19 Juli 2018

Day 7: 104km around- too many turnpoints!

Results here! DHV German report First the most important thing: Marco flew again! Tom gave him his spare Moyes RX pro, Niki a new reserve, everybody was really happy to see him back up in the sky! And the crowd funding for getting him new equipment is running really well too! My team leader asked for average points for Kajo and me for having tried to help when the accident happened. Kajo landed, I relayed messages. The team leaders decided to give Kajo average points, but not to me, as I didn´t loose altitude while flying over Marco´s rescue area (it was a very turbulent air mass full of thermals at that spot).
Anyway, so I fell back to 35. They had moved this set up spot down into the boonies to have the third launch line on the green carpet. I would have had to set up at the bottom of take off, moving my glider up, then into the middle lane ... I told the launch marshall it won´t be safe for me to take off after that ordeal of a walk out to take off. Plus the strong wind down there was so erratic that I was afraid to leave my glider alone during briefing on the other side of the hill. He allowed me to set up in the wind tec area (none there yesterday).
Before briefing, the meet director told me that I have to take off last in the first lane now because I didn´t set up in my designated spot. That meant going last basically instead of 5 after the leader Alex Ploner. Oh well. I couldn´t change anything, so I just waited until it was my turn.
Right after take off, I got hammered by some serious turbulence and flew very cautiously after that. A huge cloud cover shaded the whole launch area off, so I found myself almost landing when the first start gate was about to open. In a desperate effort I clicked the gate and started gliding out to the flats. I had my harness open, scanning the ground for possible thermal triggers.

Thankfully I stumbled into a small bubble and kept going downwind with it. The lift got stronger and up to 2400m for the first time of the day, enough to touch the radius of the "fishnet tights", as Jörg named our weird corridor task.
And then- it was shaded again. Down to about 400m above the ground, I found a bit of lift, still in survival mode. After a lot of patience, I finally hooked into a strong thermal and got up to 2500m. Calling my team mates, I didn´t get an answer and was hoping I wasn´t logged on. Turned out they had all landed by that time already!
At the 3rd turnpoint, I met two other guys and we spread gliding over the valley again for the 4th turnpoint. Just before that, we found the thermal of the day which took us to 4th and 5th turnpoint, back to the ridge on the other side again.
Christian Preininger found some great lift in the foothills (he´s a Lufthansa pilot, and I´m sure he could soar his airbus without engines on!), and soon we were a pack of 5 pilots, trying to find the best way to goal.
Jonny Durand glided off first. With a 23km/h head/crosswind, way too low for my performance, so I made more height, as Regina told me to take anything I could get, because many pilots had already landed on course. We clicked the last turnpoint at the Greek border, but our group got too low to make it to goal. I saw a couple of them landing and thought I would do the same, but flying over to them, I was lucky and hit a small bubble of lift. Drifting back from goal again, Austrian Christian joined me again. At some stage, I started heading out. Apparently the life tracking system was not working for the guys at goal the last 20 minutes of my flight, so Regina said "If you make it, I will eat a broom!" (funny German expression of disbelief). I answered, "Well you better start chewing on it, as I am only 1,5km out!"
Not many pilots there. I thought they had already all packed up and left - but it turned out that I was only the 3rd flex pilot that made goal on that day, after Tom Weissenberger and Dan Vhynalik. Together with team assistant Margit, Charlie our filmer and rigid wing goal pilots Timmi (was his birthday!) and Robert Bernat, we celebrated having been at goal on this tough day, while Regina safely and quickly drove us back to headquarter.
Thanks to all of you who were with me, watching our life tracking, cheering at home for our teams! I´m sure your thoughts sent me the last bit of lift that picked me up!

18 Juli 2018

Saving Jörg!

It was an adventure to pick up Jörg on the 6th competition day. I had landed early and helped Carlo navigating to Jörg´s landing location. We were about 200m away, in a tiny village, surrounded by trees and high corn fields, wondering where it was possible to land.
We arrived at a farm house, to the left was a huge puddle of water and mud, to our right a very rugged looking dirt track. Maybe drivable in a tractor, not in a van. The old, traditionally dressed farm ladies closed the gate in front of us, we must have looked very sus. Thankfully a younger woman came out and asked us in English what we were looking for. I could pick immediately that she must have lived in Australia for a while (Melbourne, she said, and she´s just on a holiday home in Macedonia).
We had Jörg on the phone, sounding totally exhausted and desperate, "I´m surrounded by water, I can´t get out! Help me!"
They could not quite grasp what we meant by "flying in a hang glider from Krusevo and landing in a field behind their property", so we started wading through the mud and water currents. The farmer had a look at the location on my Iphone and immediately turned around, opening the gates for us. First thing he did - finding his rubber boots and putting them on! I was glad that Carlo and I wore just flip flops...
Then the farmer took us through some fields - onions, beans, potatoes, capsicum... then through a some water streams. We yelled out for Jörg and were happy when he finally answered.
The farmer helped carrying that huge thing out and took us back through the veggies - capsicum, potatoes, beans and onions. Then we happily presented our rescued team mate to the farm family and took some photos with them. Sure we were invited for coffee, but some storms were on the way, and we had to pick up Manni, one more guy about 45 minutes away, so we waved good-bye.

17 Juli 2018

Day 3, 4 and 5: 124km, 123km and 160km

Conditions got a bit windier and made flying more interesting. Tasks went across the valley with goals at some huge airfields - best goal fields I have seen in a while!
While we are still trying to resolve some radio and communication problems in our team, Primoz totally recovered from his shock of having started half an hour early on the first day, flying on his own to goal - and scoring bombout points. He is back on track and took the last two day wins!
But Primoz is not just flying well, he also regularly updates us on the best climbs and tactics he can see out in front, so we have a better chance for our flights too. Plus he has his whole family including his cute, new baby boy here who waited for him at goal, greeting him for his day win! So amazing to have such an accomplished pilot as Primoz on the team!
He has written a great day report for our German Homepage on DHV.DE as well, you find a lot more photos and day reports there!
I was never the fastest one, but if there is any way to fly far, I can be quite tenacious and will keep trying until I run out of options. I flew five and a half hours on the 5th day, trying different ways to get to goal, before I finally ran out of thermal time. What a bonus to be able to score for our team a few times as well, I´m really happy if I can support the guys, no matter if in the air or on the ground, like helping to pick up Jörg on day 5. But that´s another whole fun story!

Day 6: Turbulence

The 6th task of the comp got more than exciting. I had a good start and approached the fist turn point radius when a glider tumbled twice and fell down in the lead gaggle I was heading towards. I stayed back and watched the parachute opening, but something didn´t quite look right. Thankfully Marco, the youngest and very talented pilot of the Italian team, is flying with two parachutes and had been able to open the second one. After that he slowly drifted for quite a while back towards the ridge.
I decided to stay with him until he lands, as I had experienced a deployment myself before. I informed our Team Leader Regina and told her I would wait and send her coordinates as soon as Marco lands.
My team mate Kajo was lower to the ridge than me and saw that Marco landed on a tree. First he was not moving, and Kajo said he would land in the closest place possible, which seemed a village at the bottom of the hill.
I relayed this message to Regina and she said that the organizers called for a helicopter. I stated that in the initial safety briefing they said it can take up to 1,5 hours for the helicopter to arrive and said it´s much faster if Kajo lands and hikes up - Regina totally agreed. At that stage Marco was moving, but still he could be injured or have a shock, in which case help is needed quicker. The Italian team had no contact to him for quite a while. I didn´t dare landing with Kajo because it looked like a lee side, and I am currently not fit enough for exciting landings, but I kept telling him the best and closest routes he could walk up to get to Marco.
I checked again for other possibilities to help, but when I had contributed all I could, I started to look around and head on. Sure everyone else was gone already, impossible to see them in the front, as it wasn´t a very clear day. I was heading out towards the second turnpoint, crossing the valley in a blue sky, still being quiet shaken of what I just witnessed.
I saw a couple of gliders and tried to climb with them, but I wasn´t in the state that I had been in all the days before. It´s weird that once you turn into emergency and helping mode, you´re in a totally different mindset than competition mode.
Soon after that, I landed close to Austrian Christian Preininger. I was still so out of it that I didn´t even realize that the wheat field I landed in had not been harvested yet, and I stood about 25 meters from the road in over a meter high wheat. Mind you, it was a very soft landing.
When Christian and I met on the road, he said that Marco tumbled just next to him, and Christian was shaking just as much as me. It took me well over another hour to calm down again. Thankfully my retrieve driver Reinhard Pöppl carried my packed up glider out of the field and drove to goal with me. Marco had been rescued and taken to goal as well, and I was so happy to see him almost unharmed except for some scratches and bruises that I almost cried. Sure I didn´t perform well in terms of points or distance, but I did what I had to do to help my flying friends in need.

14 Juli 2018

Task 2: 131km around 3 turnpoints

A long, interesting task with great weather conditions let us fly fast. I was very happy to get to goal and score for my team the first time in this competition.
And again, a push, this time a real one, pushed me out on take off. It´s quite stressful and I am always happy when I enter the first lift and climb out.
The area is very picturesque and seems like a century ago. Beautiful huge storchnests on every other powerline post, with young ones testing their flight abilities, are always a highlight when we drive back up the mountain to our hotel in Krusevo.

European Championship Macedonia, opening and day 1

 Finally I get to write a few line to catch up on my blog. It´s been a rush to get from a work flight to the US back through Frankfurt, Munich, then to Ljubljana where I met Matjaz, then to Skopje where we got a taxi for the 2 hour ride to Krusevo. Thankfully our teams had already taken our gliders and harnesses.
I was in time for our big first team meeting, then registration in the evening. The next day I wanted to testfly my gear and check the place out, since I have never flown here before. But after the briefing, we heard thunder, and soon we raced to pack up our gliders before we were dumped with heavy rain. No test flight, oh well.
The first comp day started with low clouds. Almost no wind on take off made launch slow, a push was on but stopped before me. They didn´t realize that and hassled me out with counting down the 30 seconds anyhow.
The 102km task was won by Christian Ciech. I landed in a huge field and got picked up very quickly by our team assistant Luise! It was a great first impression of the mountains and flats in this area. A bit like Canungra.

01 Juli 2018

And Junkers wins!

Thanks to all the teams and brave pilots who "flewcrashed" their objects into the river Weser today, it was an honour being allowed to judge you!
50000 spectators gathered for a great event, major logistics well done! Sorry for no earlier updates, but the phone network was at it´s limits I think! Hope you watched some of the show on the livestream.
My favourite wing, the Junkers plane, was the only one that covered some distance, won the event and the team got flights with Red Bull Air Race Champion Matthias Dolderer. Some wild g´s for them ;)
Due to cross wind gusts up to 40km/h, it was really difficult for some teams to even get to the front of the ramp!
Here you can see some of the teams. It was a pleasure to have you all in Bremen!

Red Bull Flugtag Bremen - preparations

Join us at the Red Bull Flugtag in Bremen today! I´m excited to be in the jury, together with some excellent athletes like Air Race world champion Matthias Dolderer, free skier Bene Mayr, formula e driver Daniel Abt, model and pilot Betty Taube, and base jumpers Jokke Sommer and Dani Roman. It will be fun to watch all those brave teams jumping into the river Weser! 
My hometown Bremen has always been hatching lots and lots of pilots, as the Lufthansa flight training has a big part of the pilots´ school here - I guess a lot of new candidates will join in tomorrow!