouldn't feel like the new year if I wasn't in Forbes.  After a glorious stop in Fiji for a few days, I'm  here looking after my favorite Italians and Wonka boys Filippo, Tullio and Zac.  The landscape is a tad greener than the past few years, but the heat is the usual...stifling!  

Moyes put on a very mellow new year's eve dinner at the bowling club, but I think most were gearing up for a full week of flying starting today and so no one partied terribly least it didn't look that way from the briefing this morning.  Everyone was bright eyed and ready to go.

We're starting the year off with a 145 km task down to the southeast, back up north and then into the wind shortly to the west...kind of a dog leg with goal at Mandilla with an old fashion goal line, which according to Zac is "the shits!" (and that's a good thing).  

It's cool to see some old faces this year (Gerolf and Gordon), as well as some awesome new ones, especially girls (Sasha and women's world champion Yoko).  

Monday, October 13, 2014


...of more dune days again.  Just a few weeks till Rainbow Beach!   I can't help watching Kathryn's video again.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Meet Charlie

I bought myself an early birthday present a couple weeks back and I've finally had the chance to fly it here at the Team Challenge.  Spending the summer traveling with Kathryn and Jorj watching how much low stress fun Jorj had flying her Malibu made me realize I needed a fun, easy toy for those boating around, going nowhere kind of days.  

My new Falcon 4 (named Charlie since he came from the Wonka factory ;-) flies sooooo sweet.  I've had four flights so far and the unbelievably easy handling along with zero stress landings just make me go "ahhhhhhhhh" every time I fly it.  Other than flying at Rainbow Beach last year, I don't ever remember a time when my heartrate didn't go up - even just a little - during landing.  I love cruising around the sky not getting the least bit nervous about landing - even in small places.  

Thanks to Tom for letting me be a poser and copy his lovely seagull design and thanks to Tim Cocker for the beautiful photos of my first flight.   

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tennessee Tree Toppers - Team Challenge

This is my second time at this event and, like last time, all I can think to myself is "why don't I come here every year??"  This place is gorgeous and so very mellow....just heavenly.  Even if I didn't get a single flight all week (which won't happen - already two lovely flights by day 2), I could wake up and have morning tea on the ramp and then enjoy the sunset and the stars from there every evening and it would be well worth the 10 hour drive getting here.  

Here's today's ramp view (photo courtesy of Ollie).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Party Night

When the Brits and the French get together to throw a party, you better hold on to your hats!  Last time this happened a few years ago in St Andre was one of the best parties I've ever been too.  Last night's was at least as fun with a great dance band and absolutely everyone up on the dance floor.  Kind of makes up for the lack of flying the last few days (and probably today too).

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Day 3

Day 2 was cancelled.  We knew there was a risk of thunderstorms, but headed up the hill to wait there just in case they didn't materialize.  They cancelled the task fairly early and quite a few people free flew. The Rooster got a chance to fly my baby T2C before an actual task.  He had borrowed Gary Wirdnam's Laminar 13.7 which he really liked in non-race conditions.  But apparently trying to race with it was not so easy for him - a bit too big and too much bar pressure.  He decided the Wonkas were more to his liking ;-).  

Turns out the thunderstorms didn't hit until around 4:30, but they came with a vengeance.  We sat on the terrace and watched a spectacular light show across the valley.  

Day 3 sent us to Tre Pizzi because they expected (and got) strong north wind.  It's quite a hike up hour drive and then a 100 meter walk up a steep hill.  It was cold and very windy, but still fine for a task.  A small lead gaggle of 5 made goal, but the middle gaggle consisting of about 25 or so gliders all got flushed around the same time.  Trudy and I sat at goal watching the live tracking (which was working fantastically yesterday!!) in horror as one by one, within seconds of each other they started dropping like flies.  Funny thing is that Pippo said the cloud street there were under looked just perfect and they were confident all was fine until their feet hit the ground.  Apparently a later group missed that flush and came through nearly to goal.  Once again, my hero twin kicked butt landing the closest to goal of anyone other than the goalies and coming in I think 7th for the day!  Go maria!!!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Italian Nationals - Monte Cucco - Day 1

I sure love being back at Cucco. This is one of the most pleasant, relaxed places for a big competition and it's all put together by one of the best organizers on the planet.  Even if we didn't fly all week, the food, the wide, the countryside, the friendly's just heavenly here. 

I got to have a nice practice day flight day before yesterday in pretty strong winds.  My days at Rainbow Beach have made me feel so much more confident in strong wind that I didn't even think twice about launching in 30-35kph breezes.  It couldn't have been a more perfect day, with nice strong lift pretty much everywhere.  I only wish we could get about 10kph of that wind down in the landing field sometimes.  It always seems to be pretty darn calm down there.  

Yesterday was another practice day but the wind was ever so slightly stronger and it was just plain cold, so we were lazy and didn't bother to fly.  The forecast was for really nice conditions today, so most decided to just rest up.

Today was Task 1 - 93km zigzag back and forth between the south part of the main ridge and Gubbio. The sky looked awesome and winds were fairly light on launch (for Cucco anyway).  I believe there were probably 15-20 in goal with Alex coming in first just a few seconds ahead of Christian.  But the best part of the day by far, was watching my twin Maria make goal!!  She's flying so incredibly well on her little T2C.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Belgian Nationals - Laragne

Today is day 2 and still no task.  The comp officially started on Sunday, but it was thunderstorming all day long so there was no hope of a task.  One cool thing was the lightning that was striking all around and even hit a tree in the landing field camping, debarking a stripe down the side.  Apparently, a VW belonging to one of the pilots that was parked near that tree will no longer start up.  

Today we have Mistral...or some other very strong wind.  It's been gusting to about 65kph.  The sky always looks gorgeous here when the wind blows.  I was told today that Mistral always blows for 1, 3 or 5 days.  Pedro says it's been blowing for two months :-/.

In other bad news, it might rain again on Wednesday.....and Matjaz ran over his helmet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

I haven't had this much fun playing in the sand since Rainbow Beach!  The girls and I (and Kenny too) spent a few days at the dune last week and although it was nearly as overrun with jellyfish as Annecy, we loved it.  The dune is an awesome playground for hang gliders and paragliders, kite fliers and anyone who wants to get some sand between their toes.  It looks a bit like a giant rectangular (sloped) sandbox - about 500 meters wide by about 3km long - with an almost perfect rectangular footprint. Like Rainbow Beach, it's ideal for launching and landing over and over again - that's my favorite party anyway.  Jorj preferred to skim the dune, dragging her feet and hands to draw pictures in the sand.  

There's a flat area where you walk in that's perfect for glider setup.  Then you just walk out to the edge and off you go!

Thanks to the right wind conditions and the overall shape of the dune, for the most part the paragliders fly in one area and the hangies in another - there's a bit of mixing at the start, but they seem to be much more skilled pilots than most of those we came across in Annecy.  

Sunday, July 06, 2014

It's all last

I have to admit, I'm happy it's over.  Not happy in the normal, tired, feeling slightly accomplished way, but in the seriously "just glad it's finished" way.  I didn't have an aspirations of being world champion or even making the podium, but I sure hoped to be better than 2nd to last....ha ha ha.  

So, it's time to go back to the lovely, relaxing free flying with friends, followed by a few smaller comps (the Belgian Nationals at Laragne, the Italian Nationals at Cucco and then the British Nationals back at Laragne again).  My honey will join me for the comps and that makes me happy.  

Here are some pictures from the closing party Friday night and the prize giving on Saturday.  

Women's World Champion - 2014

How gorgeous is our new world champion!  Giant congratulations to Yoko and team Japan.  I'm so pleased for her and proud to have her as a female representative of our sport.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 3 - I Want a Bigger Cup!!

I thought I would wait to post about yesterday's task until I had a chance to sleep on it and hopefully feel differently (or better).  But, I guess that did work...woke up this morning feeling just as crappy about this whole competition as I did when I fell asleep last night.  Oh well.

After making it only maybe 25% of the way around the course yesterday, I spent the entire evening with my girls "support group"...ha ha ha.  Kathryn and Hadewych are fantastic for hearing all of my thoughts about the flight and most importantly, they understand exactly how I feel and can relate.  I'm very lucky to have good friends.  

Here's the conclusion that I have come to:  No matter how good a pilot I may or may not be, competition flying is so much more psychological than anything else I do and it most definitely requires a particular personality type to do well.  Take the Russian girls for instance, who have been amongst the top for as long as I've been competing.  Russians are generally very rugged people (and I honestly do mean this in the best possible way).  Historically, they have struggled and have had to flight for everything they have.  Compare that to even an average American (and I don't consider myself average in this sense).  We have it easy....very easy.  I have had it easy my entire life.  I've had no hardship of any kind to speak of.  I've never had to fight for anything. That doesn't make for a very tough girl.  That doesn't make me a pilot that's easily able to push my way through the rough stuff.  

So that was my day yesterday.  The air was rough and I was scared.  Hadewych told me about how her flying mentor explained it to her and I really like it.  He said that we all have a "cup" where the stress accumulates.  Depending on the size of your cup, you can handle a little stress or a lot of stress during a flight.  Once that cup is full, that's really it, the stress starts to overflow and there's not really much to do but land.  Some people have cups that are really big and others aren't so big.  Sometimes it feels like it might be nice to have been born Russian.  Maybe history has made the Russian cups huge ;-).  Either way, I know for sure that mine isn't big enough.  At the start of the flight I had two particular times in very turbulent air, not feeling like I was much in control.  I managed to keep it together and flew to the first turnpoint, then back to launch and across the lake to the second turnpoint.  But there, my cup was 9/10 full and when what felt like the hand of god grabbed hold of my glider as if to smite me, that damned cup started to overflow, like Niagra Falls!!

On the really bright side, the one landable field where I went down was gigantic (comparably) and flat and grassy and slightly uphill into the wind.  How perfect is that!!?  The only thing that would have made it more perfect would be an ice cream truck driving by on the little paved road beside me.  

Today is another day and the sky looks glorious.  I'm going to do my best to keep a good (better) attitude!!! ;-). 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 1

Not my best first day, but not my worst either.  I so wish there was a way to remove the psychological aspect of competition flying....ha!  I don't think my flying is terrible, but my head is a big problem and fear seems to always take control.  I suppose my survival instinct is just too strong sometimes and it overrides the logical side that says "everything is ok, keep going."  

So, we had a zigging and zagging task across the lake and back again and then down to the south then back to the main goal field in Doussard.  Cloudbase was quite low and after takeoff I found myself much closer to whiting out than I'm normally comfortable with.  But, without being at base, you would practically be below launch - base was no more than 1000ft above takeoff.   Between the low base and the somewhat rough air shared with lots of other pilots, I never got the point of feeling good.  But, I did manage to get two turnpoints (well three if you count getting the first one twice because my instrument never registered me getting it the first time, so I had to go back a second time).   The first turnpoint was rough as anything, so going there twice wasn't my favorite part of the day.  But, the glide across the lake was gorgeous and smooth and the ridge on the far side worked beautifully.  Unfortunately, after the second turnpoint, all I could manage was a super smooth glide back across the lake to launch where I found no lift and ended up in the goal field having missed the last two turnpoints. 

According to the social media, Julia Kucherenko made it the furthest, but no girls made goal so scores won't be terribly high.   Hopefully better tomorrow.