Saturday, 4 October 2008

Castelo - Finale

So folks! Africa's Finest team of two can now go to the bar with 14th & 15th position.

Castelo Day 7 task 7

Can you believe it? seven out of seven, still hot. Takeoff is awash with tourists and local pilots. The result... a circus. Airshow mentality prevails, and our ring side seats give us an uninterrupted view of the local pilots crashing into the trees both in flight and under reserve.

The day is looking strong and fast... probably one for the hot bloods. Pilots taking on ballast at launch. Andre are you ready?

And BOY! is Andre ready. He blasts into the lead on the 55km task setting a cracking pace with three others with the pack in hot pursuit. Andrew dawdles at the start and fights a rear-guard action along the cliffs and spines that constitute the course line. Andre is still on top in front with a crossing and 20km to go. He gives it full, gets the line and goes in a minute or so ahead of the rest.

Andrew plonks in a while later.
Cold beer in the after glow, and were speculating about the probability of both finishing in the top twenty. That would be pretty cool, but let's wait and see....

Castelo Day 6 - Task 6

Another sultry day. Sweat dripping from the jungle that masquerades as Andrews armpit before the first cup of coffee is consumed.

After dicking around on the huge cliffs for a couple of turn points, the task takes us across the flats to the distant cliffs and valleys. Puppy styles the first few moves across the flats and to the 600m vertical cliffs. Alas the fan was off so he ends up get retrieve out of the most astonishingly picturesque village on the back of a scooter. Jones does the tree kicking, cable dodging samba which he has by now perfected to get a reasonable finish elevating him to the rarefied top fifteen elite, punching in at number 13. Puppy takes a glide of eight down the ranking amidst some pitiful grumbling.

The 11kva web of power lines claimed it's first victim in the form of Renata from Czech. She sustained first and second degree burns to her legs on hitting well hidden lines less than five metres above the terrain. She is out of hospital and will be fine.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Castelo - Day 5 - Task 5

Bored on launch here's a new format. It' called mashing.

The morning dawned sultry and nothing dawned on the sultries despite the death like slumber. Hot and humid to start we got to the top of the hill and settled into the 'Shadow of the Wind'.

Darkness on the horizon turned into cloud beneath us eerily tracking the sombre tone of my novel.

A task is set in swirling darkness, my shades a shade too dark to see. Mine had to be removed as puppy blundered prematurely to ground. Most of the task is soarable up giant cliffs sporting military crops of still bigger trees. We chat together as we inch up the cliffs amazed that there are a hundred pilots making their way around the course (most ahead of us).

The day started in the teens for both of us overall. This equates to a respectable charge at the head of the weekend warriors. Today has warped that happy picture.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Castelo - Day 4 - task 4 - LATE UPDATE

The General finally made an appearance after an epic retrieve from Boonville.
... and so, after a massively bungled start, the lesson is: Don't believe you can zero at the start perimeter with two minutes to go when everyone else goes back 1 km into wind for the climb.  The result is a sub optimal start (he means a complete cluster).  However, this allows one to climb unhindered at ones leisure observing the entire field plummeting into the stable sea air.  What goes around, comes around as is said, and within ten minutes of being the lowest and slowest, I could fly over the entire field to the front (low in the stable sea breeze too).  Hah! So much for being in the front, which now comprised ten pilots on the tiniest of ridges trying not to kick the cows. 
It was fun ridge soaring.  after an hour or so, we could dribble over the back onto the steep rainforest and the bigger hills.  I have had worse times in my life, but that generally involved surgery.  Couldn't get goal in the howling wind though, and disappointed to be in the top 20 and not get any points due to lack of validation.

Castelo - Day 4 - Task 4

18H30 Wednesday 1 October 2008

Andre Reporting.

One might have hoped for a sane task after the excesses of yesterday. No
such luck I am sorry to say. Strong North AND strong South wind, so set
something crazy in the flats to the west where we can ridge soar 50m hills
in the howling sea breeze. I am really pleased not to be on the task

Now what was the thing about sea breezes? Uhm.... OH YES! Now I remember!
Stable air! I guess they have high expectations, but this is too much! Mind
you, some pilots may well have the luck we had yesterday and get through...
who knows.

Anyway, I managed to land in good company after groveling in a hole for an
hour. Weird to be able to fly 220m ASL for so long and not coastal ridge
soaring at Map of Africa.

News Flash! 9 pilots in goal, with the captain just 5km short! The mind
boggles at the depth of skill and experience in this field.

World Cup News

18H39 (GMT-3) Wed 1 Oct 2008.
Hot off the press after PWC committee meeting.
Latest about the 2009 world cup season in the new format:
Seven events which should give more of us a reasonable chance of getting a spot.
Valadares in March (Brazil), followed by Korea, Turkey, Annecy, Croatia with a super final in Poggio (Italian site of the first 2008 event featuring a 112km task).  The seventh event is supposed to be Porterville or Tucuman, but let's wait and see.  They want buses (as opposed to a cattle truck) in Porterville for retrieve.  Can't understand why anyone would need that in the 40degC blustery bliss that Porterville promises... but there you have it.  They also mumble about the size of Dasklip launch.  I have resisted the temptation to explain the necessity of the huge rock that blocks the launch being a shadow fixture that actually ALLOWS relatively safe launches when the south easterly blows.  Let them find out for themselves rather than subject them to some hard-to-grasp African safety concepts I say! 
So the basic idea is to give more people access to world cup events and then determine the overall champ at the super final which will be an extended event of 12 days.  The top fifteen from each preceding event will get automatic entry to the super final with the balance drawn from where-ever (details a bit sketchy).
More news later.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Castelo - Day 3 - Task 3

Tuesday 29 September 2008.
General Schmidt reporting.

Today had a good looking start, puffy cu's @ 1500m ASL (ground at 100m ASL). East wind to the south into the teeth of the predicted sea breeze. A fantastic start over the huge cliffs alternatively soaring and thermalling. As I was pushing to make up from a less than perfect start, it was great to see a blue and orange Mac leading out aggressively at base. Things all came to a grinding halt at the first turn point, with the entire field 150m above the ground groveling in the stable sea air.
Nice cruising low over the green countryside and I joined up with the lead bunch at the second turn point. More on this later. While pinned with fifty other pilots between 150 - 200m ASL with towering trees and vultures for company, it was uplifting to see puppy coming in 500m above clicking the turn point and moving out. Only half a dozen managed that, the rest were left in deep piles of poo.

Andre went on to get a narrow 2nd place behind Urban Valic after five hours of slog. Total of six in goal. WELL DONE PUPPY!
In the meantime, back in the hole. Bitten. Chewed. And spat out by the rotor monster. Many times. Until after forty minutes, most of the bitter-einders elect to land. Thus clearing the way for the more foolhardy to dive deeper over the town and into the gorges. I still have stretch marks around the eyes. It didn't happen for any of us because we couldn't crack the sea breeze inversion, so happy puppy did it.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Castelo - Day 2 - task 2

Monday 29 September 2008
Major Andrew Reporting
Seems you get promoted up the ranks if you blunder into a good position.
Same task, similar conditions without the thermals of yesterday.
Take off was a bit hectic with the wind principally over the back necessitating a big pull up and a leap of faith over the 60deg slope.  Straight through the rotor, absorb a few slappings and into the cloudy valley looking for a one or even a half.  Nice flying if you managed to stay high and avoid the uglies.
It was my day today in the front and styling for most of the course.  Unfortunately I took the front route which wasn't the best today and about twenty sneaky super heroes slipped onto the back hills past me. THAT was the line for today.
Plenty grumbling back at meet center.  It seems the wind was up to 40km/hr in the veturies and plenty pilots were pinned in unpleasant places.  Some were calling the day level 3 to stop the task, whilst others were calling 1 to keep it going.  It looks like that system is falling apart.
Charles Casaux won the day just of couple of km short of goal.
Puppy says: "All in all a fun day with General Schmidt pulling one out the bag... because he can".
Results on the PWC website.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Castelo - Day 1 - Task 1

Image - Helmi E from Austria

Sunday 28 September 2008
Andre reporting.

A clear morning with little wind proved to have absolutely no bearing on the flying conditions at all. Wind and rain killed the task which was stopped after the majority of maelstrom survivors had flown 30km of the 50km task in just over two hours. It's been a while since I have had water streaming down my face while pushing full bar into a 25km/hr headwind. Not great, but they stopped it before anyone got into real trouble.

Cowering from the rain at a bovine feeding trough and eventually being retrieved (standing room only), I caught up with Helmut Eichholzer of X Alps fame, winner of the Bulgarian world cup and currently 5th on the overall world cup ranking:"'We tried hard. There will be no difference between the overall leaders. Probably the real competition starts tomorrow" (delivered in that cool 'I'll be back' Austrian accent)

The world cup rules make provision for task stoppage after 90mins and minimum validation distance as opposed to cancellation if no pilot makes goal as in the past. It remains to be seen if we made minimum validation distance.

As for the Captain and I, we are happy to report we were on the pace all the way. The Captain would like to comment: "Although puppy is somewhat gleeful at being in the front when the task was stopped, he did give me indigestion as I watched him slime over a windy col a mere 3m above the deck on full bar. Not once but twice. Fortunately altitude was my friend."

Castelo (the hard way)

Saturday 27 September 2008
Captain Crash Smith reporting.
Practice day.

Take off is a manicured tropical lawn perched atop an 800m cliff at the head of a steep and closed valley.

The one and a half hour drive up winds through steep coffee plantations, and the whole way is guarded by towering granite massifs. It is patently obvious that landing is not an option in the tight cable infested fields or natural forest.

Balmy temperature on launch and we run off to join the hundreds of turkey vultures climbing to base.

We all cruise around enjoying the ubiquitous lift taking in the awesome view in particular the huge waterfall. After an hour or so it becomes apparent that the green topography is sliding the wrong way under our feet. A real bummer when in mountainous terrain. So it's a speed bar and big ear fest to get down and into the valley. A small (or humongous in Andre's opinion) blunder sees the author making a last second power line avoidence down wind turn and testing the crash absorption properties of a coffee plantation (see attached pic). We are happy to report no real damage that can't be fixed with another cerveja (ego notwithstanding).

More is nog 'n dag.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Castelo (the long way)

Friday 26 September 2008
Andre reporting.

So, dumbo tours managed to upgrade the car and find the english settings for the GPS all before lunch. 400km in 6hrs and now I know how diamonds are born and gold spawned from our resident back seat driving geologist. Would you have guessed it rains in the tropics? Yes folks it is raining a dreary drizzle and the locals swear a ten year drought has just broken (same thing happened in 2005/6). Hooked up with the Austrians and Germans... Carpereinho are calling, words are slurring, streets are blurring, etc etc.

World Cup Final - Castelo, Brazil

Friday, 26 September 2008

Report from Andrew Smith (aka one task wonder)

So, Puppy (that's Andre) travel services has been renamed clueless-squared travel. Reason being.. without watch, itinerary or clue between us, we have blundered from OR Tambo intl to somewhere in the Brazilian hinterland in 24 hours.

Now we're considering how to upgrade our rent a wreck to a serviceable vehicle along with a GPS to make up for our total lack of map and orientation.
BUT the cloudy skies and cool conditions should be just fine (Puppies travel advisory service recommended no warm clothing ha ha). It looks like the rest of the day will be used in Cervesa-fuelled dash to Castelo where the competition starts on Sunday.

We undertake to report on this blog about most things interesting and the flying too.

Friday, 2 May 2008

World Cup 2008 - Poggio Bustone

Italy plays host to the first world cup event of the 2008 season.

After the regular smoke and mirrors 20kg weight limit illusion I eventually managed to get onto the delayed Lufthansa bovine cattle cartage carrier after a four hour delay which resulted in a confusion of shuffled connecting flights and car hire arrangements.

Another two hours of aimless direction befuddlement on the ring road around Rome saw me arriving in Poggio Bustone in the late afternoon.

Travel tip 1: How to make 35kg equivalent to 20kg in four easy steps.
Step One - pack your glider (doh!) which should be around 20kg
Step Two - pack about 5kg of crap into a 'hand luggage' bag
Step Three - transfer the hand luggage crap into flight bag right after the boarding pass has been printed (ignore all protests by feigning deafness)
Step Four - go pickup 20 kg of real hand luggage and pass through some other check in counter

Travel Tip 2:If your SA drivers license card has expired and you have none of the requisite administrative skills required to acquire a new one, proudly present your old Apartheid ID book with the never ending expiry date on the drivers license near the back!! It is guaranteed to illicit an interesting response from the desk clerk who will quickly give up the interrogation when he or she notices the country of origin and the undeniable expiry date of 2016. As in all things, delivery and pose are all important.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The sweetest picture

(Click on pic to Enlarge)

Here's a Skew-T look at a record day 07 Dec 2006. There were only two or three similar days throughout Dec/Jan 2007/8.
Look at the thin cu cloud level @ +- 5,500 MSL (left hand column). The thermal tops (2nd colum from left) were @ 5,280 MSL which corresponds to a Valic tracklog.
The max thermal prediction was also pretty much spot on. Zero probability of thunderstorms; minor sheer layers and fantastic wind gradient.