Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Extreme Badge Collecting

It's been a while since the SVE (Sun Valley Experience sort of like the Jimi Hendrix experience).

My post-world-cup depression has lifted with the prospect of the annual trek to my favourite place and comp: the Winelands Open in Porterville.

Some of us are going down a little early to get some practise (on the R11).

Some time back I was wondering how to 'practise' for competition without actually flying competition and I decided try my hand at a couple of closed circuit records.
Last year we went to Porterville before the comp and tried the 50km FAI Triangle  and 100km Out and Return
 ( for the first two stabs and narrowly missed the world marks and claimed the (vacant) regional ones.  Neither day was particularly conducive to record claims, but I tried anyway. 
The 50km triangle was uneventful but the 100km OR was an arduous affair because the day turned out to be windy and viciously thermic. The start was 25km down the ridge from launch and into wind which involved pushing full bar just to get the ground speed above walking pace.  The guys with me at the start on serial wings turned and stood still before going to land. 
This was probably the most challenging flight I have had in years simply because I was flat out (to the rings with neutral trims) most of the way taking massive marlin strikes every few minutes and barely able to maintain 30km/h for one hundred minutes. 
It kind of frazzles your nerves when you are at the limit of your ability for hours on end without a break simply because you're chasing the clock and a minute behind with very little in reserve.  At the turn I dropped the trims all the way and held on to the red things with hands aching in protest and completed the hectic return leg in half the time it took to turn.  I was convinced that you could not fly a paraglider faster than that! ... and yet I missed the world record by a depressing minute or two which drove me to humiliating analysis of the track-log lamenting minute details and innocuous little wasted seconds that lay hidden like cancerous cells which when clumped together felt like the great big festering tumour of failure.  There was nothing to do about it and I'm going back to try again.
I have to tell you that the clock is the most brutal of competitors because it is relentless and unmoved by anything you do which is also fantastic because it is all about absolute performance.  There is no relativity (conditions notwithstanding).  So you have to be honest and suck on it when you fail.  The up-side is you find out where you are inclined toward mistakes which eat time under duress.  You don't get to practise competitor based tactics (which you should be doing in your head anyway), but you get to iron-out technical details.
Needless to say the competition felt like coastal soaring in comparison (given the compulsory serial gliders and short cross/downwind romps).
Here's my schedule for the rest of this year and first quarter of next:
Winelands Open: Porterville, SA - 16 - 22December
World Cup Super Final 2012: Rodanilho, Colombia - 16 -25 January 2013
World Cup 2013: Porterville, SA - 23 Feb - 2 March 2013
I haven't decided on the rest of the world cup tour and there's also world champs to consider if I make the team.
In the mean time, Roll on Porterville!!

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