Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Valle Super Final - New Day

After a mellow rest day of you tube recreation, laundry and friendly debate ranging from politics to the greatest female vocalists and paragliding (of course) our household is ready to take on the day which is looking a whole lot more cheerful today!

Updates: the story of Luca Donini's reserve ride would not settle down so I asked the great man directly. His English is infinitely better than my Italian and he managed to make me understand that he was in fact taking his Enzo to stall and became 'attracted' to the wing in such a way that he got line(s) around the visor of his helmet which upset his glider enough to have need of the reserve. I tried to get his opinion on gliders and got lost in the stream of enthusiastic Italian accompanied by hand gestures and big smiles punctuated by 'eRR Uno Uno' which needed no translation. Another French pilot experienced near fatal 'attraction' to his glider when he tried to stall it out of a cravat and had his helmet ripped off of his by the camera mount. He managed to recover both glider and helmet.

Ary from Sol contacted me and clarified their position. Ary agreed that I could post his response. Ary makes many clear points. One that sticks out for me and one which we who love our ' R Uno Uno' have not made clear is the following: '... take time to understand that 2 line gliders are much more stable but not more safe'.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Open Class Debate

Looking at the responses to the 'Open Class for world cup' question it seems most agree open class is appropriate for world cup pilots and the reasons are well known.

It would be really interesting to know why some of you disagree.

Valle Super Final - Thinking about Sunny Places

In order to keep the mood up a little I have posted this picture of Porterville in December. We have had two or three pre-world cups there and it's time for the real event or even a super final.

This pic was taken after a 100km O&R record attempt before the comp a month ago. The day started @ 11 am with a 28 km run to the start and I was on the ground before 3pm. On a good day you can fly until 6pm. Imagine what a world cup field would do there!

Valle Super Final - Day 6 Cancelled

Valle - Day 6

Day 5 proved to be as expected in terms of points.
The first place got almost 600 points. This has upset the leader board a little. Many were not happy about an extended glide counting this much, but in reality this result will be erased by the discard system. The scoring system seems to be working with some debate about parameters. We were under the impression that the last two days of competition were not affected by discards, but Ulrich set the record straight on that one. All tasks are subject to the discard system.
The exact effect of a low scoring task like yesterday will become clear in the next few days. Whatever the case if you look at the ranking it appears to me that the most consistent pilots are at the top of the leader board.
Day 6 dawned with light rain and a sheet of cloud cover. Some are saying the organisors will push for another task today on account of the fact that they have arranged a huge party for the rest day.
Valle is famed for perfect weather and un-interrupted flying. The world cup is famed for breaking drought and inducing monsoon wherever it goes. It looks like the latter is winning this contest!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Translation

Ok folks I found the google translation widget! Select language in the left column.

Ok Leute, ich fand die google-Übersetzung Widget! Wählen Sie die Sprache in der linken Spalte.
Ok j'ai trouvé les gens le widget Google Traduction! Sélectionnez la langue dans la colonne de gauche.
Ok folkens Jeg fandt Google Oversæt widget! Vælg sprog i venstre kolonne.

Valle Super Final - day 5 - task 5

Are they serious!? 74 km into the twin valleys of 'no-sun' and 'little-hope'. Don't get me wrong I am the ultimate optimist living a life of naive positivity, but even that version of me was unable to keep the field airborne.

That we managed the start and two TPs was impressive enough, but not even the squadrons of little black raptors showing where the scant lift was saved any of us except for a handful who squeaked another half an hour out of the day. If yesterday was the 'Jacques Martin' of tasks where everyone wins, then today was its' antithesis.

As always there might be one or two freaks who will blow minds by their ability to remain aloft in the dark, but that seems unlikely today given the company I am in driving back on the recovery truck.

Valle Super Final - Day 5 - Task 5

Valle Super Final

Murky morning

Valle Super Final - abbreviations

As requested:
TLC - Tender Loving Care
TP - Turn Point
CG - Cerro Gordo (local TP)
P2P - pulley to pulley (too fast!)

Valle Super Final - Day 5 - Murky Morning

Mmmmm... After several clear and crisp days we have a dull, dim and murky morning. Hopefully this means unstable upper air and the forecast about today being better than yesterday is true because I have no ballast to drop should it be one of those terrain inspection tour type tasks!

Even though I know my methodology is statistically suspect, it is curious to see that my little informal opinion poll is starting to show there is a single mind in our world with super final competitors and spectators sharing the opinion that Super Final should be 'free' of equipment limitations. The same optimism and uncertainty about how good two line EN D gliders are for the future of our sport is reflected in the opinions of the handful or so of pilots I have asked here.

Grapevine: does anybody know where Frank Brown and the Sol pilots are and is it true Sol would not pay for their trip to Valle or is it simply that no manufacturer would sell them gliders for fear of copying? You hear weird theories around paragliding pilots, so I was just wondering if anyone really knows?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Day 4 - Task 4

My apologies for the late post, but after 114km of racing today I was in need of some TLC so I had a sports massage and early dinner with my house mates.

What a day! A monster task that started @ 3700ASL & 14km from Llana, back to la Pila across town to some tp near Monarca then back to la Pila again before finishing ESS 7km radius across the lake with the normal safety tp at Torres and goal.

Such is the intensity and competitiveness of this field that after 114km with several gaggle splits, lead changes, complicated transitions and desperate scratching only 5 minutes separated the first 44 pilots. Only 5 minutes!!!

There were 62 in goal which is somewhat less than previous days giving some indication of the difficulty. Several big guns went down today. Only one reserve deployment as far as I know.

Juan Carlos is leading the comp and Petra the women with Porcher leading the team event from Team Niviuk.

Safety notes: Some are starting to wonder about the recoverability of these new machines on blow out. There have been several war stories about cascades and failed restart attempts with huge loss of altitude. Yesterday one of the test pilots apparently failed to restart his wing opting to throw his rag after multiple tries. Some observers noted that one glider was tail sliding under stall which would explain some issues. Advice given included application of the speed bar.

Performance notes: the Ozone and Niviuk continue to dominate with Gin and Swing a little further down the leader board.

The grapevine: got the account of Luca Donini's reserve deployment a little wrong... He was doing wing overs and got in a mess with lines over his helmet/visor (and not the result of induced stalls).

Valle Super Final - Day 3 - Morning thoughts

Guess what? Ja, you got it, another perfect day.

So I believe there has been hot debate on the forums about the new EN D class of wings. I don't know if the opinions expressed there are representative of the greater flying population on account of the fact that all the super final (mostly English speaking) pilots that I have quizzed here don't contribute much and many are skeptical or cynical or just plain scathing of the views expressed.

So, I think a handful of people are reading this blog and I am going to run all the questions that come up here by you all and see what you're thinking and then we can see if that differs from the opinion of the 'elite' comp pilots present in Valle. If you want to participate just respond to the poll on the left of the blog page.

Although I am seriously impressed by the new EN D gliders I believe world cup class pilots should be allowed to use open class wings in competition. World cup is the pinnacle of comp flying and there should be no limits (political considerations aside). Call me a gung-ho macho lunatic, but that's how I feel. I am happy to attend other comps on a serial wing.

Are the new EN D gliders good for the sport in general? I really don't know and I think it's too soon to say, but I think this is a complex issue that affects a broad audience of varying ability and risk profiles. Yes there have been reserve deployments here, but not every XC pilot will fly these new wings at the same limit in rough conditions. To that end my opinion is that the new kit is vastly more stable than legacy gliders and nothing has changed for accelerated flight.... Almost Every glider I have ever owned has blown out at full speed. The only exception has been my R11...

Friday, 27 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Day 3 - Task 3 - Update

A chaotic day now that all reports are in! Four reserve rides including NickG who flayed his glider through the trees and punctured himself in the process. Nothing too serious I believe (just a small thing really). YassenS also went down they say and there was some grumbling about the last tp which was CG but we had to take it in the lee of strong wind which spoilt it for a handful who could not finish as a result. The old style three liners struggled in particular I'm told. Bit of a bummer to go down after 100km All because a poor choice of TP I think. Maybe some pilot pressure will help the task committee see the light. ' FOUR RESERVE DEPLOYMENTS IN ONE DAY' I hear you scream... Well it is Valle and there are 120 pilots flying these new machines pulley to pulley all day (only way to get anywhere) so I think we're getting off lightly.

LucasB is leading the comp now. Fantastic performance

Valle Super Final - Day 3 - Task 3

So another peach of a day with 104km square of sorts starting on Maguey to Divisidero and then into the flats la Pila and across to Llanur and back to CG via another tp near Monarca.

The start was very quick and the field was spread within minutes. I found myself in the lead in a strong line of lift with one other pilot on an Ozone (funny how many pilots here are called Enzo hey?).
By the time we got to Llana we were at base with no-one in sight when my comrade, Enzo, turned right mysteriously and dived into the sink behind Llana and I was faced with the prospect of going alone or waiting forever for a gaggle to fly with... Not often you get this sort of opportunity so I went for it and then ten minutes later the wheels came off!!
Little did I know my SA flying partner, RusselA, was practicing full stalls and spins on his Boom while I was having my 'should I go or should I stay' crisis. He eventually recovered the wing after cascading 800m and scratched out on a ridge after ignoring his gaggles' anxious pleas to deploy his reserve.
I got stuck and limped home with Russel a full half hour behind LucA who won it from a bunch of usual suspects.

I would have preferred not to use a discard this early in the comp, but could've, would've, should've don't cut it here at all.

For those who are still wondering about gliders, the Ozone I flew with earlier today appeared to have identical performance to my Niviuk in all areas accelerated, trim, half, glide & climb. We were wing tip to wing tip for twenty km or more climbing and speeding intermittently. The only thing I see is that the Niviuks seem to come around better in the turn.

Results will be out later. Me thinks there are many sad stories of woe today, but there is still much flying to be had.

Valle Super Final - Day 3 - Sunrise

Another chilly morning with the promise of more good flying. Sky looks clearer than last two days..

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Day 2 -Task 2 - Results

Results are out.

If the cumulative points look weird consider the 25% daily discard of the worst task... for example, look at my two scores: 975 & 927... take 50% of 927 = 463.5 and subtract that from my total (975 + 927 - 463,5 = 1437). So after four days we will subtract 100% of our worst task from the total. Got it?

Valle Super Final - Day 2 - task 2

The day dawned with a chill in the air... again. I guess it is winter here after all. At any rate the variation today was the cirrus which induced the task committee to set a 91km task from Piano to Divisidero, Llano, Monarca, Cerro Gordo and eof SS 3km from Torres and then goal via the safety TP (Torres @ 400m).
The drier air gave few clues about lift and the cirrus had little effect from what I could tell.

The run to Divisidero was fast and furious from 3,500m ASL. Primos threw his backup after taking a big collapse with a twist. Looked like something that just wasn't going to recover low down. He landed in the trees a few seconds after the white pumpkin blossom bloomed. He got airlifted out by the resident chopper which was hectic according to the hapless pilot who said the wash from the rotors broke the branch/tree he was snagged in dropping him a couple of meters.

The return was interesting with the majority of the field stopping to climb at least 1km off to the right of the course line giving HansB and I a free lead out bonus run to Maguey and Espina before hooking up again on the way to Llano. Llano proved to be relatively easy and a tidy gaggle got up shortly after to make the glide toward Monarca.

This turned into a bit of a dog show as we got to the plateau 10km out from Monarca a little lowish and had to scrape to get up before re-grouping and taking Monarca on the tree line.

After that it was a free for all with about twenty pilots in the running behind one solo pilot who slipped the net. The run to CG was fairly straight forward with everyone staying out of trouble and completing the task. A strong showing by team USA with Eric, Josh, Jack and Nick all arriving with the first group along with my team mates, LucasB & JeremieL plus one or two Swiss. We were all going pretty fast at the end and I could not detect any advantage between the Ozone & Nviuk at the top end of the speed range.

Our team (Niviuk) was first yesterday and probably top three today!! Rock on!!
Unconfirmed news: Luca Donini (ex-world and European champion) landed under reserve in the trees near goal after the safety TP.

Valle Super Final - Gliders - which witch is worst?

Everyone wants to know which glider is best and there are some truly bizarre theories floating on the forums. So here is my take on it:

1. You can't make any conclusions after one day of racing

2. Most super final pilots don't need time to 'get into' these wings simply because the handling is by definition better than R10/11 and we are all flying the medium size with the notable exceptions of RusselA and PauloZ and one or two others

3. Compounding point 2 is the fact that there are two types of pilots present: the fat guys, like myself, who fasted to lose 15 pounds of lard to squeeze into the very top of the 115kg weight limit (with the aid of impress 3 and a borrowed Beamer reserve); and the skinny runts who had to feast like sumo wrestlers to claw their way to 95kg at the bottom of the range (with the aid of the kitchen sink and ballast). The result is obvious.. Same gliders, same pilots, but different wing loading.... So it is expected that Eric will climb better than me while giving up speed and glide because we are flying the same wing with almost 10kg difference. Someone can go and crunch the numbers around that and conclude that it does not make all that much difference, but any race pilot will tell you it makes a huge difference. This was exactly my personal experience ... I felt I could put more speed on when I needed to make up time and to pick up 15 or more places on the leg back from Elefant, but at no time did I feel I was dominant in the climb.

4. If the above were not enough then consider yesterday's task was not a task to compare gliders because there were several crux decisions that decided the result. Why else would so many very big names end up so far down the order? When a task is easy you see almost no anomalies in the results.

5. It is easy to think another glider has better glide than you at a world cup because there is almost always someone higher after a crossing or glide. That is normally simply a case of them having left higher than you or before you.

In conclusion I predict that by the end of the comp consensus will be that the gliders are almost the same and that wing loading will be the deciding factor on speed, glide and climb. Remember also that weight ranges are largely theoretical and it takes time to figure out where the sweet spot is.

The Swing glider looks as good but in this case we know it is a little slower because Torsten said so (the other sizes will be certified with more speed). Looking at the results we might think it is one of the fastest right?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Valle Super Final - Day 1 -Task 1

Day 1 dawned with a slight chill in the air. Dramatic you may think but completely irrelevant because the flying is more or less the same everyday regardless of chill or wind or cloud or even the entrails of the possum roadkill on the way to launch in our taxi.

An interesting TASK was set requiring some thought and decision making and several changes of pace.
Start was an exit 5km from Piano with entire field on course above 3,500m ASL. Then off to Santa Maria which is normally tricky, but today proved to be easy and most got back to Maguey unscathed. The run to Elefant started fast and furious quickly deteriorating into a slow and painful phase with many pilots low and slow pushing back into the 10km/h headwind after Elefant. With 15 km to go there was some serious jockeying for position to take the last tp before the sprint to the end of SS. I decided to take the line left of the course closer to the hills which proved to be good. At least two pilots landed in the trees including our illustrious chairman, Goran. Veteran ex-world champion Hans Bollinger took the task from Raul Penso, Dusan Oros, AndreR & MarcusM. First lady was Petra who is the only female flying a two liner (and maybe Seiko). Elise Houdry went home after a day here. She was sick and some say she did not have a two-liner...

Full results can be found here

This is what goal looks like if you arrive on time!

Landing is a little tight....

... And some land in the water...

Meet center

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Super Final Opening Ceremony

Super Final Accommodation

Room with a view. Sharing a house with BeeZee and Alaska Jack.

Super Final via JFK

16 hours to New York before some de-icing and onwards to Mexico.

Valle Super Final -Practice day

A 40km task in the convergence is hardly a chore nor challenge for this field, but the governor of Mexico City was to attend the opening ceremony at 17H30 sharp so the organisers set this screaming task In the convergence to Monarca and back to the lake which saw half the field disappear for prolonged periods of time alternately spiraling hard to try stay out of the clouds in order to finish the task.

Everyone made goal in short order and the guv rocked up with a batch of mean looking body guards who watched us closely standing in the aisles while he declared the comp open before being whisked away Hollywood celeb style in big American cars with blacked-out windows.

My glider turned out to have a mild deformity. I got another one from Joel so we are all set for some hard flying starting tomorrow. Still no clear distinction between gliders.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Valle de Bravo - Paragliding World Cup Super Final

For those of you not up to speed on paragliding current affairs, read this:

The paragliding world cup super final is intended to be the ultimate competition whereby all the top in-form pilots in the world along with various 'legends' get together for an extended event to determine the world cup champion.  Pilots qualified during the 2011 season by finishing in the top ten or fifteen places in any of the qualifying world cup events or by winning a pre-world cup.  In addition every ex-world cup, ex-world or European champion is invited along with a handful of other notable pilots.
We have two SA pilots present.  RusselA qualified in Colombia last year and I qualified in Porterville in December.

The paragliding world was cast into a sea of confusion after a world class blunder by the FAI last year when 'they' banned open class gliders from cat1 competitions and issued a strong advisory to cat2 comp organisers to do the same.  Almost every NAC around the globe decided to uphold the ban and the world cup association followed suit after much deliberation.  The result?  Glider manufacturers scrambled to produce certified versions of the awesome open class gliders that have been developed in the last few years.  At least four Manufacturers produced two-line EN D certified gliders in time for this super final.  This has not been without controversy with the testing houses downing tools after the veteran test pilot, Alain Zoller, ended up in hospital testing a new-age serial wing (rumored to be one of the Valic brothers' new offerings under their '777' brand).

Ozone and Niviuk came up with a medium and Gin produced S,M & L.  Swing also has a glider.  It is probably too early to determine which Glider is best, but it seems they are all similar.  Some would have you believe the Ozone has best glide, the Gin best climb and Niviuk best speed.  In truth Valle is a tricky place to fly so minor differences in equipment performance will be negated by conditions and decision making.

I happen to be on the Niviuk.  After two days of flying in the convergence at full speed and cranking it up in boisterous 6m/s thermals I think the glider is sweet and not too far off in performance to my beloved R11 albeit significantly slower at the top end.  

Valle is famous for booming consistent conditions and it is expected that we will fly every day.  The rules allow for a rest day after five consecutive tasks so we will have a maximum of ten days.  The rules also specify that one task can be dropped every three days but not on the last last two days.  This means we will drop two or three tasks (not really sure exactly how it is going to be done, but something called FTV will be employed which achieves discards but progressively on a day to day basis).

The safety briefing was especially entertaining... We were told that the 'G-Spot' is a turbulent place where a rescue team is strategically placed for our safety.

Official practice day is on Tuesday. I am flying on a Niviuk team with two French pilots Jeremie Lager and Lucas Bernadine.

Thursday, 19 January 2012