Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Valle Super Final Word

Jack posted his opinion about the class debate on the forum half-way through the comp which was well received I believe. There has been a little pressure from several groups suggesting I say something too... Jack said it all in my opinion.

The only tiny bit I would add relates to the deep resentment I have for ill considered decision making by bureaucratic neophytes who ingratiate themselves into positions of authority and subject pleasure seeking innocents (like me) to their warped world-view in the guise of our 'best interests'.

I have a scooter. It's called a BKing. One hundred and eighty horses of naked screaming Yoshimura outrage at the back wheel. Zero to 100mph in around five seconds and a top speed of close to 200mph. I use it every day of my life because this is my commuter vehicle of choice. Over the top I know, but here's the thing... I don't go 200mph and I seldom do 0-100mph in 5 seconds. Once in a while I red-line the first three gears. Mostly I weave my way defensively through the traffic at a sedate 30mph. Forty thousand miles of commuting in the last five years and I am (still) well aware of my limited ability on a motor-cycle so I never lift the front wheel more than a few inches above the road and I have a quarter inch of sissy strip on the rear tyre. I wear boots and body armour and my helmet is 5 star rated. My life insurance is generous and paid up.

I have massive power and speed at my disposal and, as long as I don't break the law, no-one interferes with how I use it, NOT EVEN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS! Not so with paragliding, but I tell myself it is only a game...

Surfing is a passion of mine. I was never very good in the competition sense, but I rode (relatively) big waves in the eighties and nineties. There were several occasions that my very good friend Ben and I found ourselves under-gunned and outclassed by massive moving mountains of frigid Atlantic ocean. There is nothing quite like snaking down a fifteen foot face of a heaving outer Kommetjie left on a short board before spinning out in the slot and taking a two minute wash under the set. I was a sea Point local for a while so I had 10ft Rocklands, Queens and Thermopolis under the belt which are all fairly heavy breaks. We never paddled out at Dungeons or Crayfish Factory and I doubt I could have surfed Big Pipe or Teahupoo so I don't know how far we really pushed it surfing. I do know we were supremely fit and strong but often hypothermic, de-hydrated and surfing in places beyond our ability on inadequate equipment. Not very smart i know, but guess what? We survived ten heavy years and no-one ever interfered with our surfing... Not so with paragliding but I know it's just a game...

I could go on and on about all the other dubious activities others have participated in from time to time: from drunk driving to solo rock climbing and BASE jumping, speed flying, extreme skiing, Alpine XC, spear fishing, marriage and parenting. The thing that matters to me is that I did some of these things with the full understanding of the risks involved and I mitigated these risks by developing appropriate techniques and strategies. No more so than in learning to fly open class paragliders safely. In this I feel I am competent having practiced high speed paragliding for years. I don't need someone telling me how to do this!!! It's just a game.

I have resisted posting this piece until after the comp because I accept paragliding is just a game and not really a metaphor for life but more an escape from reality and a healthy tonic in a stressful world of commitments and obligations... Why I feel the need to compete all the time is another matter altogether.

...and yet I can't shake that niggling feeling that 'they' have defiled our sacred ritual and trespassed on the holy playground of our sanity. They poisoned our dream of 'free' flight by assuming responsibility for our safety. Uninvited, unwanted and without consultation.

It remains a game and it was never truly free in competition.


Anonymous said...

i love your post, as it is so close to my heart, i have never been told so much not to donthisnand that in this sport. yet innkitesurfing i just went for it as hard as i could and others only loved to watch. the same with big bikes etc and even my wife understands how i work and knows that i will do my best to be safe but wont always go the normal route.

for you guys at the top of your sport is just rediculous it like telling rossi he has to stop racing 1000 cc and go onto mopeds.
what typenof scotter with 180 bhp as had hauabusa unrestricted version 200 mph on speedo but the Zx10 was the anaimal cheers gary

Bruce Goldsmith said...

Andre, I have been reading and appreciating very much your blog and this last piece really sums it all up well. Great writing.
Bruce Goldsmith

AndreR said...

Hey Bruce

Thanks for that.

I was wondering where the Brits were. Perhaps we should get you, Josh and Andrew to a world cup while it is serial class and have a serial reunion of sorts? Josh just keeps getting better it seems so imagine what the three of you would do!

Any glider news?


JC said...

Nicely written and it sums up my frustrations in the early days of this mess, though I've become more resigned to where we are.

See you in Sun Valley I hope! We didn't get a chance to talk glider politics much at the superfinal, except for a little bit at that meeting. Too much flying to be done.

I suppose a lot hinges on whether the IP6 (or a glider with characteristics like it appears to have) is the shape of things to come or an anomaly.

I can picture two possible design paths for paragliders, depending on whether speed dominates the design criteria.

If speed were allowed to continue to be the main priority, we could quickly end up in a situation where, like Mads wrote, big blowouts are rare but the best option in the event of a frontal is an immediate deployment.

It's sort of embarrassing and difficult to justify that sort of approach to outsiders.

Perhaps this is optimistic, but it seems that if speed is allowed to increase gradually, to the extent that it can be done with a certain margin of safety, then we could get more speed without the downsides.

And it seems that the destination in five or ten years could be very path dependent.

I hope the Dav/PMA group has some luck, or if not that we have a viable plan B.

AndreR said...

Hey JC

How is real life after walking on water @ Valle?

Two paths: Interesting idea, but my understanding about speed is that we had already reached the aerodynamic limit with the R11, so any additional speed improvements would be incremental planform, profile and drag related? Perhaps Luc, Bruce, Olivier and/or Adrian could give us some insight given that no-one was expecting the revolutionary jump represented by the R10.2.

As far as fast blow-outs are concerned surely the opposite is true in that the safety will improve with speed as designers innovate in the manner that Niviuk appears to have done?

Combine the apparent safety of the IP6 with your gradual speed improvement approach and we may well get to fly a greater love than the R11 sooner than we think. The premature optimist in me has named that glider 'Cruz' (as in Penélope).

I hear the PMA and FAI are going to steer us back to Open Class (or near)?

Trying hard to make Sun Valley.