Monday, August 30, 2010

Short of Severn....

...but still just tickled! Four hours over the gorgeous Welsh
countryside in smooth smooth lift the way I love to fly. We were
shooting for the river Severn near Myles' house but had little wind to
help us along. Carl and I started off together going over the back
then decided to scrap it as the day didn't look as great as we
thought. By the time we got back to takeoff, Kathryn had set out on
her own, so I went to chase after her. Caught up to her but we didn't
manage to stay together so long. She landed at the base of the Mynd
where I landed on my first Langollen flight.

Boy do I love a nice day in Wales!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

British Nationals Day 1

They called an ambitious 125km task for the first day of the British Nationals.  I was surprised because the day looked much like yesterday which was quite stable.  The only difference was we had nice south wind on takeoff.  Yesterday was dead calm all day at launch and we all ended up taking off on the north side either in nil wind or 1 or 2 mph.  

I got off the hill right in the middle of the pack and was feeling like I launched at just the right time.  Ben Dunn found a nice one for me and we circle up together well over launch, but not quite to cloudbase.  After hanging around launch longer than I would have liked, waiting for anyone to go on course, Kathryn finally joined me and we decided to go out together toward the first turnpoint.  We made a joking pack yesterday that we would fly and land together every day and finish the comp as co-women's-english-national champions ;-)  Neither of us is English, of course, but since we're the only girls here, we figured we were a shoe in.

So, the pack is intact so far.  We headed on course for the ridge north of launch where the first turnpoint was.  Gordon Rigg had given us a great little briefing before launch with heaps of tips on where to go and what works and what doesn't.  He explained exactly how and where would should work the ridge at the turnpoint which we did, exactly the way he suggested.  I was pleased with myself for being able to follow his instructions so well - usually I just end up off on my own, doing my own thing.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a normal day and his suggestions weren't so fruitful.  Kathryn and I worked the ridge together trying everything we could in the burbly air, surfed around in the ridge lift for a bit, but to no avail.  After quite a lot of trying, we had lost most of our altitude and had to glide into the valley for a landing field.  There were two others already there and another four came after us, each of them trying exactly as we had and each of them eventually getting too low and gliding out to our field.  

The view is beautiful from up there and if only the lift was smooth and beautiful, I would be very pleased.  I'm hoping for nicer air tomorrow, but counting my blessings flying with Damien feeling relatively comfortable in the somewhat rough air.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me amo Kathryn....te amo?

I've heard it said that the biggest source of discontentment is having too many choices.  We woke up this morning to yet another day of overcast skies and light rain and over breakfast had to make a decision about what to do.  Go two and a half hours south and fly Croatia (the likely site of the next women's worlds)? Tough it out another day in Tolmin and perhaps get a good task or two on Saturday and Sunday (missing the first days of the Brit Nationals in Laragne)?  Head three hours east and fly Bassano or Brescia where the sun is shining?  Drive into the Dolomites for a flight and risk the wrath of Carl for going without him?

In the end, we made the painful decision to head on to Laragne to be there in time for the Brit comp.  It was torture leaving.  Tolmin is one of the most beautiful places on earth and certainly one of my favorite flying sites/comps.  The organizers do such a great job and you really get so much for your money.  For 150€ you get a t-shirt, lunch every day, daily transport to launch and what I'm sure will be a fantastic party on Saturday night (that we will miss, sadly).  I can't say enough good things about this comp...if only the weather had been a bit better.   We also left Maria behind as she wanted to finish out the comp and then head to Austria before going back home to Colombia.

Of course as we finished packing up the car the sun came out and warmed up the gorgeous Soca Valley :-(

Here is a great video by Matjaz of what it could have looked like for us all week.

So tonight Kathryn and I are back in Bassano on our way to Laragne.  We're hearing reports that the weather is supposed to be great for that one....keeping our fingers crossed.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cancelled Task....but still in Paradise

The sky was looking quite nice when we drove up this morning, but it wasn't long before it started to overdevelop and turn pretty dark out in the valley along what would have been courseline.  Many launched  and stayed up in very light lift before the safety committee decided there was too much chance for overdevelopment and rain and cancelled the task.

But we flew anyway.  Only in Tolmin can we land after just a half an hour and still have a giant smile.  The lift was very very light and the air was perfectly smooth for checking to see that the turn I've had is finally gone (hopefully forever!).  I also had a chance to test Carl's GoPro!!

Just after takeoff....
...and coming in to land.

There are three Litesports in this comp....all Dutch (or with Dutch ancestors at least ;-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in Tolmin.... of the most beautiful places in the world.  Again we drove into the valley yesterday afternoon on a bit of a high.  I can't seem to wipe the grin off my face here.  The scenery, the friendly, happy, active people,  the easy stress-free flying....I'm so glad to be back.
There are many more pilots than last year - we think around 70 or so and several top guys including Tom Weissenberger, Gerolf, Ilio and Primoz.  I think this place is becoming a bit of a haven for girl pilots.  We have at least ten this year.  Julia ran home to Russia to renew her visa, then flew back in to Venice yesterday.  Timothy drove down and picked her up.

Today was meant to be the first task day, but the weather isn't cooperating.  We drove up the hill for a noon briefing there, but found dark, ominous clouds overtaking the entire hill.  After thunder, lightning, rain and hail, we gave in a drove back down.

I love some of the odd things you find in other countries.  We arrived last night (Sunday) without milk for our nightly cup of tea and no supermarkets open.  Never fear!  The local dairy farmers have a vending machine that they fill with fresh milk and cheese every morning.  You buy an empty liter bottle for €.20, then pop it into the machine that fills it with very fresh, yummy full fat local milk!  What more could you ask for?!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


A few days ago I landed in a perfect green grassy field right in the middle of a little Italian village.  It was right next to the main roundabout in the village, so there was quite a lot of traffic coming and going.  Hundreds of people passed me looking curiously during the two or so hours that I was waiting for retrieve. Each time someone stopped to ask me what was going on (always in Italian and mostly incomprehensible to me), I thought again to myself how amazing this sport is that we do and wondered if anyone but us really appreciates it.  We drive up to the top of a hill, remove this package that looks like nothing more than a rolled up carpet on the roof of the car, set it all up, strap ourselves in and then we go fly...just like a bird...for miles and miles.  The we land...sometimes in the middle of nowhere, sometimes in the middle of a small village where the construction workers are busy repaving the road and the people are sitting on the patio of a cafe drinking tiny cups of coffee.  Perhaps none of the people that watch me derigg the glider have any idea what we do.  Probably most don't understand that I came from a village 80 km down the road that they might pass through only once in a while.

I wonder if pilots are special breed of humans and we are the only ones that are fascinated by this amazing thing we do.  But how could everyone not feel the we do about it?  How could anyone who sees us land beside the highway in the middle fo a Thursday afternoon not be completely blown away?  After nearly 20 years, I'm still amazed.  There is nothing like it.

The Dutch Nationals ended early yesterday with a bit of rain and wind that cancelled the last two tasks.  Today Maria, Kathryn and I drove toward Tolmin, Slovenia where we will do it all over again in a different place.  Damien and I are back together, happier than ever with a renewed sense of commitment ;-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dutch Open - Day 3

Yes, I know....I skipped day 2. It was worth a skip, I would say.

Today we have a 129 km task way down the ridge to the east. Totally unflown territory for me, so my fingers are crossed. I feel very much like a spouse who cheated and is now coming back groveling for forgiveness. I told Damien that it didn't mean anything to me and that I really love him and I hope he'll take me back ;-) We'll see how it goes.

Conditions are much like yesterday, but with less wind. So, with any luck there won't be so much turbulence. Alex Trivelato from Brasil is currently in the lead overall, but anything could happen with (hopefully) four tasks remaining. They're talking about some weather (mainly rain) coming in on Thursday and Friday, so we may not get all four tasks.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Dutch Open - Day 1

Funny how our brains work...or maybe just funny how mine works.  I had my first real flight on Carl's Litespeed RS 3.5 today, the first day of the competition.  I had a couple of very short ones on two non-flying days last week, but never had a chance to soar really.  So, I was quite nervous about today's flight.  We had a 94 km task up and down the ridge in what looked liked gorgeous conditions.  No real clouds, but a nice breeze with wind dummies climbing out easily.  

I launched relatively early and instantly was up above launch thermaling right over the top of Gerolf and feeling really important ;-)  The glider feels so incredibly light....a bit more twitchy and a bit less solid than my Litesport, but I definitely like it overall.  Either way, I need a LOT more time on it.  That was apparent after today's performance.  

Oddly enough, after bombing out just below the windmills (with about 10 others, thankfully), I'm not even unhappy about it.  I know I should be, and I am nearly even unhappy with myself for not being unhappy with myself.  Part of my brain thinks I should have more of a competitive spirit.  The other part just wants to be lazy, have fun and not care.  The fun side clearly always wins out.  I had a perfect no-step landing on a spectacularly beautiful, sunny, warm day in the middle of Italy and couldn't wipe the grin off my face.  I suspect that if I was a little harder on myself when I flew like a beginner, I might find it in myself to do a bit better.  But somehow, I just keep smiling.

Either way, my ego does feel it a little when I fly like a dork on the hottest, fastest ship on the mountain...the same one that just kicked so much butt in the Euros and the pre-worlds.  I would definitely prefer to do Carl's glider (and Carl) a bit more proud than that.  Oh well....there's always tomorrow.  

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Last Task

Cloudbase has lifted, just not as much as we might like.  It was starting to look like it might over develop earlier, but it seems to be fine for now.  There might be a good chance of a stopped task though.

They've called an 81km task up and down the ridge with goal back at Sigillo.

Industrial Sabotage??

Rigging on launch Jonny discovered a broken leading edge.....hmmmm.

I'm sure the Irish bloggers will have a fantastic story that will be much more interesting than the truth (that Jonny's driver tripped while loading the glider).  Anyway, he's got a spare to borrow from the Spanish team, so he'll be up and flying in no time.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Nice quiet day out with my baby. Sometimes I forget what it's like to do normal things. Rain and wind kept us from flying a task and will likely keep us grounded again tomorrow.

Photos Day 5 (Task 3)

Love Triangle

I had the chance to fly Carl's Litespeed on Tuesday's cancelled day.  Uh oh....I'm thinking it might be time for a new baby.  Damien is not gonna be happy.
I didn't have long - light rain was coming and going and the ground was pretty shaded with the overcast sky.  But fifteen minutes was enough to know that I really liked it.  I was particularly surprised with how nicely it lands and all that beautiful carbon makes it feel sooooo light.  Carl thinks I ought to fly it in the Dutch Nationals next week....hmm....might have to do that.

Cucco Task 3

Finally a day with some nice cu's in the sky.  Unfortunately, it was a bit rough and difficult.  Only about 20 or so in goal and many landing just short.  
It was great to see some of my favorite pilots doing really well yesterday.  Zippy came in first across goal, about 30 seconds or so ahead of Manfred.  Manfred kicked, screamed and cried just a bit because it was his birthday and he wanted to win the day ;-)  Trent Brown from Australia came in 4th with a giant grin from ear to ear.  Shedsie was fifth and Carl sixth.  The scores will get a bit of a shakeup because there were a few tops guys that didn't get in - Christian Ciech and Andre Wolf.  This will likely move Jonny boy into 2nd overall and perhaps Carl into 4th or 5th....fingers crossed.

Sooooo cool to see my good buddy Mikey at goal too!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Waves of light rain are coming in at launch this morning.  A few people have unloaded gliders, but no one is rigging just yet.  At this point it looks like a task is unlikely.
On the brighter side, the Irish are here!  They've brought along Nurse Spank, but she's really just old news this year.
 The new Irish mascot is Choke.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Julia and her White Rabbit

Young Julia amazes me!  23 years old and flying for just five years (competing for only 3!) and she's up there with the big boys nearly every day.  Yesterday she came in with the lead gaggle taking tenth place for the day....tenth out of 150 pilots!  That's impressive....especially since she had altitude/airspace problems.  She told me this morning that she pulled out of the last thermal before the airspace at 1900 meters, 100 meters above the airspace so that by the time she glided and arrived there, she would be below it.  However, on glide while her 6030 barometric altitude was going down and showing she would be well below the 1800 meter ceiling, her GPS altitude wasn't decreasing.  Rather than risk going above the ceiling she dove down into the sink until her GPS altitude showed her below.  Apparently, the GPS altitude takes some time to update and she was needlessly blowing off height that she very much needed.  In the end, when the GPS did update, she found herself 500 meters below the ceiling and very low.  She lost valuable time that could have put her even higher in the standings.

Well done Julia and keep it up!!

Task 1 Goal Photos

Task 1 Launch Photos

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Goal Day 2 (Task 1)

Good task with probably around 75+ pilots at goal.  But, the field was eating gliders left and right.  Even Manfred Ruhmer - who came in first - pounded in pretty hard.  I've never seen so many really good pilots having really ugly landings.  

People were happy though with day one out of the way and everyone safe. 

And We Have a Task!

Launch opening shortly for a 103km zig-zag task coming back to goal at Sigillo.  The sky is completely blue, but the wind dummies are staying up easily, although not getting so terribly high just yet.  

Such a pity we couldn't get in the air yesterday because the sky looked incredibly friendly.