Tuesday, 29 December 2009

SA Winelands Open 2009 - Porterville - last two tasks

It is not easy going into the last two days with such a slim lead. The third day saw the lead gaggle of Francois, Andrew, Nevil and I miss the climb on the way to bumpy peak while the lag gaggle scored a fantastic corner elevator at teenage-tit which whisked them up and away carrying them halfway over the back en-route to the second turn point in the back valley. Wim was in this group and they chose to fly the foothills for the valley run. Feeling some pressure I applied liberal doses of the speed system and a more direct line under a fortuitous cloud street which negated the massive advantage the leaders had as we managed to reel them in before the last 15km glide from Cuitrusdal. Only one cheeky upstart (in the form of Damian Sykes) within this group went the valley route alone and was handsomely rewarded with a task win. This was probably the best flying day I have seen in PVille ever.

The last day was a messy affair with the task comm setting a risky front valley foray early on that saw several top pilots landing and had just about the entire fleet grovelling and desperate at some point. I managed to find a crew to fly with and the second half of the task was tedious as we were in front with my competition stuck behind which means you have to fly a little more conservatively which is a horrible way to fly. Anton took the aggressive racing stance and I had to reel in my neck and bite my knuckles wistfully while letting him go screaming off into the back valley on a solo effort that had a half chance of securing a task win. It all ended well ... Anton got his task win and I got my comp win.

All in all a great comp and a job well done by Cathy, Waldo and Mike. I sincerely hope they will do it again next year.

In my opinion the up and coming pilots to watch out for in the next three seasons are RusselA, FourieG & DamianS (in no particular order). One could include RyanM, ChrisVN & TheunsK in that list, but they are a little more unpredictable so I'm inclined to wait and see if they can get/repeat results.
It was good to have FrancoisDV, JacquesB and KarelK back and racing as fast (albeit rusty) as ever too. Anton is back and looking good. Nevil and Henry were solid as they always are.
Andrew somehow pulled all the bad luck landing in front on two occasions and Joe was dissapointing after his great performance in Barbs earlier in the year.
Another one to watch is Khobi who walked away with all the female prizes and very nearly took the sports class too. Lastly there is StefJ who is an awesome pilot in all respects. It is a great pity he does not fly comps more seriously.

Friday, 18 December 2009

SA Winelands Open 2009 - Porterville - Day 5 Task 2

After four sublime practice days we had three blown out comp days. No-one can remember when last there were so many un-flyable days in PVille.

The first task was a quick affair which saw all the regulars with a total of 42 pilots in goal. I managed to squeeze in less than a minute ahead of Wim verHoewe from Belgium. Scoring turned out to be an un-mitigated disaster with the new software unable to download tracklogs. We finally reverted to Ulf's trusty old TP which saved the day. The second task was in stark contrast to the first with a tedious 30km into wind fight which saw half the leaders go down shortly after the start in some serious sink. The second wave got through and two hours later I managed to sneak a win by a few seconds from Wim and Nevil. Ten in goal.

Today looks like a typical PVille day with a Southerly predicted.

Sebastian is having a ball, Pascale is delightful and Fernanda relaxed and smiling.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

SA Winelands Open 2009 - Porterville

After the sad and sorry debacle about a dead world cup in Porterville, we thought Porterville was no more. The All Africa Open Porterville may well be history, but we can now say Long live Porterville!.

Yes folks my favourite comp site of all time (ok a close second or third to Bravo, Castelo and Piedrahitha) will be brought to life by Mike Burgess who has stepped up to the plate and opened the Pampoenfontein launch site to host the SA Winelands Open 2009. This competition may end up being called the 'Papsak Oop' being in Cape Town and all, but I have no doubt it will maintain the amazing tradition of our premier comp site in South Africa.

By the time of this writing the website was showing 88 registered pilots which is promising to say the least. The much vaunted Cape pilot attendence predictions have fallen completely flat other than the notable regulars like Earl and Steffi. This makes me wonder what 'they' (as in the cape pilots) were going on about during all those years of Dasklip boycott when Rob appeared to be the source of their phobia. Whatever the case foreigners and Gautengers make up the majority of the field and with luck we'll see 100 pilots screaming down the ridge in a week.

I'm heading off to the village for some practice tomorrow. Hope for some good up days!!!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Aeroclub pulls rank on SAHPA over comp bans (for the first time ever)

After months of rumour and speculation SAHPA has published an ‘official’ decision on the terrible lost love triangle between the troubled competitor; the duped administrator; and the difficult land owner.

For those of you who missed this astonishing missive, I invite you to read (between the lines if you can) and comment. It so happens that I volunteered to ‘mediate’ in an attempt to resuscitate both the AAO and the PWC which were planned for 2009, so feel free to ask any questions around my failed involvement.

For the record you should know that this was only the second time in the history of the PWC that a world cup event was cancelled. This is a stupendous achievement on our part. In the eyes of the competitive paragliding world we are now effectively relegated to the rarefied elite class of fractious goat herders who have gorged on their own faeces and allowed the feta to run rancid.

I cringe at the thought of having to show my face at the next world cup event I attend where I will hang my head in shame and apologise profusely to my world cup friends whom I have for years regaled with wondrous stories of our great and hospitable nation.

The question we should ask ourselves is how on earth did we allow any of our governing bodies, who purport to represent our best interests, to destroy our competition scene so comprehensively, quickly and quietly?

(SAHPA notice - click to enlarge)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mexico Task 9

Another 106km task through 6 turn points.
Base @ 3800m
Thermals: strong
Convergence: plenty of.

There is a high pressure system sitting over the Gulf of Mexico and this somehow feeds moist air into Valle de Bravo. The result is cloud cover. The northerly wind mixes with the South westerly valley breezes and this is what produces the convergence marked by cloud streets amplified by moisture.

It is astonishing how entirely predictable and consistent the flying conditions are. I have never seen anything like it.

Yesterdays' task of 117km was completed in 2hrs 36 mins. This is spectacularly quick. Much of the day involved pushing as much of the speed bar as you dared at cloud base.

As for today, our mixed fortunes continue to... uhm well... mix! I guess. Nevil and Andre down in a blue hole after half way, so it was was up to Henry to carry the candle for SA. He managed goal along with about 70 others. A few of the leaders went down at the second last turn point, so there may be a bit of a mix up in the top twenty. Today was a day to lurk it seems.

The task took us to the east and back to the launch area before snatching a nasty lee side cliff top tower for a turn point and then a choice of routes over the lake. The leaders chose the easterly route around the lake and got sucked into the blue hole that was the area between convergence zones. Some went tiger line over the lake. There appeared to be a lull in the thermic/convergence activity for about 30 mins before the entire valley went off! The results will tell the story I am sure.

More tomorrow... two days to go.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Mexico task 8

Valle by night

Team report.

Today saw the boys in goal and desi doing a 23.6 m/s spiral out of a cloud. Now let me tell you wannabee comp pilots out there, a spiral of this magnitude would render the author unconscious with stretched and shredded lines plus glider. Had it not been for the proof supplied we might have been sceptical.

A fantastic day of 117km back and forward under substantial cloud streets.
Andre 13th two mins late with nev and henry in a little later.

Average speed of 37 km/h and 7m/s thermals.

Here is Nevil's tree experience:


Monday, 2 February 2009

World Champs: MEXICO - Day 9 Task 7

Team Reporting

97km triangle through 7 turn points.
Cloud Base >3400m ASL
Thermals 6.5m/s
Goal G01 on the lake.
Another great day for flying after two rest days.
There were four reserve deployments including Nevil who ended up hanging from a thirty meter tree three seconds after deploying behind the infamous el Penon or 'finger'. He was rescued by the expert team who according to the organisers have LOTS of experience (good grief!). A video will be available on youTube documenting the whole experience.
Andre and Henry got in to goal ok and Desi did a couple of turn points.
All in all an eventful day with a couple of mid-air collisions thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

World Champs: MEXICO - Days 4, 5 & 6

World Champs: MEXICO - Day 4, 5 & 6

Sorry no news for a while, and now the news is bad. Day six was a real bummer. One of the Swiss super stars, Stefan Schmoker, crashed on the cliffs behind the 'Finger' shortly after the start. I saw the whole thing from directly above and it was brutal. I was flying around the crash site with Helmut Eicholzer. Heli spiralled down and some how managed to land unscathed between the trees on a rock the size of a car on the cliff. HUGE respect to him! The rest of us lesser mortals cleared the area after the organisers came on the radio and asked everyone not involved to move off.

Stefan died after a couple of hours despite the desperate efforts of Heli to save his life.

Today was a rest day.

I will write some more about the flying when I feel inspired again. Sorry folks.

Have a look at Nevil's Valle movie on youtube:


We are in 21st position after 6 tasks

Nevil 58th

Andre 62nd

Henry 89th

Desi 144th

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

World Champs: MEXICO - Day 3 Task 3

Team Reporting.

94km similar to day 2.
Cloud base >3000m ASL.
Cloud Cover 1/8ths with cloud street dominating the course line after the first two turn points.
Wind Variable < 5kts.
Max Climb 7m/s
Average Climb for the day +- 2-3m/s

The day appeared more stable than the preceding days, but this did not deter the task committee in setting a challenging race. The convergence set up for three legs of the course making goal relatively easy if you got the first three moves right. There were reportedly four reserve deployments and some tree landings despite the apparent benign conditions. Henry is the only dissenter on that mild evaluation having witnessed countless ‘in-klappers’ and having managed to snag a fellow competitor in his lines. Nevil managed two cascade events for no apparent reason. He had the opportunity to observe the ‘finger of God’ up close while plummeting past said digit in a non-flying configuration. The ‘finger of God’ is Nevil’s pet name for the prominent rock out crop that dominates the front of launch.

Nevil got into goal in a reasonable time.
Andre got stuck after the second turn point which saw him into goal late.
Henry landed on the way to goal.
Desi got around three turn points.

Results are hard to come by, but you will probably find them on the official web site some time during the morning (SA time).

Day two faulty provisional results were not updated as at the time of this report.

SA Results Day two:
Andre 36th
Henry 81st
Nevil 90th

Overall after 2 tasks
Andre 20th
Henry 66th
Nevil +-77th
Des 141st

This picture will change somewhat after they fix day 2 and publish todays result.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Opening Ceremony

Valle de Bravo Launch

World Champs: MEXICO - Day 2 Task 2

Team report.

91km triangle with dog leg around 4 turn points and goal at a 1km radius end of speed section with a physical line validation.

Cloud base >3000m ASL.

Cloud Cover 3/8ths with cloud streets here and there.

Wind Variable < 5kts.

Max Climb 6.5m/s

Average Climb for the day +- 2-3m/s

Desi's website: http://www.flydeaar.co.za

The start was the normal cloud flying extravaganza that plays on the nerves like mustard gas.

The task was a step up from yesterday as it was felt that the 71km task was Mickey Mouse. The flight took us over numerous large valleys and canyons with three to four stranded powerlines in all the wrong places.

At one point the lead gaggle dived into the shadow on a koppie, and in good SA style Nevil and Andre Nevilled them and specked out 1km from the milling mass. The return race to the last turn point offered a choice of two routes no less than ten kilometres in separation. The last move after the final turn point had a bit of a sting with many unhappy pilots landing just short of goal as the day began to shut down. Probably 50-80 pilots in goal, but more on that when the results are out.

Henry and Andre got in with Nevil 200m short.

World Champs: MEXICO - Day 1 Task 1

74km triangle with dog leg around 5 turn points and goal at a 400m radius of the radio towers above Valle.

Cloud base <3000m>

Cloud Cover 3-5/8ths with cloud streets along the course.

Wind Variable < 5kts.

Max Climb 7.1m/s

Average Climb for the day +- 2-3m/s

This was a crowd pleaser if ever I saw one109 pilots made goal with the leaders taking about 2 hours. The meet director said this was a ‘typical’ Valle task which included a bit of flat lands.

The boys all got in with Andre a few minutes off the pace followed by Nevil and Henry a short while later. Desi did about 64km landing on a perfectly manicured lawn on some or other ranch.

The day was characterised by cloud avoidance at the start followed by positional jockeying until midway and then all out racing toward the end.

An added dimension of getting goal, is if you land within the last kilometre, you’re sure of getting wet in the dam. One of the few times getting goal 100m below is possible.

Landing resembled an air traffic control nightmare with just about the entire field landing at ten second intervals on a tennis court sized LZ.

Quote of the day: “Does the sun come up in the east here?”

Not a bad start for team SA, the results are as follows:

Andre 18th

Nevil 49th

Henry 70th

Desi 114th

World Champs: MEXICO - Registration, Practice & Opening Ceremony

Andre reporting.

Registration Is pedantic at these events. No one seems to mind as there is a buzz in the air.

Valle de Bravo is an ideal paragliding destination. The locals are friendly and enthusiastic. The town, perched along the shores of a dam which feeds the hydro electric plants downstream, is picturesque and bustles with cobbled alley-ways lined by dozens of funky little shops selling anything from intricately embroidered doilies and traditional ponchos to herbal remedies. Restaurants abound and the cars rattle on the cobbles in an endless and slow procession.

The opening ceremony had the SA ambassador to Mexico as one of the invited dignitaries which was a surprise for all of us. Mr. Mbete had no idea South Africa had sent a team, and we were puzzled to hear his name and title called out when the (interminable) speeches began. So after a brief introduction, best wishes and the promise of help should we need it, he gave us his card and left for Mexico city.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

World Champs: MEXICO - Baggage

Andre reporting.

Baggage retrieval became an epic adventure into Mexico city, home to between ten and twenty million hombres depending on who you speak to.

I now have a deep disrespect for airlines and the dark arts of baggage handling. To cut a long story short, a six hour round trip with multiple dodgy pickup venues and two thousand pesos later, Jose Luis got us home at two a.m. With all bags accounted for.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

World Champs: MEXICO 2009 - Travel

Andre, Marty & Desi reporting:

So who said Paris can handle baggage??!! We received half of all bags naively entrusted to Air France. The upside was the empty albeit ageing Airbus on the Paris-Mexico leg that saw us spreading out and colonising the aircraft. Air Mexico rocks man!! Tequila for breakfast lunch and lunch (yeah this timezone thing is a bit whacky). Desiree is like a little kitten, she just curls up on a single seat and sleeps like a baby. The rest of us giants squeeze into spaces like lumpy toothpaste.

Desi's luxury transport services suffered premature jet-lag with an amazing feat of bad date planning. Anyway, we're killing time (don't ask me which timezone is dying) in a restaurant drinking Sol and munching Enchiladas & Nachos. Our un-named driver is reportedly making his way to our current holding pen.

Quote of the day on landing in a cold wet Paris: "Why is it dark outside?" (Doh! it's 5am in the northern hemisphere genius!)

Now here's something weird:
At OR Tambo we checked in at counter number 69. Then we arrived at gate 69 in Paris before departing from gate (yes you guessed it folks) 69 to Mexico. Must be a Yin/Yang thang.

and here's something just plain scary:
The average age of the team is 45.4 years. That's a lot of experience one way or another. If we can just remember what we're supposed to do, and if just one of us can hear the briefing and see the map. That's why it's a team sport.

The other thing we forgot to mention were the two dragon lady air hostesses on the Air Mexico flight.
Here's a pic of them:

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

World Champs: MEXICO 2009

Andre Reporting:

Hello everybody

It's almost time to leave for Valle de Bravo. Armed with visas, hopes and dreams, my team mates and I are looking forward to the 24hrs of travel into the land of sombreros and tequila with mounting excitement.

In case you did not know Africa's Finest SA 2009 Protea Team (blommetjies):

Left to right: Martin vdM (Manager), Nevil Hullet, Henry Schurink, Andre Rainsford


Desiree Pansi (sorry Desi, could only find this nasty one of you)

Some information about Valle here:

and on the official Worlds site here:


Please let us know what you want to hear about by leaving a comment or selecting one or more of the 'We Want:' options below: