31 Juli 2013

German Open Day 2: 92km Class 5, cancelled in flex

Something seems wrong with the weather if you come from Florida in July and when you open the doors of the plane in Germany, the air is more humid and hotter than in Orlando ;) from almost 40 C on Sunday, it went down to a fresh 22 after a cold front moved in. It dropped some more rain on us yesterday around 2pm, followed by a 35km/h wind.
Since there are 39 competitors in rigid class, the task was started first for this group. It took them until 4.30 pm to get airborne, 9 guys made it to goal in Cottbus, around 92 km in 1h20 for the day winner, Tim Graboswki. Jochen Zeyher was 2nd, followed by Toni Raumauf and Norbert Kirchner.
The comp in flex class was cancelled due to the wind getting stronger and more turbulent and lack of time to launch this group of 33 pilots.
Today the sky is still covered, dropping small amounts of rain, and the wind is predicted to get stronger than yesterday, but from tomorrow until the end of the comp we expect some epic XC weather.
Results Class 5 yesterday here.

29 Juli 2013

German Open Altes Lager Berlin

Winner of the German Flatlands last week in class 5 was Markus Hanfstängl, a good old friend of mine. He doesn´t fly much anymore, but he is fit as hell and even though he lives and flies in the Bavarian mountains, apparently he enjoys the flatland flying up here in the northeast of Germany as well! He is the guy on the left side of the photo, behind him his biggest competitors for the German Open this week, Tim Grabowski who just won the pre-worlds in Annecy, and Toni Raumauf from Austria.
There are about 30 rigid wing pilots here in Berlin, more than at the pre-worlds! A high class field in this competition, will be an interesting race! Also in flex class, most national team members are here, like Lukas Bader (he is the top local pilot who lives up here), Jörg Bajewski, Andre Djamarani, Christian Zehetmayr, Roland Wöhrle - only Gerd Dönhuber is missing. Some extraordinary XC flatland pilots like Bernd Otterpohl and Wolfgang Aumer are here as well.
With 70 pilots altogether, the comp is filled up. 7 trikes and one Dragonfly will tow us up. But maybe not today - a cold front moves through, it keeps raining, storms are predicted for this afternoon. It is good to have a "slow start", after Ive been on the road for the past three weeks.

27 Juli 2013

Aviation Legends

Today I had the great pleasure to meet Sherry and Joe Kittinger together with Cpt Guido (who flies A340, Junkers and probably the Superconny some day soon too) from my Orlando crew for lunch. Difficult to put into words how amazing it is to exchange our stories, experiences and to be able to ask them for advice - what a privilege to have friends like these who share the passion for flying, who always have a new goal, another incredible project in mind!

25 Juli 2013

Hang Gliding on Servus TV, Sat. 27.7. 9.15-13.00

A film crew from Red Bull TV visited us during the Hang Gliding Challenge in Greifenburg where we coach new pilots for XC and competition flying. Alexander Mazza is a well known and top class presenter in German TV, and he had a lot of fun on take off, is very keen to do a tandem flight or even do a course! I enjoyed working with him a lot, very rarely that the top guys are so down to earth!
You can watch some hang gliding and paragliding this Saturday on Servus TV between 9.15 and 13.00 in Red Bull TV!

24 Juli 2013

I will miss you, me faltas, Luisito!

I was shocked to hear the sad news that Luis Rizo passed away in an aerotowing accident this week. He has been my good friend of many years, we have met and flown in lots of competitions around the world since 1997. Only a couple of weeks ago I had a great time thermalling with him in the French Alps at the comp in Annecy.
Born and grown up in Colombia, Luis had lived in Paris and flown for France for quite a while now, and he was about to come to Berlin, which I was looking forward to.
Luis was one of the top pilots of the French National team for years, but he was also a talented and successful composer of modern music. I´m sad I never took the time to go to one of his concerts, I missed the chance of him explaining his music. I wanted to do that in Berlin - but never postpone things you really want to do, who knows what happens tomorrow!
Luis cheered me up during the stressful comp in Annecy and gave me another salsa lesson on the Semnoz take off (there were plenty over the years, he was a great dancer and a patient and motivating instructor!)
My thoughts are with his family, specially with his brother Carlos, and with his love Johanna who I met in Annecy - it breaks my heart that you have lost your wonderful man way too soon. Another one who should have always been there. This year is tough.

18 Juli 2013

Flying Sao Conrado

Thanks to Konrad Heilmann for lending me his Moyes RX 3.5 so I could fly in Rio again! It didn´t look like the best of days as we were waiting for the southeast to kick in, which never arrived. Instead I was chasing the cute little monkeys around that hang out in the trees on take off - they look exactly like the ones in the animated film "Rio" ("...never let a monkey do a bird´s job!")
Around 2pm, we decided it´s better to risk a sled run rather than getting stuck in the shade and tail wind on launch. I was happy to experience that
Konrad´s big wing has such an easy handling that I managed to fly more than an hour together with Fabio, Guto, Marcinho, Nader, Mosquito and the other gun pilots from Sao Conrado! I had the lowest wing load, so I stayed up longest and managed to blend into the flocks of Urubus and fregate birds without a problem.
For a moment I felt like the Queen of Rocinha, one of the largest Favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, watching everything from above, all on my own. Then I heard something like a shot and was reminded that Im nothing but a visitor in this beautiful, intense Brasilian world, even though my welcoming friends always make me feel very much at home here. Immediately I flew back to the vultures and tried to look like them, trying to hide from people who might, just for fun, put some bullets into the sky...
Today the wind looks like a stronger north direction, so the guys might take me to a different flying site close to Rio.

17 Juli 2013

Rio de Janeiro

The perfect Brazilian breakfast - pao de queijo, açai and agua de coco, bem gelado ;) at the wonderful beach of Copacabana. Life is hard! And at 10 I will take to colleagues to Sao Conrado for a tandem flight, while I will try to visit Cristo. My Carioca friends said it might be possible today!!!

16 Juli 2013

High Base!

 I just flew to Frankfurt and saw this cute girl in the airport - what a great hat ;) good to stear her to the gate. And they were flying to my hometown Bremen.

When we went on descent for Franky, cloud base was in orbit and I knew it must have been a really big day in the German flatlands today. Too bad I have to work!

15 Juli 2013

Pre-Worlds and French Open Awards...

... and the winners are:
Françoise won the Women´s Pre-Worlds ahead of me and Helene Toyer - Françoise really did a great job with her flights and is also the French national women´s champion. She kept up with the guys and finished 10th overall, I was 15th.
In rigid class, tim won ahead of two Austrian pilots.
Manfred won swift class, with Swiss Archeopterix inventor Roger Ruppert in 2nd (his first big competition!) and Steve Cox in 3rd.
Mario Alonzi won the open class and the French Open, Laurent Thevenot is 2nd and Gianpietro Zin 3rd.

13 Juli 2013

Pre-Worlds Day 7: 112km around 6 turnpoints

Another very tough day that led us into the higher mountains to our east. Not that we had a higher cloud base than the other days - it was predicted, but not found unfortunately. It was good to see a new area, but again very slopy, difficult or no landing fields.
Local knowledge helped a lot - there are convergences around, but I saw La Clusaz for the first time, and couldn´t get up where half an hour later two gliders got away. I have to ask our PG-pros for advice on how to fly in this area!
I shared the thermal of the day with Tim. I had already been waiting for some lift for about half an hour, when I saw the adidas rigid wing low. At the same time, we started turning, and it took us up to base - really nice to fly with friends! Tim told me later that that was the lift that got him ahead of the other pilots and might have let him win the Pre-Worlds in rigid class. Results are still not out, so I guess we won´t have time to check everything before the awards, as we have to drive an hour to get to Gruffy where they will have the closing ceremoy at 11 this morning.
In flex class, a few French pilots got to goal. I landed with Wolfi, Stefan and Françoise, so Françoise won the pre-worlds in female class 1, I finished 2nd. According to my superstitious friend Tomas Suchanek, that is the best way to score a title next year ;) I have to learn a lot about the Annecy area until then.

11 Juli 2013

Day 6: 83km around 7 turnpoints

Today we saw low clouds and a strong northerly again. Flying around 7 turnpoints meant a head wind on every other leg of the zig zag course. After a slow start I had a good run for the next three turnpoints, but then it got really difficult. Local knowledge helps a lot in this area... quite a lot of the French pilots made it to goal, also Françoise got in! A really big flight for a light girl like her!
Jörg made it to goal late as well, and in rigid class Tim got in 3rd, so he might keep his lead. In swift class, Manfred Ruhmer won the day. I landed after the 5th turnpoint, and when I face the strong head wind (and a lot of hills and trees in my way), I chose to land on a slope where already about 10 pilots landed before. One of them even pulled out a wind sock for me to show the wind direction and the gusts! That helped me a lot to do a good landing. Yesterday many people had destroyed parts of their gliders, as we landed in a really turbulent, gusty wind or even in rain.
Tomorrow is hopefully a day without wind, but with higher cloud base and better thermals. I really want to see the high mountains behind us, and I also want to go and visit Chrigel Maurer in the air. He is leading the Red Bull XAlps competition by almost 200km already, and tomorrow our paths could cross!

Day 5: 81km around 4 turnpoints

Despite the clear forecast of overdevelopment, they set a task of 81 km around 4 turnpoints yesterday with goal in Doussard. We went on course and in some places the northerly wind was very strong and turbulence really rough. Towards goal it got darker and darker, and when we turned at the 3rd tp, we already saw some lightenings towards Doussard.
When we arrived at the 4th turnpoint, the task was stopped. About 5 pilots made goal, Tom Weisenberger was fastest, also Wolfi had a really good run. Whatever they were talking about on take off, it worked!
In rigid class, Tim got 2nd of the day and maintains his overall great placement!
In swift class, Steve Cox gained 1000 points as the day winner.

09 Juli 2013

Day 4: Day started, then stopped in the air

Today the clouds grew much faster than yesterday, but the meteo man and the organizers were convinced that the storms would not harm our courseline of 64km. Even several thunders didn´t stop them from sending us out. Quite a stressful atmosphere on launch, as it was all shaded for a while, and when it was slightly sunny again, there was a cross wind and not much time to get into the air.
It wasn´t exactly a brilliant take off, and when I was about 10 minutes on course, somebody told Jörg, Stefan and me on our radio frequency that the task is stopped. Great, why didn´t they decide that half an hour earlier? To me it was obvious all day that there was a huge storm cloud developing towards our first turnpoint, and apparently that was the reason in the end why they stopped. A mind game. I guess there won´t be any points today, because not even all pilots could get into the air in time.

Big thanks to Jörg for not pushing me on launch today - he was right behind me, but after I took off, they closed the launch window! I had a significant cross wind for most of the time I waited, and when I wanted to go because it straightened up, they told me now it´s the turn of the guy at the other ramp and wouldn´t let me go! Then the wind turned back to 90 degrees cross... it wasn´t fun. And I was glad I had a good friend in my back who was more concerned about my safety than about his points in the comp!
The goal field "Gruffy" was a bit unusual too. On two sides it was surrounded by powerlines. There were thin fences all across the field, very difficult to see from above. The grass was quite high and the ground uneven, and towards the wind direction when I landed (wouthwest), it was a downhill slope. Better than most other fields in that area, that´s for sure, but for a goal at a pre-worlds a bit rustic.
I just hope we don´t have to play the same game again tomorrow.

08 Juli 2013

Task 3: Day cancelled, thunderstorms

As the results are online now, it is obvious that the lead in open class 1 is strictly in French hands - Luis Rizo is first, followed by Francois Isoard and Gianpietro Zin. Françoise ranks 9th, Im in 14th at the moment. Top German pilot is Tim Grabowski - he is 1st in class 5 after two tasks! Swift class I don´t know yet - they flew a task yesterday, but their 3rd day scores aren´t online yet.
Today we drove around for one and a half hours, trying to find the way up to Semnoz launch. Because the Tour de France went through yesterday (and it was really cool to watch them from the air when we raced passed them yesterday), and there are still a lot of roads closed down today.
When we finally got to take off, we had tail wind and very low cloud base in front of us. But we were optimistic and set up anyway. The wind turned around, cloud base rose - but unfortunately the clouds grew way too fast, so we didnt have enough time for a task and the day was cancelled. Many pilots free flew and went back to the HQ in Doussard.
The nice castle in the lake was yesterdays last turnpoint. And if you look closer, you will see a lot of paragliders in the air behind it ;)

07 Juli 2013

Pre-worlds task 2: 87km around 4 turnpoints

With Forclaz as the launch again, we started north to the same first turnpoint as yesterday. Cloud base was about 100m higher and we had nice clouds to work with, but the organizers saw a risk of overdevelopment, so they set a shorter task and took us to the northeast and northwest to keep us out of the higher mountains and stormy areas.
I had a good start today and saw many new places, as I didnt get around the whole course yesterday. It felt much better to fly along a ridge with some landing fields in sight. The fastest guys just flew straight along the ridge, barely ever turning. I found it quite turbulent and stopped here and there to top up some height for the crossings.
I got to goal today, not really fast, but our rigid class team did really well today - Tim was in second and Norbert 3rd after their 105km task. For the swifts, it was 150km and I guess all of them would have been in goal. It was great to see some Red Bulls in the air today - Steve Cox has some on his Swift, so he is easy to recognize, and also Tom Weissenberger has that sticker on his top surface! Makes me feel like Im not alone!
Soon we will have company I hope - the Red Bull XAlps started today, and if they have some decent flying weather the next days, we might be able to meet up with the guys in the air when they fly around Mont Blanc!
No results online yet, I will try to take a clearer photo of the lists tomorrow so Davis can read them as well ;)

06 Juli 2013

Pre-Worlds task 1: 123km around 4 tp

When I arrived in Annecy yesterday, I couldn´t resist the blue water and had to go for a swim first of all. A bit chilly, the big blue mountain lake, but really nice and refreshing after a long drive!
Today the opening briefing took a while before we headed up the Forclaz take off at around 11am. The days here start late, we launch towards the northwest, so there was no rush. Our start gate didn´t even open until 15.30!
We are about 50 pilots at the French Open, 7 women compete at the women´s pre worlds, about 30 rigid wing pilots are here, and 7 class 2 gliders which are being towed up from the goal field.
Our task was 123km around 4 turnpoints, but I doubt that anybody made goal today. The wind just got too strong, climbs were quite broken, and cloud base not really high. Very impressive terrain. I landed on rolling hills and I was very happy that the pilots who were already on the ground showed me the wind direction, as it was changing quite a bit in gusts up to 30 km/h.
I only flew about half the course, while Jörg and Stefan headed on towards the 3rd turnpoint but then landed at the goal field without the last one. Certainly a day for heavy pilots later in the day with that strong head wind we had to face towards the 3rd turnpoint.
It was an interesting first day, and I really hope that we see some better days here that are a bit easier to fly than today!

05 Juli 2013

Doussard - Annecy

After just a bit more than an hour drive south from lake Geneva, we arrived at Doussard south of Anncy, right at the lake. Very scenic area, and I settled in well, as you see on the photos ;) getting ready for a week of flying in the northern French alps, around the corner from Mont Blanc. Today it is quite windy, and with a north-east direction they call it Bise, might get a little turbulent in the air my pilot friends from Switzerland said. But I just met Jamie, Kathryn, Glen and Dave, they are heading up the mountain for an afternoon flight, while I will look for head quarter to register, get turnpoints and necesseties done for the comp. Im staying at the camp site that´s right at the lake of Annecy.