Monday, October 13, 2014

Dreaming...

...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 there...an 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 Italians....it'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 over....at 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. 




Monday, June 23, 2014

(Non) Practice Day

Today was the official practice day, but it rained much of the morning and thunderstorms passed through at least part of the afternoon, so the practice task was cancelled.  We had a look around Annecy and checked out the city park goal field that they've proposed for the last three days of the comp.  I was initially a bit concerned because I've heard it's kind of tight.  But, after checking it out in person, I think that if the wind direction is right, it would be just fine.  It's lakeside, right in the city - really cool spot for a goal field.  Although it wouldn't be my first choice of places to land, I think there is plenty of space.



Pictures from the Opening Day

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Annecy Opening Ceremonies Day

First flight at Annecy today.  Conditions weren't the best with a fair bit of stability.  Lucky Ollie the bloody bastard, showed us the way.  He launched and flew directly across the lake to the east facing ridge and started climbing straight away.  So Kathryn and I followed and managed to have a nice short practice flight.  I was a little annoyed that they scheduled the mandatory safety briefing for 3pm, knowing that tomorrow is very likely not going to be flyable.  So, we had to land after only an hour or so in the air.  Kind of irritating, but hard to complain when you're in a place as beautiful as this.  



Here's team USA (the girls) and another of Linda, Francoise (France), me, Kathryn (Ireland) and Hadewych (Netherlands) at the opening ceremonies.  Everything took place outside and it was hot, hot, hot, but nice to catch up with old friends we don't see all the time.  




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Almost There

Kathryn, Jorj, Franco and I have had a great ten days leading up to the Women's Worlds in Annecy. We have mixed it up with a little flying and a little relaxing.  After Tuscany, we made our way down to Rome for Kathryn to visit her sister.  I like Rome....really old stuff, Vespas and gelato everywhere!



This one is on my Christmas list.  Santa?


We passed through Basanno and had a nice little flight before overindulging on Sylvia's amazing buffet.  There's no more mellow place to stop for a flight if you're roaming around Italy.  Someone once told me that it's flyable there 300 days of the year.  I don't know if that's an exaggeration or not, but I don't recall ever not being able to fly there.  There's nothing epic about the flying - it's just relaxing with pleasant lift and a nice easy landing next to your hotel room and great, cheap pizzas.   It's just too easy not to stop and enjoy at least once every summer.  


Next stop was Santa Maria Maggiore just across Lake Maggiore from the Icaro factory.  Gary Wirdnam brought Glen and I there last summer and the boys had an epic XC flight from there around the north side of the lake and back to Laveno.  We found a sweet little B&B just down from the funivia and enjoyed some more yummy northern Italian food (grits...aka polenta!) and wine and were ready for another day in the skies.  


Gary says I'm a good luck charm when it comes to flying weather because we hit it perfectly again yesterday ;-).  In fact, two other Italians told me today that it was the best flying day of the year!!  The forecast was for a bit of north wind, which was a concern since we were flying in the lee-side of some pretty sizable hills.  Although it was pretty turbulent, it was worth every minute!  Despite having as many layers as as could squeeze into my harness, I froze my ass off.  Straight over this nice ramp, Gary and I climbed in 8 or 900 up until my whole body was shivering and shaking the whole glider.  I saw 10,000 ft coming on the 6030 and though "eh, I'll take it to 10 and then bugger off."  But the climb stayed to strong and nicely formed that I just couldn't leave it.  Yeah, just 11,000, then I'll leave ;-).  At 11 I my frozen fingers hurt too much so I left it, but continued climbing trying to glide away until I was nearly at 12,000 ft.  I spent the rest of the flight searching for sink to get down to an altitude that my fingers would thaw out, then right back up to freezing again.  Unbelievably fun!


All four of us landed exhausted, but with ear to ear grins.  Franco said it was the best flight he's ever had.  He learned to paraglide 2 or 3 years ago and I think he's only flown Australia - hadn't yet seen mountains or scenery like that from above.   Pay no attention to the little hills in the background of this picture.  What lies behind them is spectacular....Monte Rose, the second highest mountain in Europe is just to the west of us and just miles and miles of gorgeous snow covered peaks. 


Very happy girls!


Now we're in Annecy.  We registered today and took it easy.  Tomorrow a quick practice flight and then the opening ceremonies in the evening.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Eating Rainbow Stew in a Silver Spoon...

...there's a big brown cloud in the city and the countryside's a sin.

When we finished in New York city, I had just enough time to head home and short pack my new glider - the one I've had for over a month and I've not had a spare moment to fly yet - before heading off across the ocean to prepare for the women's worlds in Annecy.   Kathryn and Jorg met me at the airport in Munich.  It sure is nice to be picked up, especially with a hang glider.  There's something comforting about having other people around when you feel like a complete spectacle traveling with a glider.

First day we met up with Dolores and Ashanta in their hometown of Stans, Switzerland.  I can't imagine having grown up in a picture perfect paradise like this town is.  Tuesday was Dolores' birthday, so we got to celebrate with her over breakfast before we started the drive south into Italy.

First stop was one of my favorite flying sites in the world - Laveno, Italy.  There I finally got a chance to get that always nervous maiden flight out of the way.  It was a lovely, light lift, high pressure day. The trip up the funivia and the door laid over on it's side that they call a launch ramp always make this place an adventure.  We had a mellow, uneventful flight and landed with a giant smile at the big field below.  Once again, I love my new little glider.  She's kind and sweet and seems to understand me and my flying quirks already ;-)

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Tuscany...I couldn't say the name of the little village here, but it's everything anyone traveling to Tuscany could ever hope for.  A weather system was moving into northern Italy so we thought it best to head south, even if we couldn't fly here.  Instead we're lying by the pool, have late dinners with lots of red wine and generally relaxing.  We found an agritourismo that looks straight out of a movie set.  I do love Italy.

The clouds look perfect today.  Pity there's no where to launch (or land).










Friday, June 13, 2014

New York City....Get a Rope!

Have had to do a bit of traveling lately.  A couple of hugely stressful weeks left me in serious need of a battery charge.  Although I can't totally understand how people can live here, NYC a really cool city to visit for a few days.  Playing tourist is fun.