Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nicole's Phone

While St Andre is gorgeous, I'm not convinced it's the best place for a hang gliding competition.  They are in the middle of task 2 now, but both flyable days have been very windy and turbulent and lots of guys are whining.  A Russian pilot tumbled yesterday.  He got his chute out and was apparently without injury thankfully.  Sitting here in the main landing field is a bit scary.  The field is huge, but it is situated where three valleys converge so the wind here is crazy switchy.  I've seen few good landings and many many scary ones.  As I'm writing a pilot just busted an upright :-(  Three days to go and I hope the wind dies down a bit.  It's a bit nerve racking to watch and way to scary for me to fly!

You can see a small part of the landing area at the bottom of the picture.

There is a big Russian team here, including young Julie whose blog I've been following for a while. She's quickly becoming a great pilot and I expect to be hearing a lot about her in the future.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, thanks (from the UK)for the blogs - been following them closely. Secondly, St Andre: - You are correct - it's beautiful, but the "official" landing field is just stupid (except, perhaps, at the end of the day) and even the best pilot can get smashed by a sudden switch in wind direction or turbulence from the mixing air of the three valleys (there is actually a much safer alternate landing field, but it's not next to the bar ;) In strong winds the whole area is dangerous for hang gliders and paragliders because of extreme turbulence. Even sailplane pilots are wary of this. No-one would fly for fun there in strong winds, but competitions seem to over-rule common sense and safety. How many tumbles and/or fatalities does it take before we learn that a site like St Andre is a poor choice for comps? Damn it, the site is notoriously dangerous in strong winds with good reason.

Rich Lovelace said...

Aint st andre a lovely place when windy!! Hope your enjoying yourself Jamie even though you are not having a fly.
Do you have the link for Julie's blog? I didn't know she was doing one? This one might make your knees wobble a bit:-)


Anonymous said...

The reason there are competitions in St. Andre is because in light winds it is simply the best place to fly in europe, and actually in my opinion the best place in the world. The official landing is not the best but there are other places to put the goal, and the landing is OK at 6.00pm - and you go to fly st. Andre to fly 5 hour long flights and come home late - and you can nearly always get back.
The takoff is only a 15 minute drive, and it is always launchable without any dust devil problems.
Hoewever it should not be flown when it is windy. Even in light winds there are places where the valley winds pick up. The tasks have to be set to take account of the landings, and the pilots briefed about the difficult parts.

One problem, common throughout europe it seems, is good forecast info, particularly the wind informention is not as good or as available as it was in years gone by. There is no real sounding taken in the area in the mornings with a balloon like there was years ago. Before we got thermal strength, cloud base, and wind strength and direction at different altitudes every day, published to all at 10.00am every monrning (in laragne too). This is no longer available - the detail is gone. The sounding is calculated virtually and inaccurate so the just leave the info out.
We could hold a safe hang gliding competition in St. Andre over 10 years ago on slow baggy gliders because we had good weather info. Now we are guessing and this means we can sometimes end up in trouble on gliders that are 3 times faster!

The weather forecasting has the same shortcomings for nearby Laragne so we will all see what problems this brings for the worlds2009. We will miss tasks on days that turn out good (we already did that this year), and fly on days that turn out horrible...

Anonymous said...


"In strong winds the whole area is dangerous for hang gliders and paragliders because of extreme turbulence."

"Hoewever it should not be flown when it is windy."

So why DO they fly comp tasks there when it's windy? Experienced pilots are refusing to go there because tasks WILL be set in conditions known/expected to be hazardous (this year's French, last year's UK Nats). Weather forecasting will only be useful if the organisers are prepared to go to alternate sites.

Laragne can also be pretty unpleasant in a strong northerly, but you are probably a lot less likely to die (which I think is a slight bonus).

St Andre is a lovely place in the right conditions, but it's so bad in the wind that I agree it's a bad choice of comp venue where eagerness to set a task sometimes overrides safety considerations.

Interesting to note that different competitors assessed the conditions differently - I've had the same experience there a couple of times, landing back after a great day to find that most of the party had quickly bailed out into the landing field because they though it was so rough. Usually, the difference is just getting high early on and staying there over the turbulent areas.

Gordon: Best wishes to Kathleen at Monte Cucco.

"Soon there may be more of the French nats in Jamies blog, but its not there yet…something must be keeping her busy…"

Do tell ;)

Anonymous said...

To get the best out of St. Andre you need to fly there a bit - so you know a bit about the local weather and the local terrain. People are tending to arrive the day the comp starts at a place they don't know. A comp organisation can't protect you from that lack of local knowledge. Nobody would go and fly a comp in owens valley without a few days of flying there without the comp pressures first. The best flying locations need a bit of respect like that.
Personally I will still choose a comp at St. Andre rather than anywhere else in Europe, and in my opinion anyone that is shying away from the place is making a mistake and missing out.

Anyway, the next worlds will take us into the St. Andre flying area - so maybe anyone taking the worlds seriously should go and fly a bit there!


...and Jamie is obviously busy preparing to travel to Monte Cucco.

Anonymous said...

"...and Jamie is obviously busy preparing to travel to Monte Cucco."

And Mr C "Adorable" W?

Have fun, guys ;)