The fire protest
As much as I hate to break my own house rule (no moaning, no whining & no fighting), the last day protest action overshadowed the flying festival so I feel compelled to present my own view of it.
Everyone loves a smart arse, so I'm going to say it anyway because I predicted it after all and even though there is nothing quite as annoying as a blogger quoting himself, this is what I said: The problem with rules in general is that you have to apply them, so the more you have the greater the administrative burden (http://andre-comps.blogspot.com/2013/01/super-final-task-9.html).
So the resulting fallout of the fire-flying episode brought about a world class goat-herding squabble. Everyone knew that at least a dozen pilots dived into that second last day fire thermal to a greater or lesser extent. The fact that only two pilots were punished caused a voluble outcry at the general meeting that evening. It transpired that one particular pilot (in his infinite wisdom) broadcast a message on the safety channel during the task declaring the fire perfectly safe to fly in much to the disgust of several pilots who objected on air. It turned out to be nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact location of the fire based on track logs so our affable scoring Scotsman was hard pressed to explain that he could not definitively finger more than the two who were bust outright without more information. The resultant interaction by the punished and accusers mediated by our long suffering chair resembled a tennis 'B' slapping contest. The radio announcing fire-flyer repeatedly told the best pilots in the world with diminishing credibility how unfair his sanction was, while a current European champion (who shall remain nameless) told the same pilots what a heinous crime fire flying was.
Most startling for many was the message that came from the pre-eminent paragliding pilot of all disciplines, Chrigel Maurer. He stood up and told the assembly that paragliding was a brotherhood and that the organisers had a duty to come up with systems to catch pilots who break rules and that they could not expect competitors to step forward with evidence of cheating. This further divided sentiment with the Chrigel Fan Club applauding wildly and the cynical independent thinkers wondering if they had heard correctly: 'Did the god of paragliding really just say Catch us if you can'? I didn't hang about for the second or third set, but my spies tell me the tennis match was eventually abandoned with no clear winner and several losers.
It transpired that someone was eventually able to supply enough information to pinpoint said fire and thirteen pilots were sanctioned (including the eventual super final champion). The resulting protest, decision, protest, decision, protest, final decision process delayed prize giving by several hours with some regaining points and credibility and five demoted to the rank of 'cheat'.
The good, the bad and the Ugly
· This super final was probably the highest standard ever seen (certainly in my experience)
· EN D has given two or three dozen additional pilots a chance of competing at the highest level (previously not competitive in open class)
· EN D speed limitation has bunched the gaggle up and rewards conservative flying styles (pimping)
· The EN D class is widely viewed as a failed experiment and remains the subject of hot debate
· Two line EN D wings flown by super final pilots has messed up the entire EN certification
· The fate of the competition class as debated by FAI/CIVL representatives remains unclear
· Cheating at the top level is endemic and nothing new (includes FAI Cat 1 comps)
· Gin is back! The Boom 9 was clearly the best glider by a considerable margin
I happen to be the SA FAI delegate and have been on the receiving end of much correspondence on the subject of FAI comp class. I will not bore you with the detail suffice to say that I have serious doubts about the 'representation' part. As offensive as this may be to some of you/them, I cannot reconcile some of the comments and opinions I have read by certain delegates to the views expressed by the pilots they purport to represent. Now I am not speaking of random pilots, but world class top 100 world cup pilots that I regularly bump into on tour from numerous nations including the dominant European ones with whom I am able to communicate (given my serious lack of international language skills).
Perhaps it is time to summarise the debate and host an independent opinion poll of the top 400 FAI ranked pilots to whom the debate matters most. It is particularly galling to have people make decisions on our behalf when we have not been directly consulted and no-one I know accepts the idea that there are people out there who are empowered to make better decisions than ourselves.
P.S. I can almost hear the mumbling administrative masses complaining that we gave them this power but I suspect they might do well to actually speak to their comp pilots in the event that have not already done so.
This was not my finest performance ever. My only pathetic excuse is that I struggled with the strength of the field when combined with the cocktail of opiates, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories required to offset the discomfort of trying to fly a paraglider after my rain induced parachutal 'landing' on the practice day. The doctor examining my bundle of scans commented: I cannot easily determine which of these injuries are new, but none of them require surgery. You should be more careful when climbing ladders in future.