29 Juli 2011

World Championships: Last Day - Cucco North - cancelled!

Luckily the pilots are going up the hill one more time on the last day of the comp - take off Cucco North, as the wind turned north again. Im glad it is not the strenuous hike up to Tre Pizzi! The weather forecasts predict overdevelopment for today, and there is a lot of moisture in the air, I hope they have enough time for a short task today.
11.50: The task is set - 90 km around 4 turn points with goal in Esanatoglia, take off starts at 12.15. I hope the live tracking is more reliable today!

13.30 The start had been delayed several times, but when finally the first pilots got airborne, the turbulence was obvious. The safety director decided to cancel the day and even free flights are not allowed today!
The new World Champion is the old World Champion - congratulations to Alex Ploner! And the Italian Team wins the team trophy, with Christian Ciech in second place overall, Primoz (SLO) is third.
With Andre Djamarani on 7th and Gerd Dönhuber on 10th, the individual result of the Germans have rarely been better. The team finished 9th.

28 Juli 2011

Chrigel Maurer wins Red Bull Xalps!

Swiss paraglider pilot Chrigel Maurer rocks! Also on the his last day of the Red Bull Xalps race, he performs an incredible flight and completes the last passage into Monaco like a bird, toplands on Peille take off and shares the joy of the flight down to goal with his supporter of the 12 days, Thomas Theurillat. For sure he gave the spectators one of his superb acro shows in the end of this exhausting trip across the whole range of the European alps.
Many high profile pilots of hang gliding and paragliding who do a lot of cross country flying have been following this race fascinated by Chrigels skill to find the best possible route of the day - and to even fly in what we "average" people consider as completely unflyable conditions! Chapeau, Monsieur Maurer, for winning your 2nd Xalps title in a row! In terms of talent, skill, yet modesty you are in one league with the greatest guys of aviation history I know, Chris Müller and Guido Gehrmann.
And thanks for the great photos, diary notes and "air messages" as a tribute to your followers - highly appreciated! I wonder if "pedestrians" have a clue of what this accomplishment means, of crossing the highest peaks of Europe just with solar and wind power, working with the surprises of nature by using just a piece of fabric and some thin ropes... Mate, you are legend!
Two of my friends are still fighting to get to Monaco, as the race only finishes two days after the first pilot arrives - Michael Gebert (Germany) and Heli Eichholzer (Austria) still have a chance to get there. Maybe Chrigel could help them?

Day 10: cancelled...

Rain and storms again in Italy, the sky is grey, and the pilots who travelled thousands of kilometers, prepared months and years to finally compete at a World Championship will be disappointed. And Flavio, the organizer, will have a hard time too, as I know how much he loves to give "his" pilots the best possible comp. "His" pilots, that is all the pilots in the world. At least they are luckier than Tegelberg, as they already have a valid comp!
On the photo, you see Andre Djamarani, top ranked German pilot on 7th place at the moment, Gerd Dönhuber is on 10th. Tomorrow will be the last chance to race again and climb up a few steps more of the ladder. I keep my fingers crossed!

27 Juli 2011

Cucco Day 9: South take off

They are heading up to take off for a briefing at 11.30, but the weather forecast predicts another frontal system with rain and storms pretty soon, there might not be enough time to fly a task today.
Results after yesterdays flight: 1. Alex, 2. Christian, 3. Primoz! Japanese pilot Koji Daimon is ranked 4th, he showed a really strong performance in Italy. Elio (not a surprise) in 5ht and Manfre (big surprise - nearly 200 points behind Alex!) in 6ht. Andre is 7th and Gerd in 10th place. First time I ever remember that there are more Germans in the top 10 than Austrians and French!
Teams: 1. Italy, 2. France, 3. Austria. Team Germany ranks 9th, but with less than 100 points to the British on 4th place, a lot can change if there is another task or two!
11.55: The day is cancelled as the front and rain is approaching too fast.

26 Juli 2011

Worlds Day 8: Cucco South!

Sunshine - finally! They pilots are hyped up and rigging their gliders on Cucco South take off. The sky is blue now, but rain and storms are possible today, so it might be an early, short racing task. As it doesn´t look like too many more good days, tension is in the air...
Briefing is on right now, and you can see the clouds growing behind them, that´s why they will probably task to the west!
114 kms around 4 turnpoints today, including Gubbio, but never moving too far away from goal at Costacciaro, to stay safe in case of overdeveloptment. Thanks for the fast updates on the Cucco Blog and great photos, the organizers are doing an incredible job to let the rest of the world participate!
Startgates open at 13.20 and 13.40 - keep your fingers crossed that the clouds stay fly-friendly today! And the window is open...
News: The Italian Twins win the day - Alex Ploner and Christian Ciech first in goal!!! Primoz and Manfred follow closely. Gerd, Andre, Christian and Roland not far behind! Many people will make it today, big gaggles approaching goal. Watch the Real Time Results Download on the official Cucco Comp homepage for more details!
Also it looks like Chrigel could win his secon Red Bull Xalps competition tomorrow - he is already at 98 km out of Monaco and could be arriving tomorrow during the day! Anybody flying to Nice with me tomorrow? I need a driver to Monaco... I would love to chear Chrigel for his incredible performance!

25 Juli 2011

Cucco Worlds: Cancelled again!

News from take off: Cucco is still in the clouds and light rain, the task is cancelled, and pilots slowly going bananas.

The teams are on the way up to Cucco North take off - much closer than Tre Pizzi, and less stressful! The mountain is still in the clouds, but it is clearing now and they hope for the best for a good task today. Wind is light, and with so many pilots it will be a difficult task to climb out and wait for the start gate...
More news once they have a task set!
Thanks to Ecki for this great picture of Andre Djamarani!

24 Juli 2011

Celeb-Soccer for Benjamin!

Another day cancelled at the Cucco Worlds, but tomorrow they will try a flight from Tre Pizzi!
Meanwhile I had a great day yesterday when I was invited by Florian Weiß from Antenne Bayern to help raise money for Benjamin. This poor guy from Ghana had broken a lower back vertebrae which can be easily operated - if you have the money. If not, you suffer terrible pain and can´t walk, can´t work, can´t do anything. Luckily a Cuban doc posted Benjamin´s fate on the internet, Florian found out and asked how he could help.
They got connected to "Madamfo Ghana" (Madamfo means friend in Ghana) run by Bettina Landgrafe who got Benjamin to Accra and made sure he was looked after until the money was there to operate him. About 7000 € were needed.
Benjamin is a great fan of German Soccer (and there are many great players from Ghana in our German Bundesliga), so Florian had the idea to organize a Charity Soccer Game to raise money for the operation and the rehab therapy. He called celebreties and the coolest girl soccer team of Höhenkirchen together, and yesterday it happened!
Florian Weiß, Tanja Wörle (a pro player from Bavaria Munich!) and I were referees, famous German music manager Thomas Stein went around to collect money from the spectators, comedians Atze Schröder and Josef Nullinger were commenting the game, and some of the celeb team players were soccer legend Andy Brehme, Sebastian Höffner (RTL), Marcus Fahn (Bayern 3), Indra (Antenne Bayern) and handsome Bochum goal keeper Philipp Heerwagen .
As you see on the photo, Philipp is way taller than me, and about twice as tall as the girls they played against. Yet the girls worked great together, they won 6:1! It was fantastic to watch them interacting like a school of fish or birds, always turning into the same direction at the same time!
After the game, everybody was invited to an exclusive concert of Jamaram, a band from Munich - man I wish I could dance again, I loved their music!
After that, an auction with unique items did a good job to raise even more - Xavier Naidoos original headphones got 130 €, but the helmet of the German Women´s skiing team with all their autographs got 500 €!!! Altogether they collected 5000 € and Atze Schröder doubled it! 10.000 € for Benjamin!
And the great news is that Benjamin had been operated and it looks good for his future, now he needs physiotherapy and soon he will walk and smile again. Be sure that I will request a flight to Accra to meet Benjamin and let him know how the little German soccer girls fought for him!
Im also very interested in Bettina Landgrafes work - I usually don´t like to donate money and prefer to give my help directly to the people in India or Africa or Brazil, as Im afraid that too much drops away in burocracy. I had the great opportunity to meet Atze Schröder before the game and he had been in Ghana many times and supports Bettina´s Madamfo Ghana. He beamed when he told us how Bettina stops to help old and sick people, how she is recognized and appreciated even in the outback of Ghana, and how she always finds the cheapest way for herself (which is quite adventurous sometimes, sounds like me!) to have the maximum ability to help the people in need.
Too bad I cannot work right now and have to be patient, but I swear one of my first flights has to take me to Ghana again, country of great people and delicious Fufu!
There is a great article about yesterday´s game in the Münchner Merkur, unfortunately just in German ;)

23 Juli 2011

Cucco Day 5: Rain, day cancelled

No task today, time to analyse yesterdays race. Congrats to Primoz and the Italian twins (Alex & Chris), but also to Gerd Doenhuber for 3rd place - a great start into his first World Championships, and he has a really good and strong mindset, very good physical condition to stay relaxed and concentrated after such a good day. And congrats to the Italian team for 1st place in the ranking and 4 pilots in goal!
Then Andre finished 7th of the day, also an amazing result. But many pilots landed early yesterday, amongst them Big Spring world champ Attila Bertok. As it doesnt look a lot like many comp days next week, the chances to catch up on the top guys is small. Some mishaps shuffled quite a lot of places in the team rankings. The Swiss guys did well and would have been 3rd or 4th, but Gägu (Franz Herrmann) touched Perugia airspace and got 0 points as a penalty - and he had been in goal, that hurts! Also Mexican pilot Rodrigo de Obeso was zeroed and had made goal. Markus from our team also had that problem, at least he didnt loose that many points.
US pilot Jeff O´Brian toplanded after his vario had frozen, got a spare, and lost the spare in the air - all the bad luck on one day. OB is a great photographer and I really like his style of writing, have a look at his blog entries!
The Australian team did well, just that Jonny Durand, like me, makes a comp more interesting by not starting as the leader on the first day, and then catching up ;)
Seems like just the leading Italian, French and Austrians never make mistakes. Even though the Austrians are missing Gerolf Heinrichs, one of their strongest pilots, they still rank 3rd with the team...
Well it all seems mixed up just like the weather in Italy these days. I hope for the teams and organizers that they see at least a few of those epic days that we had at the Women´s Worlds and at the pre Worlds last year, just racing and enjoying!

Red Bull Xalps: Chrigel´s Time Out

Yesterday at the Xalps, top ranked pilot Chrigel Maurer flew a breathtaking 400 km, making it all the way into the Zermatt valley, where they have to pass the Matterhorn as the last but one turnpoint. He raced away nearly 200 km from the next pilots, Toma Coconea and German competitor, Michael Gebert (come on, Michael, fly far today and you will catch up to Chrigel)! Unfortunately, he touched a restricted area and got a time penalty of one day... time for the other guys to catch up.
I know most of the areas they fly past, and it is just amazing to see follow the pilots´tracks online. I really want to share Hugh Millers´job, chasing the guys in a helicopter and briefly interviewing them, showing the spectators the most spectacular scenery! Thanks to Hannes Arch who invented this formate of comp many years ago - it was a handful to shape it like it is today, to make it understandable and available to the rest of the world. Also thanks to Red Bull for believing in such "crazy" adventures. This is the best race in the world!

22 Juli 2011

Cucco Worlds: Monte Subasio!

Primoz Gricar is the first in goal, Alex Ploner 2nd! And it also looks great for my team mates Gerd Dönhuber who finished the task together with Alex, and Andre Djamarani, who is the 5th pilot across the goal line! They had a speed radius of 1 km around the goal, so the final verification of the times will be read out of the GPSs tonight.
Just too bad that Christian, Roland and Markus didn´t quite make it to goal today, but I saw quite a lot of other top guys on the ground before goal as well, like Gordon Rigg and Blay Olmos. Must have been a tricky day.
A 121km task around 4 turnpoints to the south at Spoleto is set, with goal at Subasio landing field. Start window will open at 3pm. Watch the Live Tracking!
As the wind is still strong on Cucco, the organizers move the comp to Monte Subasio take off today. This launch is facing the west and is out of the compression of the Cucco mountain ridge, so hopefully it is less wind up there . It is above the cute village of Assisi. In the late afternoon, the sun turns the whole city and the famous Basilica San Francesco into a magical orange light, when you are flying in that scenery, it feels unreal!
After a big earthquake about 15 years ago, the Basilica and it´s famous paintings have been restored, and it is worth seeing the Giotto frescoes and other paintings by Cimabue and Cavallini inside.
I will report later about the decision of a possible task.

21 Juli 2011

Cucco Worlds: They finally start - almost!

News from Take off Cucco South: The day is cancelled, still too windy and getting windier in the course of the day. Forecast for tomorrow looks very promising though.

Today the weather looks better, less wind, more sun, so the pilots head off to Cucco south launch where they will have a briefing at 12. Once they have a task and start, you can follow the life tracking (with a 15 minute delay) here! Should be pretty spectacular, this is the first time ever that all pilots of the world championships will have a tracking device with them.
More news as soon as the task is published.
Also keep following the Xalps pilots - today there should be some spectacular flying in the Dolomites! Mike Küng unfortunately had to quit today, he is unwell and suspects it could be pneumonia... German pilot Michael Gebert is flying, getting high above Tre Cime, in a very good position to catch up with the top 5 guys today!

20 Juli 2011

Worlds Day 2: another rest day

Another blown out day at Cucco, so maybe most pilots who want to fly are heading for Castelluccio today, as they had really good flights yesterday. For tomorrow the forecast is much better, so the first round of the Cucco Worlds will definitely start on Thursday. Great photos of yesterdays flying on dhv.de.
It is raining north of the main ridge of the alps, so guys at the Xalps have a hard time with a lot of walking in the rain or the clouds and not too much flying. Chrigel is already in the lead, as he had managed to fly a great distance yesterday. He crossed from Matrei valley of East Tyrol straight line down to Sillian and across the Drau Valley into Italy and the Dolomites! He is a real wizard when it comes to flying in tricky conditions in the high mountains. I wish Chrigel would hang glide more, we could all learn a lot from him...
The second ranked is Romanian Toma Coconea, the strongest runner and climber in the field who has chosen very individual routes in the past. Also Mike Küng flew his way into the top 10 today. Hugh Miller is doing a great job with the online video presentation of the Xalps!

19 Juli 2011

Cucco Worlds: Day 1 cancelled, strong wind

The first official flying day of the Hang Gliding World Championships at Monte Cucco is cancelled due to strong wind. A front should pass later on, and there might be a chance that they start the race tomorrow afternoon.
Time for the boys to relax, go sightseeing, tweak the equipment a little more, go for a swim or slackline ;) life is hard in paradise... the German team is heading off to Castelluccio for some free flying today. Pictures of the opening ceremony and more on dhv.de

18 Juli 2011

Red Bull Xalps started yesterday!

The toughest paragliding competition started yesterday - the Red Bull Xalps! The race across the alps started in Salzburg and will end in Monaco, with several turnpoints that the competitors have to reach just by flying and walking.
Despite some doubtful weather up here and having to go around Dachstein, the top guys are already close to reaching Zell am See!!! Looks like there could be thermal activity tomorrow, but also a howling wind in Pinzgau. I know that Chrigl Maurer and Mike Küng (he competes for the first time) can handle those difficult conditions really well. I just feel sorry for the guys, because Pinzgau should be the relaxing part where they can race along in the air, instead it looks like hard work this year. Slightly better weather is predicted for Thursday.
It is always fun to follow the guys on the life tracker, and there are also the best scenes of the day on Servus TV!

Japan wins Women´s World Soccer Cup!

After they kicked out the German girls in the quarter finals, the Japanese women won 3:1 against the Americans last night. The Japanese women are the new soccer World Champions and win the title for the first time! Congratulations - I had crossed my fingers for them!
Meanwhile there are long discussions at the Monte Cucco Worlds between pilots and the CIVL about the helmet issue. Only norm EN966 certified helmets are allowed in Cat 1 events, but many pilots "modified" their certified helmets, even if only by installing radio head sets. Where is the line? This issue should have been solved at the last CIVL meeting, yet they left it to be sorted out in Sigillo. Austrian top pilot Gerolf Heinrichs disagrees with the procedure of allowing all modifications but not allowing uncertified helmets and might not compete. Quite a powerful statement by the current European Champion.
The opening ceremony went through Sigillo last night, today is a most probably blown out training day, and tomorrow the first round of the 2011 hang gliding worlds will start! You can follow the German team on the dhv site.

16 Juli 2011

World Championships at Monte Cucco, Italy

On Sunday the opening ceremony for the Hang Gliding World Championship at Monte Cucco will start the biggest comp of the year. About 160 pilots are there! At the moment, registration is on at the head quarter, and the sprogs are being measured in the gym at Villa Scirca.
The German Team is fast and strong this year, with Roland Wöhrle having finished 10th at the pre-worlds last year and 9th at Montegrappa, Gerd Dönhuber on 11th place at Montegrappa. Andre Djamarani can be as fast a racer as Christian Zehetmair, and Markus Ebenfeld is unbeatable when it comes to tricky, difficult endurance flights of more than 7 hours!
I will follow the flights and highlight some of the results anyway, as I know that Flavio Tebaldi is a great organizer and we will see some amazing flying over the next couple of weeks. Monte Cucco is where I won my last and current World title and I really like the flying in Umbria.
The fist competition task will start on Tuesday 19th.
You can also follow the competition on my friends blogs:
Jamie - she will twitter the most actual results and takes great photos!
Jonny Durand - the young Aussie might win this comp and still finds time to film in the air!
Matjaz Klemencic - young gun from Slovenia, posting great films and photos!
Øyvind Ellefsen - young Norwegian top pilot posting great aerial pics!
Rich Lovelace - cool British pilot with that notorious humour!
The only women competing this year are Natalia Petrova (she recovered very fast from her broken arm in April!), Julia Kucherenko and Zhenya Lariskaya - 3 of the 5 Russian pilots are women! Very impressive, these girls are superstrong and I keep my fingers crossed for them that they place well and enjoy the meet!

10 Juli 2011

PG Worlds in Spain over

After only 2 tasks, the paragliding world chmpionship in Piedrahita was stopped by the CIVL. Two fatal accidents on the second day made the CIVL decide to ban open class competition gliders from world and european championships, so they had to finish this years comp earlier than expected.
Yet two rounds were enough after official rules to have a valid new world champion, Charles Cazeau (Fra). Luca Donini (Ita) 2nd, and Pepe (Andreas) Malecki from our German team is 3rd (on the photo), I think his best result ever - congrats, Pepe!
Petra Slivova (Cze) won the women´s title, followed by Regula Strasser (Che) and Kirsty Cameron (Gbr). Congratulations to all the pilots. Im very sad that this competition had to end in such a tragic way. Mis pensamientos son con las familias de Francisco Vargas (Arg) y Eitel von Muhlenbrock (Chi).
Two years of preparations for the organizers, two years of hard work for the pilots, team leaders, assistants, for the manufacturers... we all have to work together now to find a safer, more suitable formate for our world championships. After this shock, a lot of work is waiting for the NACs, CIVL and also us pilots to find a sensible way out of this desaster.
You can find professional video statements from the German pilots and flight impressions here (sorry, just in German).

04 Juli 2011

Full 8 min 3D movie online!

Now you can watch the full 8 min 3D HD movie on youtube, but hurry up if you are in Germany before they censor it again... you need 3D paper lenses to watch it and you can adjust the 3D output in youtube. It looks really amazing on a big screen! It really feels like you are flying with me through the great mountains of Greifenburg! Enjoy!

02 Juli 2011

Mexico D.F., Timezone GMT - 5

Last Thursday, a standby week started for me. Always fun, not knowing where you will go, but also stress, as they can call you from 5 am to midnight... not much sleep the night before. Anyway I was lucky and got a flight to Mexico City! It is hard work to fly 12 hours and run 12 hours (full flight and rarely anybody in economy sleeps), but the Mexican passengers are very greatful - Im usually completely wasted when we arrive around 9pm local time, 4am German time at the hotel, but with a smile in my face, knowing that our effort was appreciated!
Lots and lots of rain when we landed, luckily it stopped yesterday, just some drizzle here and there. Yet not good enough to go to Valle for a flight, so I have time to meet friends here in the City. I will meet Aldo Rohlfs, a hang glider pilot, singer, song writer and film producer - lazy for me, as Aldo speaks German. We will go to the great Merced market and shop for some of my local favourites - blue corn tortillas and Nopal, the cactus leaves. Very tasty and healthy, and you won´t find that in Germany. It is a great atmosphere there, not many tourists, just locals. I will post some photos later!
I will definitely be back in the end of January, when the Monarch butterflies are back (with all that rain now I know why they run away in summer...) and when they will have the Superfinal of the Paragliding World Cup in Valle de Bravo!