30 Juli 2009

More comps at the same time

At the moment, there are several comps in Europe. Furthest north 19 pilots are competing in Altes Lager, 60 km south of Berlin, at the German Flatlands. They already flew 3 tasks in four days, Lukas Bader is leading, Yulia Kucherenko from Russia is 2nd !!! and her Russian friend Artur Dzamikov 3rd. I know quite a few good flatland pilots up there, so Yulia is doing a great job, good luck for the last task tomorrow! Tonight a cold front will hit and move through, but the sandy soil dries very quickly and Im positive they will fly agian tomorrow.
Then My friends Regina, Christa and Primoz are in Buzet, Croatia, where we flew the Europeans 3 years ago. They flew the 4th task today, until yesterday Czech Dan Vyhnalik was in 1st, Primoz in 2nd and Alan Sattler, another Slovenian Pilot, in 3rd. A small country with a lot of great pilots, thinking of the great success of the Slovenian team at the paragliding world championship in Valle, Mexico.
Top woman is Christa in 26th, followed by a new German comp lady, Nicola Demmeler, and Regina. All the best to you for the last day- they will have to leave the comp before the end, because in two days, Flavio will run the Monte Cucco trophy in Italy. Quite a lot of pilots will migrate from Croatia to Umbria.
Thanks to Ashanta Carnieletto for the photo of me at Ager take off!

20 Juli 2009

After a 65 km task on the final day, it was close to the very last second, because the top 4 guys were all within 20 points! Not many people there, and Jonny landing short.
Young Blay Olmos who had already won Forbes this year won the pre Europeans on his Litespeed, followed by Swiss Martin Harri and British Carl Wallbank, all on Moyes.
Also big congrats to the top woman in this comp. Kathleen Rigg finished 13th overall after six tasks, she was the 2nd best British pilot in the comp and showed that her great abilities dont just apply to Monte Cucco. She shares her Litespeed with husband Gordon who will now fly the British Open in Ager while Kathleen returns to son Tyler. Too bad that she can´t fly her own nationals, would have been interesting to see the results there.
I finished 2nd best of 11 women in the comp, Monique came 3rd. And after Tim and Joerg I also finished 3rd best German pilot. Still a lot to learn in that area, but a good start for next year.
By the way, thanks Gordon, Nigel and Miro for your wishes, just can´t publish them for insurance reasons!

15 Juli 2009

Ager Day 5: 126 km around 4 turnpoints

Today our whole Team Timezone made goal! Primoz came in 2nd just after Jonny Durand who probably won the day (results are not published yet), Jörg came in 5th, Tim and I nearly crossed the line together.
A great fun flight after a cloud covered morning. It had rained during the night, so cloudbase was below take off when we arrived, but got up to 3000m during the course of the day on our task around 4 turnpoints. We had quite a lot of tailwind on some legs, and a significant headwind on other legs, specially around the last turnpoint I was careful not to land, as Primoz reported over the radio that he had seen Swiss Nick land after taking the turnpoint too low. We went to the east, then north and very far to the west, so it was a new direction again. We have covered quite some ground on our 4 tasks! It was an epic flight with lots of 5m climbs and a lot of vultures again. They are great fun to fly with - if we have better climb, they come over to us and join our thermal ;)
Pedro said this week is very bad weather for this area, so I wonder how really good weather looks like? At home the rain hasnt stopped and Im happy to be here and have already flown 4 tasks in 5 days with 3 more to go. Just Saturday might be a bit iffy with a strong wind from the wrong direction forecasted. More rounds than in any other comp this year, we are looking at a great European Championship for next year!

14 Juli 2009

Ager Day 4: 70 km dogleg

Today we waited until noon to go up the mountain because it looked like overdevelopment. At 1.30 pm we finally started setting up, and a task around 4 turnpoints and 70 km/h was set. All a bit of a hassle to get ready with such short notice.
Even though the wind was a little off to the East, take off was ok. I took the first start at 15.15 but after the 2nd turnpoint waited a long time before jumping over the back of the ridge. With only 2000m of height, it just looked to overwhelming, the big gap behind us.
Eventually, I went over and along the course but wasted about 40 minutes up and down the take off ridge. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see so many beautiful vultures in the air, getting really close to circle the best core of the thermal with me!
I was happy when I finally got to goal, the same field as two days ago. Lots of people there today, Tim or Jörg were the fastest Germans, but also Konrad Schwab and Stefan Boller got in. Monique landed about 3 km away from goal, but without the last turn. I think Kathleen was probably the fastest woman again, but there were also Natalia and Julia in goal today. Also British pilot Jenny Buck made goal, for the first time today! Good to see so many women there.
Gerolf was first in goal today, followed by Swiss Martin Harri, big cheer to them! Primoz and Jonny had a close finish today, but my father had radioed to Primoz about the height of the first guys at goal, and since Primoz knew at which height they had left the last turnpoint, he knew he would make it in and started speeding. He was about 7th today.
When we got back to HQ, we finally saw a few drops of rain and a bit of thunder. A very good and safe tasksetting for the day today, keeping us away from the storms.

13 Juli 2009

Ager Day 3: Cancelled due to Levante

When we arrived on Montsec today, the southeasterly wind kept picking up. A task of 130 km was set, but the Spanish local pilots warned me of dangerous take off conditions and very rough air that would not take us up very high. Not too inviting.
Joerg is on the safety committee so I told him about the opinion of the locals and he managed to stop the first comp pilot from trying to take off. Soon enough the wind picked up even more, Jörg measured up to 48 km/h, the maximum to fly a task here is 37 km/h. At 3pm, the day was cancelled. Driving down, we saw amazing lenticular ufos everywhere and were glad to have stayed safe and sound on the ground!

12 Juli 2009

Ager Day 2: 132 km

Today we flew another task, a long 132 dogleg flight around 3 turnpoints. The weather prediction sounded wonderful, base at 2700 m at 2 pm, but when we were in the air it was worse than yesterday, climbs only up to 2000m. Primoz, Tim, Monique and I waited for a long time and only started at 3.15 pm, Monique even later! Not so promising to start that late and know it is not yet a fast day...
Big difficulty in the beginning: a crossing with no places to land for some time. Soon the climbs were getting better, but also the westerly wind picked up, so we had a big headwind on the way to the 2nd turnpoint. Primoz and Tim voted for direct way, but I was too scared of the tiger country on their route, so I went back towards take off. A big cloud was developing there that took me up to 2700 m! Finally the promised height was there, and I needed it, because the gorges and mountains under me looked like Mars.
After a while, I caught up with a few guys and flew quite some time with Jonny - maybe he even filmed? I have to ask him, would be nice for Red Bull.
The final glide was against headwind again, and late, so it wasnt just the air temperature down low (35 degrees) that made me sweat. I reached goal and there were about 15 people in. I think I was first German, Primoz arrived just a bit later, and Tim didnt quite make it. Monique landed at Tremp before the 2nd tp, I dont know where all the others of Team D ended up. Jonas landed only a few km´s short of goal!
5 hours of flying, and 3h29 mins for the task, Im tired but wearing a big smile!
Young Spanish pilot Blay Olmos was in goal first ahead with a lot of time, so he might have won the day. Gerolf wasnt in goal, so Carl Wallbank might have moved into first place overall now.
Kathleen was very early in goal today, probably 4th, so she was the first British pilot who made it in, also first woman! I was very happy to see her performing that well, it is really encouraging for the girls in our sport. Congrats to her! Her husband Gordon is also an excellent pilot who finished 5th in the World Championships last week, at the moment he is at home with their son Tyler - as they are the highest profile flying couple in the scene at the moment, I can´t wait to see 6 year old Tyler starting to hangglide ;)

11 Juli 2009

Day 1, Task 1: 65 km

Gone are the days of green (thanks to Christian Langbehn for this Greifenburg photo), here it is dry, the straw fields are harvested already (except for our goal field ;)), Camo said he feels really good to fly here, it is like home (Australia). All dry, red soil.
The weather forecast was poor, but the conditions improved and a short 65 km task took us around to the south into the hills and flat area, as cloudbase was rather low (when there were clouds, most of the time it was blue).
I took the first start and was quite slow, as I wanted to stay high and not get into trouble in those hills where it is difficult to predict the slope and wind direction. Eventually I got to goal, I think Kathleen won the day in the women´s race, Monique did well and was in shortly before me. Gerolf was first in of the guys, but he is not sure if he won the day, as we had 5 start gates... Primoz was in 5th, I will keep you posted about results tomorrow. I think about half the field (130 pilots) made goal today. Jörg, Stefan, Tim were already in goal when I got there, I think just Konrad Schwab had to land out of our German crowd here today.
Ignacio the weather man just told me it is going to be great weather tomorrow and there will be a long task. Today he was a little wrong, so I really hope he will be right for tomorrow!

10 Juli 2009

The day before the Pre-Euros start

Today we went to see the goal landing field, some bomb out fields, up to take off, and got prepared for the start. I felt like a rest after two weeks of hard work, so I decided not to fly and be rested tomorrow. Up on take off Ive met Aussie hero Jonny Durand, the vice World Champion from Laragne and a fellow team Red Bull mate. Also Blenky and Camo stayed here to make this crowd more international and less "only European".
Headquarter here is very spacious, and the internet connection works well. Most the pilots are at the local camp site, as there are very few hotels or appartements for rent in the area. The next big supermarket is a half hour drive away, so stock up before you get here next year!
The area looks dry, and a strong inversion only seems to break through in the late afternoon, around 4pm. Looks like rather late tasks even though our take off faces the southern side of the ridge. The wind usually picks up more in the valleys than on the mountain.
You see Hadewych´s take off today, and the main goal landing field under her outer right wingtip, just next to the big farmhouse (pork farm).

09 Juli 2009

Ager: Pre-European Championships

When we were on final into Barcelona airport today, it was pouring with rain. Walking out of the A321, the next crew was waiting for taking over the plane for the flight back, and I was very happy and surprised to see Walter Schurr as the captain! I told him I just arrived to fly the Pre-Europeans in Ager, and he just said, "what, you want to fly in this weather?!"
Well the thunder, lightening and rain wouldnt stop for the next 100km... Just at Lleida, about 50km from Ager, the skies opened up and the showed us the nice ridge that we will be heading to for take off. A lot of comp pilots are here and have registered already, tomorrow we will fly a test task, and on Saturday the actual comp starts. Flip is here as FAI official, and Claudia is taking an FAI training to become a jury member.
Great to see so many of my friends from all over the world here!
Thanks again to Christian Langbehn for the photo that I may publish on my blog!

07 Juli 2009

Philly on the 4th of July

When I went to work on Saturday, it was a nice surprise to meet Uli Strasser at the gate to our flight to Frankfurt. Uli won last years paragliding German XC Championships and is already in 2nd place again this year. He was on the way to help building a "government palace" in Tashkent, as he called it. Sounds like adventure tour to me.
I was on the way to Philadelphia for the first time, and only realized during briefing that we were going to THE spot for the celebrations of July 4th, with lots of independence history having taken place in Philadelphia. After the rain in Munich, it was good to see that thermals still exist in the world: The skies above Pennsylvania looked epic!
Some of our crew and me went along to the park promenade where probably a few houndred thousand people gathered to listen to a Sheryl Crow concert and watch the big fireworks later on. I was too tired to wait until 11pm and went home to be able to explore the city the next day.
I returned late yesterday and now Im preparing my gear to go to the pre-Europeans in Ager. Im really looking forward to some sun again, as it is still raining and pouring in Munich.
I hope to find a WLan spot somewhere in Ager and will report from the comp in Spain soon.

03 Juli 2009

New World Champion: Alex Ploner!

Looks like Alex Ploner from Italy is the new hang gliding World Champion! After six rounds in Laragne/France he overtook three times World Champion, the Austrian Manfred Ruhmer, on the last day. Congratulations to Alex, I´m very happy to see a friend win the big title. Alex belongs to our "Team Timezone" and we already planned a photo and film flying adventure for September in his home, the Dolomites! That is, if Alex hasn´t moved to Hollywood by then...
Also Chapeau to the Italian team for winning the Team World champion title! European Champion Elio Cataldi, Christian Ciech, Filippo Oppici and Davide Guiducci - well done! Can´t wait to fly with you guys in Ager at the Europeans.

01 Juli 2009

Photos in Greifenburg

Despite marginal weather, I went to Greifenburg for a couple of days to take photos for a Lufthansa project with Christian Langbehn and Jochen Blum. Christian is a famous photographer from Hamburg who usually takes photos of the stars, the rich and famous, from Angela Merkel to Zinedine Zidane. Or Boris Becker´s wedding for example. I especially liked his paparazzo stories ;) And I adore Christian for being so down to earth, modest, patient and friendly. Project manager Jochen is just as easy to work with, so we had a lot of fun and created some amazing new photos. They will be available for magazines at Action Press.