31 Juli 2010

Day 1 pre-worlds: cancelled

Today cloud base was way below take off and the wind gusting up to 70 km/h, so at the second briefing at 11am, today´s task was cancelled. Time to get prepared for tomorrow, it looks like we might have to go to TrePizzi where it is a long, exhausting way to carry up the glider to take off.
I am in a retrieve team with Jonny Durand, and Timothy Ettridge is our driver. I had discussed with Tim today about Christian´s and Gerd´s similarity to "Aragorn" actor Viggo Mortensen - I tool a photo so you can vote on it ;) I think Christian, the guy on the left, looks more similar, but Tim definitely went for Gerd, the guy on the right. Anyway, very attractive and talented German Team members. We are about 15 German pilots here which seems a lot, but then the Aussies are 8 and their way to come over was way longer! Good to see Jonny (poor guy is fixing gliders all the time here for Moyes pilots), Flocky, Camo, Blenky, Trent, Neil, Ebels and Les Bestt, also Vicki and "uncle" Greg are here!
And many girls in the comp too (Christa, Monique, Julia, Natalia, Carole, Hadewych and me, too bad Virpi and Kathleen couldn´t come, Kathryn will join in later and free fly, and Regina might arrive on Monday too).

30 Juli 2010

Monte Cucco Pre Worlds - Déja-vu

What a race - Ager, Frankfurt, Seattle, Frankfurt, Munich, and now finally Sigillo, with not much time between. It was raining hard when we arrived today in Italy at the site of the pre-worlds, and it is a cool 19 C. We are waiting for the safety briefing at the moment, and there are a lot of pilots here who I had seen in Spain a week ago, it is a funny déja-vu over here. Francoise is here to help the CIVL, Jamie and Claudia are also involved in the organization. I haven´t seen Vicki yet, but she must also be around. It is nice when the world comes to Europe to fly! I just hope we will get some good days this week.
The Brazilians are here with a big team, I remember that they won the team gold medal here at Cucco 10 years ago. Also some Aussies are here, and the Americans - in fact Davis and Belinda are my next door neighbours. Blay just said that they have 9 Spanish pilots in this comp! At the pizzeria we joined together with Hadewych, Christa and Hans and later with half of the Swiss team. Looks like there might be more than 150 competitors, the biggest meet of this year!
Organizer Flavio told me (and agrees with Davis) that the forecast for tomorrow is not too good. Well a rest day for me to settle down, update and prepare everything would be nice. Pizza is as fantastic as ever, and there are quite a few events scheduled for this week, like tomorrow night the fiesta de la birra, the beer party in Sigillo - I know my father would love it! No pictures at the moment, as Im not working on my own computer.

27 Juli 2010

Seattle, Timezone UTC - 7

Coming into Seattle, we had a fantastic view in clear air of Mt Rainier (on the photo), Mt St Helens and Mt Hood in the distance. The weather was great, just sunny and blue, not too hot, very pleasant. I guess the paragliding World Cup in Chelan must have been a great success and Im curious if Uli Prinz or Torsten Siegel will be flying back to Germany with me today. ´
At the market downtown, I found this pig that very much reminded me of the pigs in Soegestrasse in my home city Bremen, so I let somebody take a photo of me with the "emigrated" pig. Too bad that we already have to return today, a few more days here, and Id be soaring the wonderful Chelan dust devils again... we had the women´s world championships there already two times, and I wouldn´t mind a third time, as it is a great place to fly big cross country distances in a very safe way (unless you dive low into a huge dusty like Guenther Tschurnig did ;))

23 Juli 2010

Task 9: 87km around 2 turnpoints

The day started overcast, low clouds and with some rain. Nevertheless, we went up the hill as the forecast was for sun later in the day. Our optimism paid out - soon it cleared, and cloudbase went up to around 2000m today. The task was out into the flats and then to Calaf goal.
With a wind of about 30 km/h we had to fight a little on the high plain, but the thermals were good.
About 10 km out from goal I nearly landed, but the field I had chosen produced a really strong thermal again, so I could zip up my harness and go to goal. There must have been around 40 in goal today I guess. with Mario probably winning the day, and Gerolf becoming the new European Champion. The Italian team overtood the Austrian team today, it was a really close race between them, and the Pommies might have overtaken the Swiss and got up to 3rd place.
Andre and Oli were first in goal from our team, then Roland and me, Markus and Gerd landed out.
Tonight very late we will have the awards.

22 Juli 2010

Day 11: cancelled

Today was cancelled at nearly 2pm, as the clouds were below take off most of the day and the prediction was for rain. We did not see much rain, but the clouds did not disappear nor rise much. So we went up to the old town centre of Ager to take some team photos. Looks like it might be flyable tomorrow, for a last and interesting day. Might be windy, but definitely sunnier than today too.

21 Juli 2010

Task 8: 76 km around 7 turnpoints

Today Im writing blog from Regina´s computer, as my Mac´s screen froze when I wanted to start Word, I had to shut it down, but now it doesn´t boot anymore. Is there a virus around? Sorry that I can´t upload the photos from today, I have to find a way to do that later.
It didn´t look like a promising day today on launch. Strong wind crossing in, clouds of every kind (cirrus, castellanus, stratus, altocu´s, normal cu´s, lenticular and in the evening looking like cb´s were around. The cu´s base was low, and I was quite nervous and concerned to take off in these conditions. Some launches looked very marginal, Primoz was close to touching the ground, and Julia stalled the glider out and just got out with a lot of luck.
When I decided to try, a push was on, and sure enough, the wind was crossing at a speed of about 35 km/h... but the guys saw that it wasn´t safe and they closed the window for a couple of minutes. After that it slightly calmed down, and I had a good, safe take off and went along the ridge. Barely 15 minutes before the first startgate in the air (there were 3 with 20 minutes apart), I just managed to get up (as base was only a few hundred meters above take off anyway), over to the start circle, and then I went out on course.
I had quite a large crowd with me, and we flew the next 3 turnpoints together. I lost some of them going into the flatlands turnpoint, but then Oli called me over to the mountain ridge again, and we went on final together. Sure, with a crosswind of up to 35 km/h, he was faster in goal than me, but I was happy to score for our team again. The other guys landed at the 5th turnpoint when they got too low and into the strong valley breeze.
Christian Ciech (ITA) won the day a few seconds ahead of Tom Weissenberger, the Austrian and the Italian team are pretty close now. Gerolf arrived 17 minutes after Tom, but will be able to hold his first place overall. Fastest woman today was Kathleen Rigg ahead of me and Julia.
Looks like we might see some rain here the next couple of days, but then you never know. I didn´t really believe in a complete task today, let alone in getting to goal ;)

20 Juli 2010

The rain in Spain...

...falls mainly on the plains, and definitely not here at Montsec. Even the huge storm cloud that looked like it covered half of Catalunya discipated before any drop of rain arrived in Ager. I was surprised to see some rain this morning, it is cooling and cleaning the dusty air, a little relief. Restday today.
Yesterday task 7: Another day with a much better forecast than what we actually found in the air. It was difficult for me to face a headwind of up to 35 km/hr trying to go to the first turnpoint with a cloudbase of only 2200m again (prediction was from 2500 rising to 3900m...) I took several runs to get into the higher ridges, but it was like flying against a wall. Then I decided to try to go around through the flatlands to be more upwind, well it didn´t work either, so I landed out in the flats, wondering how the 19 guys at goal were able to get there. Part of it might be a 25 - 50kg question... it is much easier to punch forward with more weight.
Gerd said, "Eat more, and not just tofu!" - and I answered, "...but the poor pigs everywhere here, it is so sad! And I eat a lot of pasta in the evenings, I just don´t put on weight during comps, but I lose it"
I had landed close to a pig farm and had described the big silos and bad smell to my driver. Then I climbed up a huge pile of stones and realized that there were about 7 pig farms, and each one of them had the silver silos and large concrete buildings. Seems like the pigs are never outside before they are turned into serrano.
Oli made it to goal yesterday, but he said he had been shaking for a long time, as he thought at an early stage of the flight he might have to land in the trees. He got out, but just. Markus also scored for the team, landing just 10 km before goal, he had a good run.
Tom Weissenberger won the task - he had an amazing recovery from having had his shin stitched up on the first day where he flipped over in goal. Second was young French gun Laurent Thevenot, and Czech Dan Vyhnalik in 3rd. Also Gerolf was in goal, which added to his amazing overall lead. If he keeps going like that, he might not have to fly the last day of the comp and still win. With Tom in 2nd, the Austrian team is way ahead of all the other teams.

18 Juli 2010

Task 6: 111 km around 5 turnpoints

To pay my dues: Gerolf was first in today. And now about not so important people, like me, or Daphne, or the two Attilas (actually Attila and his brother, with intriguing similarity). But what would the top guys be without us "gnus", as Gerolf so charmingly calls us, the "following" pilots. What would the leaders be without us losers? They wouldn´t have half as much fun or glory, so maybe they should pay us workers some respect as well.
Daphne really ripped off a tendon in her finger by putting on her shoes, she already had an operation, and now she can´t fly for a while but will crew for her partner Koos from the Dutch national team.
The other flying couple here is more successful - Gordon Rigg keeps finishing in the top ten, and his wife Kathleen nearly made it to goal again today after having had some neck pain problems yesterday. They are probably the most successful flying couple ever, I wonder when their son Tyler starts flying ;)
Survival was my goal today! That was a good option. Day all blue, quite stable, low base, and just too much tiger country to cross. Poor Lars Bo crashed into the hills because he couldn´t reach a decent field to land (well there were none...), luckily he is ok, but his glider is totalled. I was praying for thermals, and the Lord (or Alex Ploner) found some for me. 4 km before the high turnpoint in the end of a never-come-back-valley with quite significant head wind to get out, I decided to quit, turned around and flew straight to goal. I had already asked for quite a lot today, and I want to be able to enjoy the good day tomorrow as well.
Natalia was fast, but she didnt cross the goal line. Yulia was the only woman at goal with the whole course -congratulations, she is also the best Russian pilot of her whole team.
Andre and Gerd were fast today and landed with the top 10, Roland was a bit slower, Oli and Markus had landed not far from take off. I hope for some good weather tomorrow, with a really high base so we don´t have to look down to see what isn´t there.

17 Juli 2010

Task 5: 134 km around 4 turnpoints

Big task today for iffy conditions - the prediction was for cirrus and cu´s, the cirrus disappearing and the cu´s shading up to 90 %, yet light winds and good climbs. Oooops - waaaay wrong! The cirrus took over, the cumulus disappeared, so did the thermals, therefore we had strong wind...
It was difficult to slow down after a day like yesterday, and unfortunately some guys from my team hit the deck too fast. Hard work, we had to cross several passages with no or just very difficult landings and a cloudbase that never got higher than 2200m. After the 3rd turnpoint on top of a ridge, I would have had to fly headwind low into the hills and just decided it is safer to turn around, see if I can get up higher (nope, not at 7pm today) and try again. Instead I landed just in a field next to Ager. I was disappointed that I could not join Andre in goal and score more for our team, but when I found out that even Jonny beat himself up quite a bit with a tough landing at the last turnpoint, I wasnt too unhappy that I didnt dare more. My Red Bull Team mate Jonny is usually Mr Smooth Landings, but today he apparently smashed his intruments, luckily he is sort of ok apart from some scratches and so is the glider. I definitely would have like to see Jonny Durand win this meet, especially for the confusion of an Aussie winning the Euros :) Now he needs a small miracle to still win. But then who knows - magic happens!
Alex won the day ahead of Gerolf and Jamie´s darl Carl, the British guys made quite a lot of points for the team today and will move way up in the rankings. I heard something of around 24 in goal, but as I wasnt there, I still have to confirm that.
I was lucky to be back so early. Oli apparently landed on a field in quite high terrain, while Markus tried the back way and landed at yesterdays goal in vila mitjana. The guys are not back yet, just Andre and Gerd.

16 Juli 2010

Task 4: 195 km around 4 turnpoints

What an epic day! Finally we get a decent base with beautiful clouds along our course. 195 km sounds a lot, considering that the first startgate only opened at 14.45, but in these conditions we could dolphin fly and race from one ridge to the other.
The task took us along a great stone wall a bit south of Castejon de Sos where they often host paragliding world cups. Our team was doing well with Roland furthest ahead of us, regularly updating us about the conditions out in front. "DJ" Andre (Djamarani) gave me the information of the day, a thermal that saved Oli and me a lot of time. Shortly after, Oli caught up, finding a beamer in nowhere land. On final, Gerd told me how it worked around the last turnpoint. Sometime later also Markus got to goal, so we had a big goal party. Birgit is preparing Crema Catalana right now, which she promised to do if we all get to goal.
We all enjoyed the day and it was great to see that the radio is a useful thing and teamwork helps. Now we just need to fly faster, I need some ballast I guess.
First guy in was Gacku (Franz Hermann, Swiss) followed by Jonny (Aus) and Mario (Fra). The top guys did the course in 3,5 hours, I was pretty happy with 4hrs 14 mins for nearly 200 km! And about 50 people in goal.
Sorry, no photos yet, as the mosquitos are chasing me and I fled into the safety net.
I think I won the day in women´s category, soon after also Carole came in (Sui). Carole is flying the best Ive ever seen, it is good to see girls in goal after a long task as well. Natalia landed a bit later. Daphne was in goal, but by car - she had sprained two fingers on takeoff by putting on her shoes (...???) and couldn´t fly unfortunately. I felt sorry, as we don´t often get days like today to fly. This was the best flying weather of my season so far, and I hope we can have another day like this here during the next seven days of the comp.
You can keep following the German Team on Live Tracking

15 Juli 2010

Task 3: 111km around 2 TP

I had a good laugh this morning when I read a funny letter of Austrian Gerolf Heinrichs (the guy on the photo with the Texas t-shirt) who is complaining that we (the blogging community) don´t pay our respect enough to him for leading the European competition. So I will mention in my "surreal way" that he won the task again today.
4 guys of our team made goal, Gerd was first in, also Oli and Roland made the top 20 and scored well for our team, while I tried the fields a little further away from goal today. Lucky that the weather is reliable and I might get another chance to score for the team again. Not much more to say than the precise words of my Japanese friends: try harder! Ok, will do.

14 Juli 2010

Àger: Timezone 1037 AD

A rest day leaves time to discover the beauties and secrets of the places that we usually only see from the air. Àger is a cute, very old village with a distinctive church tower that you will find on any comp t-shirt from Àger ;) Looks a bit like a scary face.
It is quiet during the day, only after 10 pm people come out, meet in the streets and socialize.
The roads are so narrow that you don´t have to walk over to invite your neighbour for dinner - you just hand the food over from one balcony to the other. The church is only open on Sundays, so we could not quite explore the highest terrain of the village yet.

Day 3: cancelled, wind too strong, big chance of cb´s

Today the safety committee decided to cancel the day - we will see around 40 to 50 km/h wind at 3000m (already yesterday driving back from goal we saw some lenticular clouds in the mountains), and there is also a high chance of thunderstorms in our area.
Gerd seems happy - he will go kiteboarding on one of the lakes, Roland, Andre and Markus left with him, while Oli decided to go canoeing with a different group.
For me, this day means I can catch up with work. Washing, cleaning, preparing, writing, reading, finishing the stuff that I did not get done while travelling a lot the past weeks. And of course- recharging energies for the following days. A lot of water, good healthy food, and a good rest. Then I will be ready to fly another 140 km tomorrow!
It also gives the organizers some time to figure out the scoring system - there are no official results yet, just provisional ones that might change any time.

13 Juli 2010

Day 2 Task 2: Tuesday the 13th

Yesterday all worked out and went well, today all that could go wrong went wrong. Bad position at the start gates (always too low), not flying perfect lines, losing my dextrose bits that I had tape-glued into the helmet (to take before landing), air in the camel bag that prevented me from drinking... Im so glad that despite not exactly a "flow" I still somehow ended up in goal, even if as one of the last. Tired, but happy.
5 of the German team in goal with Roland as best German, only Oli landed at the last turnpoint. Gerolf won the day, followed by Blay and Jonny.
Tomorrow is a new day, and it looks like we will finally see some clouds on course - that would be so helpful. If you watch our flights with the life tracking on google maps, you can imagine the kind of tiger country that we are crossing every day.
Early night tonight to be well rested for another long day tomorrow.

12 Juli 2010


... not in soccer, but in Vilamitjana. Today we had to fly a 134 km task around 4 turnpoints. Quite ambitious I thought, as the sky was covered in Cirrus and the air looked stable. After I took off, base was at about 2000m and everything was really slow. I could have taken the last startgate, but I was 4 kms away and couldnt be bothered to fly back and do all that work again, getting up in slow lift.
A small group of us started out and we got along alright. Not really fast. Tiger country - canyons and hills, I desperately wanted to get to goal. Lucky that my climbs worked out well today so I eventually got around the course, even if not exactly with a fast time. The days are starting late and ending late. Roland was in goal as well, but my other team mates landed out. Too bad, the top 3 of the day score for the team. Hungarian Balasz Ujhely (I always get the spelling of his name wrong, sorry Balasz! at least I can pronounce it...) won the day.
If you want to follow us online, we are using these cool life tracking devices, you can follow us life here!
A great start into the comp for me, I was first woman in goal. But it was only the first day of a long competition, I hope we get to fly a long task like today in really easy conditions too.
Sorry that I can´t upload any photos at the moment, I don´t know why and will try later.

11 Juli 2010

Tsamina mina zangalewa - this time for España!

The opening ceremony consisted of a walk through Áger village to the tent at hq. It was fun to confuse the other teams by our pilots wearing bright orange t-shirts. I think it´s a great way to support our Dutch friends who are a tiny minority in this country tonight. At the moment, they are all sitting together at the campsite watching the final.
That´s why the opening ceremony did not last very long. We saw some traditional Catalán dances (and for Ecki: never ask for Sevillana in Catalunya... they kill you!) in traditional costumes.
In the beginning, the Australians couldn´t quite find their flag - I found it quite well interpreted: it was upside down ;) then Jonny went down under!
The British rocked up with really young, new talents.
For fun I had an arm comparison with Yulia (she finished on a fantastic 9th place in the Spanish nationals yesterday after 9 tasks, no rest day, well done little bird!) and Natalia from the Russian team, just to set new goals for my training. Even though Im taller than them and even though they don´t even work out, they have beautiful strong muscles - bloody genetics...

Safety Briefing

At the safety briefing I met good friends again- it is very international, and the top guys are all here. On these pictures you see the current world champion from Italy, Alex Ploner, and his great team. Also Christian Ciech had won the rigid wing worlds a few times. On the other photo, my Australian friend Jonny Durand who just arrived with a big jet lag and who was superhappy when I got him his share of Red Bull today ;) he is the current Nr. 1 in the world ranking in hang gliding! Right next to him Hungarian pilot and ex-world champion from Texas, Attila Bertok, who also lives in Australia now.
We have to meet at 6pm to walk through the village and to the tent where organizer Juaki will start with the opening ceremony. It won´t last too long, as all the Spanish guys of course want to see the soccer world cup finals! I better hurry up, more pictures later. The clouds over take off look like a little bit of rain, but you never know if it arrives in the valley.

10 Juli 2010

Official stuff, preparing for the Euros

After having arrived and settled in late last night, we started with a team meeting this morning to get each others new Spanish phone numbers, talk about the "must do´s" like mandatory safety briefing tomorrow at noon and opening ceremony at 6.30. I went ober to register today and didn´t see many pilots there - so far only 98 have entered the comp, I thought we would be 150 on the mountain...
After the official CIVL document check and gps downloads, I went to the big white tent to have my glider measured. More pilots over there, the full Dutch team, some Swiss pilots and some British guys were waiting in line. And the line wasn´t moving too rapidly, as they had to adjust quite a few times.
When Thomas Pelicci called me for the pitch measurement, he finished in record time - nothing had been changed since the measurements of the worlds where Gerolf Heinrichs and Oli Barthelmes had helped me to find the right settings. I was pleased that it worked out and was approved in a few minutes, as the glider flies beautifully with these settings!
Our new "HandiRack" passed the first stress test and found many admirers - sure we are travelling to other continents where we often have to get a rental car and the problem of not being able to attach a glider rack. With these very light, strong and inflatable racks, you can fit them on the smallest car and they carry up to 80 kg, plenty for even two gliders! Jörg had found this great invention when we flew the worlds in Texas, and this time it saved me a 20 hour drive in my own car down to Spain.
It was good to see Shedsy (UK) up and running with not too many bruises - one of his side wires had snapped a few days ago when he was approaching goal, and he had to release the reserve. Since his a-frame had folded around him, he said it was not easy to reach the reserve chute at first. Lucky that he is strong and got it out in time to have a comparably "smooth" landing. He found a glider to borrow and will be back in the air for the Euros!
Primoz Gricar (SLO) was first in goal today and won the Spanish Nationals, congratulations!

I settled in

09 Juli 2010

Arriving in Ager, Spain: 37C!

Today I flew to Barcelona, got our little rental car, tried to organize sim-cards for the phones (it only took one hour to buy 8 cards for my team... takes forever to get them registered in the shops, they have a strict policy after the terror attacks from Madrid).
Driving to Ager takes about 3 hours - it is very scenic on the way, majestic birds soaring all along.
Primoz was one of the top two again today, so it looks good for him to rank high in the Spanish Nationals, only 19 points behind Marc Utrillo in 1st place.
Tomorrow it´s official registration for the Euros, a day to check the gear, charge all varios, radios, gps´s, mobile phones, and charge one´s own energies. I feel safe under my mozzie net - from last year I remember those little buggers and brought a remedy this time.

08 Juli 2010

Preparations for the Europeans in Ager

Two months have passed since this picture at Tegelberg, and Im sure we will fly a lot of days at the European Championships in Ager, starting with registration tomorrow! For the first time, also pilots from other continents are allowed in, as there is plenty of space on take off. Im very happy to see the top pilots from Japan, Colombia and Brazil, as well as the guns from Australia, Blenky and, most of all, current number 1 in the world ranking, Aussie Jonny Durand! Except for Zac Majors, we will have the top ten ranked pilots of the world at Ager, which turns the Euros into a World Class Competition. Our German team will consist of Gerd Doenhuber, a new, extremely talented pilot from Bavaria, also experienced guys like Oli Barthelmes and Roland Woehrle, then we have Andre Djamarani who finished as best German pilot on 11th in the last Europeans, and "new kid on the block" Markus Ebenfeld, an excellent XC pilot who currently leads the German XC ranking by miles.
Im the only woman on the team and I look very much forward to flying with this crew, as there is a lot of experience and good will for team work. Every one of us is ardent to learn and improve his/her skills, and I can´t wait to join my team tomorrow in Ager. They already arrived with the team cars, and I will fly down to Barcelona tomorrow morning, picking up my support team, my dear parents who fly in from Bremen, and then I will report from the cute catalonian village of Ager.