Sunday, January 30, 2011

Move over Carl....

I'm afraid you've been replaced.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Well it's not far down to paradise...

Steve took 1, 2 and I out for a sail around the harbor today.  It was a gorgeous, perfect day and we got to see all the tourist sites from the water.  
The boys did most of the work.

 I provided the refreshments ;-)
Here's the whole lot of pics.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rose Bay Adventures

Steve Moyes took me (along with 1 and 2) out on the bay for a bit of water skiing yesterday.  We're being treated like royalty here, staying at Molly's, dinner at Vix place, recreation and entertainment by Steve and Molly's cookies of course ;-)

2 hadn't tried water skiing before, but he was a quick study and was up on a single ski in no time.

 A little 1 and 2 bonding on the water.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Pics...

....dinner and prize giving tonight at the Vandenburg.

Last Chance

It's not looking promising for the last day of the comp.  While the skies are clearer, the wind is blowing like stink.  We're at the 10am briefing and holding until noon when they will likely cancel the day.  That's fine with me as Carl is in second place ;-) 

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Day 3

No one was terribly optimistic today, even at the briefing not more than half the pilots were there. But, they set a task none the less- 113km straight downwind. Most people rigged despite the strong wind. A few top guys were missing though. Attila didn't even show up at the field and although Gerolf was there, he never unloaded his glider from the car. Lukas rigged, but packed up again and stayed on the ground Jonny didn't rig until it was apparent that at least a few top guys were going to fly. In the end there were quite a few pilots that didn't want to brave wind and possible turbulence. I was one of them.

However, those that did are now on course and blowing downwind in a sky that doesn't look terrible- it doesn't look great either though. Davis radio'd down that towing conditions were smooth, but there wasn't so much lift. I love Davis, but don't always trust his judgment on these things. Turns out he was probably right this time.

Ally and I are in the car headed to goal. Carl and Blenky are on course at cloudbase at the moment. It appears they are about 40km short of goal still yet. It is raining pretty good where we are, but the roads take us off courseline close the the dark ugly sky. The sky looks better on course, but Carl just reported a bit if rain even there.

It should be interesting to see how the scores play out tonight with Attila, who was in second place, not flying along with a few others. There were a couple of top guys quite unhappy with yesterday's result. At least one thought that the top 20 had a mandatory start at 1:00. Everyone else understood that the top 20 were not allowed to start before the 1:00 start, but could go later if they chose. Perhaps that is why the pilot in question didn't show up today.

Sent from my iPhone

Day 2 - Steve Hocking Challenge

Rough day towing yesterday.  We had a fair bit more wind than the rest of the week and that made for pretty good rodeo riding at the field.  I pinned off early because I was scared to death and then sunk out and landed in the next paddock over.  They rushed over to get me for another tow, but I was afraid to go up again.  So instead I went on retrieve with Ally.  That was much more fun.  

Turns out conditions were pretty nice on course.  The usual 20-25 made goal.  
We were treated to a really cool gust front on the way home with red skies and lots and lots of wind.  
Once through the gust front, we were off to get Kathryn's gear.  She hitchhiked home, but her gear stayed out in the storm.  Despite the flooding all around, the gear hadn't yet floated away ;-)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Some Photos

It's so hard to fly a comp like this and blog and take photos.  We start with the briefing at 10 every morning and normally don't get home and in bed before midnight, sometimes later.  But, here are the few photos from the last week or so.

Who knew the Stig flew hang gliders?!

Oh Pride and Competition

Aside from the obvious, one of the coolest things about hang gliding is the way it can completely change your outlook on so many things, for no really good reason at all.  It can turn a great day into an awful one with a bad landing or a bomb out or, like a few days ago, it can completely turn around a day that starts as one of the worst in your life.  I realize that sounds pretty extreme, but maybe it's a bit like a going through a traumatic event with another person - a bond is created that can be strangely powerful - a good relationship can be saved....a bad one healed.  

Although I can't stop thinking about every detail of my amazing flight the day before yesterday, what really strikes me most is how a flight like that can change your outlook in a way that perhaps makes it possible to rethink whether all is not lost.  I spent easily 6 of the 8 hour flight yesterday with someone that I haven't always liked.  But the time spent with that pilot 8000 feet above the ground, without the ability to speak to one another, seems to have sort of reset things.  It feels like all the ill feelings that have lingered between us for over a year are just gone.  We landed, we hugged and laughed and said all the things we couldn't say in the air, re-lived the flight for a while and the past just melted away.  How cool is that!  I don't know of anything else that could have had that effect on me and I am truly grateful for it.    

The bond that we share as pilots really is an incredible one and the time we spend together in the air is more special than most people know. 

Friday, January 07, 2011

318.9 km!!!

Yesterday morning I got out of bed with the worst attitude.  Nothing was going to fix my day and I even questioned whether or not I would fly.  The announcement at the briefing that we were calling a 318.9 km task to the town of Hay (where they used to hold big meets) didn't help.  Having not made it even close to goal on the two previous (much shorter) tasks, all I could feel was discouraged at the thought of such a long one.  But, rather than spend the energy to just blow it all off and not fly and have to explain to everyone why, I just went through the motions at the field.  I jumped in the launch line very early thinking I could get it over with more quickly if I started first.  But, it seemed I couldn't even do that part right.  I got to the front of the line and on the launch dolly only to test my harness zipper and get it jammed up in a position where it wouldn't go up or down and I was completely stuck.  That nearly made the decision for me.  I thought in my state of mind, with things already going wrong, probably the best thing to do is call it a day.  Jonny messed with my zipper a bit and just plain wasn't gonna have it (me not flying).  Thanks Jonny!  Unfortunately, this still meant that I couldn't zip up and flying any amount of time unzipped is not the most's cold at altitude and tiring trying to hold your legs up comfortably. 

But, from the time I rolled across the tow field and got airborne, things started to improve.  My first goal was to make 100km.  Small, easy goal, little chance for disappointment.  Check.  That didn't take long.  Although the start was slow with very light climbs in a gaggle of 30 gliders never getting over about 5,000 feet, it wasn't long before the day started to turn on.  The air was what they called classic Forbes air....strong, relatively smooth fat lift.  I never thought 1000fpm climbs outside of Florida could be so nice and relaxing.  I met up and flew with various people for the first 150km, but I spent the biggest part of the task with Zhenya, meeting up, then separating, then magically meeting up again, gliding together, loosing her, then somehow finding each other again.  It was so cool.  I had Carlos on radio always just ahead of me, feeding me information that helped keep me motivated.  It wasn't long before I was reaching goal number 2, making 200km....then #3, making the last turnpoint (just 60km short of goal and a bit over my previous personal best).  It was at that point that it started to hit me that I was really going to do the whole task. 

Fortunately, I was able to stay pretty high- between 7 and 10,000 feet for the best part of the day and it wasn't until the sun was low that the climbs became weak.  Even then, knowing the day was shutting down, I just tried to stay as high as I possibly could and take every single little climb that came along.  I started thinking final glide at about 40km out, but Carl was on radio telling me that the climbs weren't going much past 6 or 7 grand, so I should be very careful.  I think I took my last real climb at about 20km, but the computer was telling me I didn't have it, so I knew I still had to find another 1000 feet or so somewhere.  Well, I didn't find it.  Instead I went on glide, with Carl on the radio guiding me to goal telling me I had it when I was sure I didn't (and in fact, he didn't believe I could make it from the altitude I started either - lying can be such a good thing sometimes ;-).  I saw one glider after another run out of steam and land next to the road leading to goal, all the while pointing my toes as hard as I could and pulling the VG rope trying to get just one more millimeter out of it.  

When I finally had goal in site, I remembered they had told us at the briefing that there was a giant antenna just short of the goal field.  I spotting that and then spotted the gliders still rigged just on the other side of the road, power lines and fence line that ran perpendicular to my glide.  To make the goal field, I had to cross all three.  On radio Carl told me to just fly right over the top of the antenna and I would easily make it into the field.  Problem was, I could see that I wasn't gonna make it over the top of that stinking antenna!!  No worries, I would just continue gliding straight to that fence and then at the last second make a 90 degree turn into the wind and that would be that.  Simple enough.  But I never dreamed it would work out as perfectly as it did.  I actually didn't think I had goal because I wasn't in the goal field - thankfully though, I did make the 400 meter cylinder, so all was good.  

Jonny got the whole thing on his GoPro.
It was a four hour drive back to Forbes.  We stopped at a pub where a few other pilots were having a beer and while standing at the bar a local walked up to me and said "are you Jamie?"  I just pointed at Kathryn and said "no, that's her" ;-)  Turns out the guy was a trucker and had been on our channel listening to Carl and I chatting through the whole last half of the task.  Apparently he thought it was pretty funny when Carl got low and I told him that I was at 9 grand and he had to "stay up" to get me to goal.  

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Forbes Day 3 - Task 1

Finally we get a task! 168km triangle in beautiful conditions.  I reeeeeeeealy enjoy the flying here.  I got a fantastic start with Jonny boy.  Of course, I wasn't with him for more than about 20 seconds, but that was alright.  Strong climbs with the smoothest lift around the first turnpoint.  I made it about 85 km around, about 5 km short of the second turnpoint.  Would have been a heavenly flight all around if not for pounding in and breaking an upright....ooops, it's been a very long time since I've done that.

Looks like Carl will be second for the day!!!!

Here I am with my broken upright :-( (still smiling though)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Day 2 - Canned

Some parts of the sky were looking nice....
and others not so nice.

Quite a bit of thunder and lightning....nothing directly overhead though.  Anyway, the task committee decided it was enough.  Now we're all headed to the Parkes pool.  The have springboards, so surely someone can get hurt today ;-)

Dark sky coming in...

Now we'll wait till noon for a re-breifing.

Forbes Day 1

Well, it happened without us this time.  Despite every effort....helicopters, planes, trains, cars, taxis....we only arrived back at the airfield at 2pm, just 15 minutes from the last start.  The whole gang at the airport were incredibly helpful.  They had our gliders out and ready to tow, all we had to do was hook in and fly.  Unfortunately though, we had to call it off as the dark clouds were moving in quickly and bringing wind and rain with it.  We started packing up and got rained on for about 10 minutes before we learned that the task had been stopped.  What luck for Carl!  I've been saying for 2 months that the first day would be cancelled because Carl probably couldn't get there in time....and sure enough, it was.  I thought I was the luckiest person on the planet....Carl comes a very close second.
This is yesterday's task board.  Note the 2:15 start time - put there just for Carlos

The forecast for today is not looking promising at all.  We had clear blue skies this morning, but the clouds are quickly filling in and I fear we won't have a task today either :-(  Oh to have skies like we had a few days ago.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

An airplane is faster than a cadillac....

...and a whole lot smoother than a camels back.  I don't care how you get to me, just get to me!

Day 1 of the Forbes Flatlands and I have sped to Sydney to collect Carl.  All the very tight plans and connections eventually failed in Abu Dhabi and so he's just arriving - not exactly in time for the first task.  We will speed back to Forbes where young Alex will have our gliders rigged and ready to jump in and fly.  If nothing else, it will be another adventure.

Meanwhile, we spent new years eve and new years day partying and enjoying the heat of Forbes.  45 degrees (113 fahrenheit) according to the car thermometer yesterday....ouch!  Only one thing to do in temps that high in Forbes (other than get in the air, of course) - diving lessons from Timothy at the municipal pool.  I haven't mastered my triple back flip yet, but after 43 years, I know now how to dive in headfirst.  Thanks Timothy!