Thursday, 31 January 2013

Super Final Analysis

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 (
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.
Personal Note
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.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Latest task

Sent from Samsung tablet

Fire horse

Meet director?

Super final moments

Super Final Task 9

Another challenging day with many pilots stuck on launch with less than fifteen minutes to go. It was a fast and furious day with a wonderful concept task that has been used only a few times: a single turnpoint servng as an entry, exit and goal giving the field 360 deg options. Sadly the day shut down which culled three quarters of the field. We expect some mud slinging on account of the fact that a dozen or more got up in the only lift available in the valley which happened to be forbidden fruit in the form of a highly conspicuous fire recently banned after the 'fire thermal' earlier in the comp. The problem with rules in general is that you have to apply them, so the more you have the greater the administrative burden. In addition, this competition is starting to highlight the deeply flawed format of the EN D experiment. It turns out that not all EN D wings are born equal even when spawned from the same same womb (factory) with supposedly identical twins displaying a confounding array of ability particularly in the speed category. Even the post-task line testing has become suspect given the grumbling I have heard in the trenches. I sincerely hope that a return to open class is on the cards so we can restore some sanity to the World Cup . Having said all of that one thing remains constant: seriously good pilots are winning as expected so its not all bad.

task 8

I have lost count of the number of tasks but I guess we have done seven or eight.  This was another difficult day which saw the entire field grovelling after the last turn point before goal.  There was very little sun in the valley so once we were done dancing under the clouds some thirty or so staggered to goal low.Russel got in early.  Sent from Samsung tablet

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Super Final - Task 6

After enduring a little bit of constructive criticism (and some outright moaning), the task committee contrived to split the race wide open with a cunningly selected turn point some sixty odd kilometers to the south with a huge 35 km radius and goal at Zarzal.  The idea was clearly to give us a multitude of options which included crossing the valley early, late or not at all.  Bravo task committee, except for the fact that the majority crossed early and then the conditions didn't play nice with the whole valley clouding over wrecking the pecking order   spectacularly.  

The survivors managed to scrape themselves off of the valley floor and just as we were hopeful of actually finishing the task, a barrier of rain and highly visible gust front forced Nicci to stop the task.  No surprises that 80 pilots covered between seventy and eighty of the hundred and ten kilometers.

The start was cloud flying chaos and I have video footage of blatant cheating at the first crossing by at least a dozen of the first group popping out of the clouds WAY above base.  Sadly you can't make out any numbers and although one or two of the bastards tried half heartedly to lose some height after the fact it was a reminder of the corrupt ethic that exists in pockets of the paragliding world cup.  That is not to say I have never been in cloud during competion, but I like to think that I have made honest attempts at rectifying any indiscretion.  

Team SA had a less than perfect day with equipment malfunction and premature landing maneuvers with yours truly managing a mediocre performance some 8km behind Mark Watts who might have won the day.

The boys report: low and slow, not at all, and bitterly disappointed by col Moeg, st Kristoffel and Red respectively.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Super Final - Task 5

There were calls for a more challenging task so we were given 131km to fly with no fewer than six valley crossings.  Not that it made an iota of difference with the bulk of the field hopping from cloud to cloud and arriving at goal in just under four hours together.  The homogeneity in performance of these serial wings offers very little if the task is simple.

The task committee now faces a challenge if they hope to maintain their credibility.

It was a better day for team SA with Red, St K and Andre arriving a few minutes behind the leaders.

Flight Stats:
Max climb: 7.8 (1s) 4.6 (10s)
Max alt�: 2,858mASL
Total gain :14,328m
Effective� glide: 9.1

The effective glide is probably closer to 10 if you ignore the start and should give you some idea of the lifty� course line.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Super Final 2012 - Roldanillo - Day Six - Rest Day


Andy Warhol exhibition El Museo Rayo with Omar Rayo's widow as guide
Omar Rayo


Bar Colombia


SA Flag on giant hat


Super Final 2012 - Roldanillo - Day 5 - task 4

The fourth task was another 100+km ‘S’ for speed shaped task that required romping around the valley at Cloudbase stomping the speed bar.  Launch was a little more relaxed with an extra 15 minutes and enough wind up the front to get everyone off with plenty of time to spare.  The start was a three km exit from launch involved milling around at cloud base (and occasion above cloud base) before the start mad dash down to the south.  Yours truly was styling with the lead group until B26 before a brain malfunction resulted in an unwanted task discard.  Big Red had to land shortly after launch with knots with Moeg & Kristoffel romping home in slightly better style.
The usual suspects were at the front again, but there was plenty of drama at the goal with a bundle of BIG names landing meters short of the goal line which will stir up the order a little.  In a nutshell, the scoring works like this: for every day of flying 25% of your worst task is discarded.  This means that after the four days we have had so far, your worst performance relative to the day quality is discarded.  In theory this means we will discard 2.25 tasks by the end of the competition so you get to screw up twice!  In practice screwing up can mean getting stuck for ten minutes, so better to fly conservatively which is how things have panned out if you look at how cautiously the lead gaggle proceeds.  There is sooo much pimping going on you have to take a deep breath and find the right line or lose out on every glide if you choose to lead out.
Male Task winners: LucaD, StephanG, LucA
Female: Laurie, Nicole, Keiko
British Blog:
The whole fire thermal experience turned out to be quite controversial with a new rule being introduced that forbids any fire flying.  There were even calls to penalise pilots based on maximum vario readings of more than 10m/s.  Now in case you got the wrong impression, those who did fly the fire all agree that it was not something to be repeated (although I would cautiously go to the outer edge again if I had sufficient altitude).  The cynics were wondering what other rules should be enforced during competition if we can’t trust the pilot’s judgement: 
- no speed bar closer than 50m from a ridge
- height restriction of 4,000m @ Sun Valley
- no Alps in the lee in fohne
- no hands off the toggles at full speed
- no thermalling nearer than ten meters from one-another
I almost called Nicci on the radio when I saw 10m/s for a few moments during task 4 to swear that I was no-where near a fire, but that seemed inappropriate.
Sherpa and pony
Task 3: Uncommon Flight information

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Super Final 2012 - Day Four - Task Three

The third task was 100km of rock n Roll all over the valley.  Launch became nightmarish with the entire field running off in zero wind or a little bit from the back.  There were dozens of abortive launch attempts, some of which seemed quite dramatic but without serious harm.  At least a third of pilots were still on launch with ten minutes to go before the start which reportedly had Nicci considering cancellation before the wind fortuitously switched sufficiently to get everyone off, albeit a tad late.  I managed to get off in time with a huge gallop down the slope with my glider barely flying but my compatriots were not so lucky and all were subsequently punished unable to catch up their ten minute handicap and then getting to goal late.  

 Comments from the boys:
Cl Moeg:The super final is like magic. I never imagined the flying would be this fast.
st Kristoffel: the standard here is MUCH higher than I expected even after flying a few world cup events
Big Red: The elastic band snapped before the start. Ja/Nee
The highlight of the day has to be the ‘fire’ thermal.  We had taken the turnpoint in the west and proceeded to cross the valley where a huge sugar cane fire was raging about 500m into the next turmpoint.  The flames were visible from 500m AGL and about seven pilots elected to fly deeper into the turn cylinder in order to take advantage of the fire which was capped by a lovely growing cumulus cloud.  Having heard stories of potent climbs in fires the week before and given the fact that I have climbed in fire thermals many times in my life I went for it.  What I saw as I got nearer was spectacular!  The entire thermal was marked by millions of tiny pieces of ash and charred debris presenting a full three dimensional animated view of the raging beast that had been created.  The outer ring was about a hundred meters wide rising in a relatively orderly fashion with the inner core a torrent of swirling mayhem like a tornado of angry bees.  I saw at least two Ice Peaks in that maelstrom completely out of control with bucking gliders definitely not flying but being torn aloft as one might see a paper bag in a dust devil.

I elected to thermal in the outer ring and buried the brake as in a spiral dive and heard my variometer go from two meters per second to the solid tone that marks off the scale on a Brauniger within two turns.  Holding on for all I was worth I was at cloud base in less than ten turns and then tried to exit the thermal.  I saw the collapse coming in the way I remember being caught inside a six foot beach break about to dump on my head surfing Blouberg back home.  The only difference was that I could not duck dive this wave and watched with helpless fascination as the swirling mass of air fell onto my glider.  I managed a quick recovery flying backwards with a twist.  Yassen was not so lucky fighting for survival in the core and having to deploy his reserve after getting hoisted into the cloud and suffering a catastrophic collapse.  Mickey reported 15 m/s and Chrigel apparently saw 20 m/s peak.  My vario recorded 11.2 m/s on the ten second average and 12.9 instant.  For those of you unfamiliar with paragliding climb rates, 12.9 m/s = 46 km/h.  Imagine going straight up in one place @ 46 km/h with nothing more than a 26 square meter nylon bag and string above your head.

PS: Pictures wont upload for some reason.. will try fix that tonight.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Paragliding World Cup Super Final 2012 - Roldanillo - Day Three - task Two

Heavy cloud cover with drizzle and wind over the back did nothing to dampen spirits, expectations and certainly not ambitions as the task committee valiantly set, re-set and changed the task in order to give the field some chance of a task.  The resulting chaos was characterised by diabolically slow climbs, multiple gloomy death glides and comical attempts at level three calling by dozens of premature ‘landees’.  In one hysterically incident a very well know super-hero pilot (who shall remain nameless) was lined up to land and mischievously called a level three for rain while our terribly tolerant meet director was driving directly beneath him (within slapping distance) in the only sun available all day.  The day was barely bright enough to read the numbers on gliders trying to cloud fly and yet most of the field managed to cover roughly sixty kilometres with two or three getting into the seventies. 
The day was won by MichelS from AaronD and JulienW.  First lady was Klaudia from Seiko & Laurie.
Team SA had mixed fortunes with st Kristoffel and Andre landing with the main group with Moeg and Red a few miles back. 

Paragliding World Cup Super Final 2012 - Roldanillo - Day 2 - Task 2 - Cancelled

Day two was cancelled due to rain on the course line a few minutes before the start, so after a rock-star landing in the stadium to the delight of hundreds of adoring fans, we hooked up with Los Gringos Americanos and caught a bus a few miles out of town to a fantastic restaurant spotted by st. Kristoffel from the North.  The public transport is regular, reliable and dirt cheap so getting around is very easy (as is retrieve for the those too impatient for official retrieve).

Left to Right: Arnold, Bill & Farmer

Right to Left: st Kristoffel, Colonel Moeg & Big Red

Grassy Launch with a view
Pilot protection or crowd control?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

World Cup Super Final - Roldanillo - Day 1 - task 1

The day dawned dry and (relatively) clear. We start early so it's up the mountain @ 7:30am with a task start @ 11:30. The entire field got off the tiny launch in under thirty minutes without any queuing or stress.
The task committee set an 82 km affair which gave us choices about the start and first turn point but funnelled everyone into the same track down the valley for the finish. There were three distinct groups on different lines namely: east, middle and west of the valley on the run down to B58 to the south. I was in the middle group pushing forward in the flats with the west group arching back in the mountains. In the end the east group triumphed by a few minutes in a fast and furious task that saw most of the field in goal and the first 90 pilots separated by ten minutes after two and a half hours.
Retrieve was pretty well organised.  There are many happy pilots, and I am proud to report that team SA all got to goal.  We all got in the region of 800 – 900 points despite the apparently lowly ranking.
LucaD took it from ChristianM and AaronD along with a number of other usual suspects.  Seiko was first female.  The lead-out points show how good the easterly line was with almost all of that group taking up the top ten places. Full results here:
There will undoubtedly be some grumbling as cloud flying has become entrenched as a strategy by more than just one or two pilots I am sad to say. 
The new Gin Boom 9 looks to be good with a clean profile and sexy high aspect.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

World Cup Super Final - Roldanillo, Colombia

A diabolical travel plan had me thinking I'm not there yet for more than 36 hours we crawled into our sprawling mansion (replete with gym) organised by the boys who have been here all week.  So here's the thing: if you want to travel to Colombia just pay as much as it costs to for the fewest possible number of hops and avoid the walking dead experience. 
We are no fewer than FOUR South Africans present this year which bodes well for any bar-fights we might stumble into given that we are all well over six foot and comfortably proportioned.  The team is: 'Big Red' RusselA, 'st Christopher' Chris from the North, 'Colonel Moeg' Francois Miog, and yours truly.
It was an 'interesting' practise day where we discovered exactly just how much two line gliders don't like rain.  As has become custom in world cup life, if you have a drought it breaks the day before a world cup event.  For those of you who didn't get it or failed to pay close attention to the memo: when they said don't fly these gliders in the rain, they meant to include light drizzle and fat yet sparse rain drops in the definition of rain.  The result is instant parachutal stall.  Luckily no-one got hurt and be warned not to turn or release the speedbar if you stumble into even the lightest precipitation.  To quote a well known designer who speaks with a terrific french accent Laminar airflow is quite fragile.
The world cup zoopa final has arrived in town to great pomp and ceremony with the local community coming out in full force to put on a parade that stretched four city blocks. It never fails to amaze me how many local people participate in the opening ceremony.
Most of the usual suspects are here with the notable exception of Josh (who won the Monarca Open last week and finished 10th in Mexico last year) and a few other awesome US pilots (yes, like you Nick .. and Nate).  One or two french are missing including YannM who has a new-born baby.  Wagga, Guy, Adam and Russel have rocked up for the Brits.  Guy is fully recovered after his ordeal in Sun Valley late last year.  I hope to get him on video about the experience.  I see the swiss, Austrians & Germans are here in full force as ever.  I was happy to see YuriV is here too.  There are far too many good pilots here to list them all so it promises to be .  The rest of the pilot list can be found here:
I will endeavour to report every day.  Wish us luck!!!